Please don’t be fooled – this is not the recipe for traditional, nonya pineapple tarts made for Chinese New Year. This is a western pie recipe for which the filling is pineapple. Grandma also had a recipe for Pineapple Pie Filling that you might want to have a look at.
Interesting food journeys are hinted at in this recipe. My guess is that it is an American recipe as pies are a more prominent part of American cuisine than British cooking. As I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother read McCalls, an American women’s magazine famous for its recipes, and learnt about American food from ladies in the YWCA such as a Mrs Armstuz.
The pineapple is a plant native to the Americas, so Americans might have obtained their pineapples from Hawaii or Latin America. However, Europeans got their pineapple in canned form, often from Southeast Asia. The European colonial presence – Portuguese and Spanish from the 15th-18th centuries – brought the pineapple from the New World to tropical Southeast Asia. Under British colonial rule in the 19th century, Malaya became a major world exporter of canned pineapple. [Bibliographic note: The Pineapple: The King of Fruits by Fran Beauman is extremely informative on the Hawaiian canned pineapple industry, but disappointingly only has brief references to Malaya on a couple of pages, despite the importance of Malayan pineapple exports in the world market.]
In the early twentieth century, the famous industrialist and philanthropist in Singapore, Tan Kah Kee (陳嘉庚), had a massive business producing canned pineapple (continuing from his father, Tan Kee Peck, who had secured 70 percent of the Malayan export trade in pineapples by 1900). Here is an interesting description of Tan Kah Kee’s pineapple business:
…[Tan Kah Kee] made daily contact with European agency houses and found out for himself the overseas demand for various types and styles of canned pineapples (for example, sweetened or unsweetened, with different slice shapes and sizes), so that he could manufacture products according to specific demands or changing tastes.
[Reference: C.F. Yong, Tan Kah Kee: The Making of an Overseas Chinese Legend (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1987), pp. 21, 44-46]
This recipe calls for ‘drained pineapple’ and making use of the juice, which indicates that it’s canned pineapple that’s required, not the fresh type that was so easily available in Singapore/Malaya — another hint at the foreign origins of this recipe, yet using a very homegrown ingredient which became popular around the globe.
Also, a pie crust is required but there are no instructions for this. Perhaps try grandma’s Graham Cracker pie crust recipe here.
[22/9/07 update: Grandmother’s recipe for shortcrust pastry for the pie crust here.]
[19/12/07 update: another shortcrust pastry recipe from grandma here.]