Leave your picks, shovels and gold pans at home. You only need a sweet tooth to enjoy the gold rush that’s striking the Hawaiian island of Maui: Maui Gold® pineapple.
One week ago today a group from Latham Hi-Tech Seeds had the pleasure – and I do mean pleasure – of touring the Maui Gold Pineapple Company. We began with a walk through its production facilities where we saw employees hand-sorting pineapples according to color. The greenest pineapples are shipped to the mainland since the firmer fruit withstands shipping better.
Our next stop along the tour illustrated just how efficient the Maui Gold Pineapple Company is; there is very little waste. Pineapples that don’t meet size requirements for shipping are used locally. Before the smaller fruit are put in a large grate, however, their crowns are removed. These crowns are then used to seed the next pineapple crop, plus removing the crowns allows more fruit to fit in each crate.
After touring the production plant, we boarded a bus for a field tour like no other! Maui Gold pineapples are grown across 1,350 acres on the slopes of Haleakala. This location in upcountry Maui provides the perfect growing conditions for this particular variety of pineapple: warm, sunny days, cool nights, fresh water and rich, volcanic soils.
Since quality is the pineapple company’s primary concern, Maui Gold pineapple is harvested within a 2-3 day window. Maui Gold Pineapple Company is the only pineapple grower in Hawaii with employees dedicated to assessing sweetness and consistency in the weeks prior to harvest. As a result, Maui Gold pineapples are always handpicked at the optimal stage of ripeness.
If you’re like me, you’re a bit skeptical about a company’s claim to be the best tasting pineapple. But Maui Gold made a believer out me because you can literally taste the difference. The Maui Gold variety was developed to be lower in acid and sweeter tasting for fresh consumption. Pineapple that is more suitable for canning, however, is completely different. The high volume canning industry prefers plants that are naturally hardy and highly acidic.
One can honestly taste the nuances between pineapples. Our guide, Steve Potter, selected three pineapples fresh from the field. Each pineapple was in a different stage of ripeness. We started by tasting the least ripe pineapple, which is probably the most similar to what we’d buy here in the grocery store. We thought it was good until we tasted the second pineapple, which was much sweeter. Steve handed us a slice of the third pineapple and said, “You’ll taste hints of coconut in this gold pineapple.” I was skeptical, but he was right! I took a bite and couldn’t believe the difference. It was almost like biting into a piña colada.
Speaking of pina colada, I know understand where it gets its name. The name pineapple comes from the combination of the Spanish word “pina” due to its resemblance to a pinecone, and the English word “apple.” The English called it an apple because of its tasty fruits.
If you’d like to try these tasty fruits from the comfort of your own home, you’re in luck! You can order Maui Gold® pineapples online. You can also get a taste of the tropics by trying Hawiian cole slaw. It was served aside a grilled fish sandwich at the Haliimaile (pronounced hi’lee-my’lee) General Store where we enjoyed lunch following the tour. Another common food in the Hawaiian islands is pineapple salsa, which I’m eager to make sometime soon with fish or Hawaiian chicken kabobs. In the meantime, I’m going to try my hand at making a Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Rum-Caramel Sauce.
Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
- 1, 8-ounce can pineapple slices
- 2 T. butter or margarine
- 1/3 C. packed brown sugar
- 8 maraschino cherries, halved
- ¼ C. pecan halves
- 6 T. butter or margarine, softened
- 1 C. granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1½ C. flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ C. milk
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- To make the topping, drain the pineapple slices but reserve the juice. Measure the juice and add water to make ½ cup. Set aside.
- In a 10-inch skillet with an oven-safe handle and straight sides, melt 2 T. butter. Stir in brown sugar and pineapple juice; bring to a boil. Cook and stir about 7 minutes or until the mixture is thickened. Remove from heat. Spread the syrup evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Cool.
- Arrange the pineapple slices, maraschino cherries and pecans over the syrup mixture; set aside.
- To make the cake, combine 6 T. butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended, scraping sides of the bowl. Beat in eggs.
- In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture and milk, alternately to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.
- Stir in the vanilla and lemon extract. Carefully pour the batter over the syrup mixture in the skillet, spreading to reach the edges. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean
Cool a few minutes in the skillet. Carefully invert the cake onto a serving platter.