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Washington and His Preference for Pineapple

If renting a pineapple sounds ridiculous, then it’s only because you’re not from the 18th century.

In George Washington’s day, his compatriots across the ocean in England were known to pay a premium to grace their tables with this most exotic fruit, often putting it atop a decorative fruit pyramid. In such instances the delicious pineapple would not have been eaten, but simply passed from dining room to dining room.

Fortunately for Washington, America’s close proximity to South America – the pineapple’s place of origin – meant that he had slightly better access to the tropical produce, which he was known to particularly enjoy.

When he went to Barbados as a teenager, Washington marveled at what he called China oranges, avagados or alligator pears, and pines, by which, of course, he was referring to oranges, avocados and pineapples. And while he recorded in his diary that the pear was “generally most admired” he professed that “none pleases my taste as do’s [sic] the Pine.”

It was a sentiment that seemed to stick with him throughout life. When ships left Mount Vernon laden with fish, flour and other goods to be traded in the West Indies, Washington would ask the captain to bring back a few pineapples. Local merchants also sold them, except during the Revolutionary War, when trade was disrupted and they became few and far between.

Pineapples were likely consumed raw most of the time, but Martha Washington’s granddaughter Nelly Custis had two recipes for frozen pineapple desserts: “fromage of pine apples” made with minced pineapple and “pine apple cream,” which involved steeping a pineapple rind in boiling cream.

Looks like it’s a good thing the Washingtons weren’t renting theirs.

Research on George Washington and pineapples was provided by Mount Vernon research historian Mary Thompson.

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3 Responses to “Washington and His Preference for Pineapple”

  1. taco girl Says:

    ilove this pic ^_^ he looks legit

  2. Susan Vennum Says:

    I would like to serve my American History students a pineapple dessert. Where can I find the two recipes you mention above?

  3. Mount Vernon Contributor Says:

    Hi Susan, thanks for your question. The two recipes come from a book, edited by Patricia Brady Schmit, entitled Nelly Custis Lewis’s Housekeeping Book (New Orleans, LA: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1982), pages 98 and 101. One note on language, the word “tammy” is used several times in the recipes. It means: a) a fine linen cloth, used for straining; or b) a strainer.

    Here are the recipes:
    “Pine Apple Cream”
    “Infuse the rind of a pine apple [sic] in boiling cream, & proceed as usual for other fruit. you [sic] must only use the rind, for the pulp being acid, the cream would curdle.”

    Note: On pages 102 and 103 are three other recipes giving instructions that might help with the pineapple cream (the big difference seems to be that “creams” have eggs, while “fromages” do not).

    “Coffee Cream”: “A pint of cream & a pint of milk, boil them together. When boiled throw in a lump of sugar & a little salt. [N]ext roast the coffee in a coffee roaster, when well & equally roasted throw it burning hot into the cream, cover the stew pan, & let it infuse till it gets quite cold. If you wish to pour the cream into cups or any other small vessels, you must measure the quantity of cream but for a mould it is unnecessary, put the yolk of an egg to every cup[.] [R]ub the cream twice through a Tammy, in order that the egg may be well mixed with it, next put the cups into a pan containing water enough to reach to half the height of them; cover them, & put a little fire over the lid of the pan to prevent any steam dropping into the cream. [A]s soon as it is done, let it cool & take care to secure the cups from dust &c. When you make the cream in a large mould, put more eggs.”

    “Lemon Cream”: “The same for Lemon cream except instead of coffee, the peel of a lemon. [I]f for moulds of large size use 16 Eggs for 2 pints cream or milk. [T]he same in coffee cream.”

    “Orange Flower Cream”: “Boil a pint of milk & a pint of cream, throw in a little salt, & more sugar. When the cream boils infuse a large pinch of orange flowers & when the cream has got the orange flavour [sic] give it a boil, put 10 yolks of very fresh Eggs & proceed as usual upon the fire, ‘till the cream becomes thick; then put in the Isinglass &c. if your mould is small—8 Eggs are sufficient.”

    Fromage of Pine Apples [sic]
    “If you have any pine apples [sic] left, you should mince them & make an infusion in a very little syrup, till they begin to be tender, then take them out of the sugar & pound them very fine in the mortar, add the juice of one lemon, & rub them through a tammy, with a little of the syrup, then whip your cream as before directed. Add the Isinglass [sic] to it, miss all together & put it in the mould as you do other cheeses.”

    Note: Two recipes before this one, was “Fromage D’Apricots,” which gives the directions for whipping the cream and moulding it. Here are those instructions: “It will be necessary to premise that there is but little difference in the manner of making Fromages. They only vary in the taste. If in the summer season, take according to the size of them, 8 or 12 ripe apricots. [T]ake away the peel & stones. [T]hrow the Apricots into a mortar, & pound them with a little sugar. When well pounded rub them through a Tammy, & press upon the fruit with a new wooden spoon. Mix a little melted Isinglass with this puree. [B]eat a pint of thick cream well, & mix it with the Apricots also. Taste whether the cream is sweetened enough. Continue to whip it over ice, till you perceive that the Isinglass is well melted & blended with the mixture. [T]hen put the fromage into a mould, round which you heap a large quantity of Ice with salt. If you do not particularly attend to the stirring of it over Ice, the apricots will fall to the bottom of the mould, so that when you turn the Ice cream upside down into the dish, it will appear of two colors, & the yellow part will be tough. In winter take a pot of Apricot marmalade rub it into a puree through a hair sieve[.] [M]ix a little pounded sugar with it, & a little melted Isinglass. Then as above take a pint of thick cream, or more, according to the size of the mould, whip it well, mix it gently over Ice with the fruit, & when they are well mixed, put them into the mould, & surround it with Ice.”

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