exploding pineapple

Don’t take the name of this recipe too literally. Image via Gisel Florez.

Bonfire night is full of surprises, like this 17th century pineapple pie!

I love bonfire night. There’s nothing better than watching fireworks, stood around a bonfire whilst listening to the bangs, gasps, ooohs and ahhhs. But it’s not just about the explosions. There are many traditional dishes people eat during their Guy Fawkes celebrations, from toffee apples, pie and peas to corn beef hash.

As it happens, the 17th century was also when pineapples arrived in the UK for the first time, so if you want to try something of the time, we’ve dug up this delight of a recipe. Admittedly, it doesn’t actually explode, and we wouldn’t recommend trying to blow it up (what a waste that would be!). But it is one of the first ever recorded pineapple recipes this side of the Atlantic, and having made and tried it, we can assure you this is a real treat that’s so crisp and tasty it will make any Gunpowder Plot celebration go with a bang!

Introducing the… PINEAPPLE!

Pineapple Charles

King Charles II receiving the first British-grown pineapple from his gardener John Rose. Via The Royal Collection.

Pineapples have quite an elevated history. They were first introduced to the British Isles in 1658 during the reign of King Charles II from South America by the Dutch. The direct expense of import and the enormous time, cost and equipment to grow them in a European temperate climate meant that pineapple became a symbol of wealth, high status and hospitality.

They were initially rented out to aristocrats for display at dinner parties, until they rotted. Later in the 18th century, savvy aristocrats decided to they’d better build their own ‘Pineries’ on their estates and competitive pineapple-growing actually became a thing.

The-Dumore-Pineapple

The Dunmore Pineapple in Scotland – image source Bonnipics. Part of a folly built in 1761 commissioned by the 4th Earl of Dunmore was used to grow Pineapples – this beauty is 14 metres high and carved in stone.

Regardless of whether you could afford to cultivate this evocative centrepiece, people started using pineapples in architecture to highlight their wealth and hospitality. The largest architectural pineapple can be found in Dunmore, Scotland which was commissioned by the 4th Earl of Dunmore on his estate as part of a folly and hothouse to cultivate – yes you’ve guessed it – pineapples! If you want to see this beast, check out the opening times here!

The first published recipe for pineapple appears nearly 100 years after its arrival in the UK, in Richard Bradley’s ‘The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director’ in 1736.

Frankly it sounds so scrumptious I decided to give it a go! Luckily for you we don’t have the same problem in the 21st century and the main ingredient is no longer outrageously expensive, and we love the idea that it remains a symbol of hospitality.

To make a Tart of the Ananas, or Pine-Apple. From Barbados.

Take a Pine-Apple, and twist off its Crown: then pare it free from the Knots, and cut it in Slices about half an Inch thick; then stew it with a little Canary wine, or Madera Wine, and some Sugar, till it is thoroughly hot, and it will distribute its Flavour to the Wine much better than anything we can add to it. When it is as one would have it, take it from the Fire; and when it is cool, put it into a sweet Paste, with its Liquor, and bake it gently a little while, and when it comes from the Oven, pour Cream over it (if you have it) and serve it either hot or cold.

Ingredients:

For the Pineapple filling

  • 1 Pineapple or a 1 can of pineapple dependant on the size of your pie
  • Half a wine glass of Madeira wine or a medium dry sherry
  • 6 tablespoons of Sugar

For the sweet pastry

This can be shop bought but if you fancy a real GBB-style challenge like us, then use this recipe.

For the garnish/Accompaniment

  • Single cream for pouring, or for a modern twist coconut milk (optional)
  • Bonfire, fireworks and sparklers!

Method

1. Prep the pineapple

Prepare and cut the pineapple into half inch slices, if bought from fresh. If you are unsure how to prepare a pineapple follow this really useful guide.

2. Stew the pineapple

Place the cut pineapple into a small pan add the water, madeira and sugar into a pan bring the mixture almost to boiling point and reduce to a low heat to stew for about 15 mins.

3. Prep the pastry

Place the pastry into a greased pie dish or if you want to make smaller pies place into smaller tart trays – blind bake the pastry on 180 degrees for 10 minutes following the recipe above, or according to instructions if shop bought.

4. Fill the pastry with pineapple

Let the pastry cool and then fill the cooled down boozy pineapple mixture into the pastry case with some of the cooking liquor.

5. Bake it!

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the pie(s) from the oven and leave to cool.

6. Add some cream and light your fireworks!

In the original recipe Bradley suggests that you can ‘pour cream over it, and serve it either hot or cold’. This suggests that you can add the cream to the tart whilst it is hot, and then allow it to cool.

I wanted to try this not just with single cream, but to experiment with coconut milk to see whether this would work too!

I added both and the cream/coconut milk soaks into the tart, which sets slightly as its cools, producing a delicious result! In fact, the cream and coconut milk hardens and almost forms a sugary crust, crystallising over the pineapple – these 17th century chefs knew their stuff!

Now the only thing left to do is light the bonfire, set off the fireworks and cut into your pie! Enjoy!

Pineapple recipe 4

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Raksha Dave

Raksha Dave

A long-time member of Channel 4's Time Team, Raksha Dave is one of the country's best loved archaeologists. Unequivocally, she has never, and will never, be married to Matt Williams.

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