The peak season for fresh pineapple is from March to July, but it is available year-round in most markets.
Once the fresh pineapple is cut from the plant, it will not ripen any further, so forget about letting it ripen on the counter. Without any starch reserves to convert to sugar, it will simply begin to rot and ferment.
Fresh ripe pineapples should have green, fresh-looking leaves in a small, compact crown, and a leaf should be easy to remove if fully ripe. Once again, the nose proves to be a powerful tool in determining ripeness.
The fruit should be plump, feel heavy and have a strong sweet, but not fermented, pineapple aroma. Coloring may be green or yellow-gold, depending on the variety. Feel the bottom. It should yield to medium pressure, have no indication of mold, and the eyes should be bright, shiny and flat. Avoid any that are dry or look old and wrinkly. Dark eyes, soft spots, and yellowed leaves are all indicators of a pineapple way past its prime.
Many grocery stores stock fresh pineapple and will peel and core it on demand using a simple machine. If you do not have the benefit of your grocer's machine, use a sturdy, sharp serrated knife to cut off the base and the crown. (Save the crown and try growing your own pineapple at home.)
Slice off the skin in a downward vertical motion, following the natural curvature of the fruit. Be sure to slice far enough in to cut off the eyes, which are woody or dig out the eyes with the knife tip or the tip of a peeler. To preserve the escaping juice, trim the pineapple on a platter. Don't discard those skins just yet. They will still hold some juice which you can squeeze out. The center core of the pineapple is tough and fibrous. It is usually trimmed away before using the remainder of the pineapple flesh.
Fresh pineapple is quite perishable. It bruises easily in spite of its seemingly armored exterior and will ferment if kept at room temperature for too long. If storing at room temperature, use within two days.
Storing at room temperature will increase the acidity level of the pineapple, but will not improve sweetness. You can extend the lifespan to three to five days by refrigerating the whole pineapple in a perforated plastic bag.
Once trimmed and cut, be sure the pineapple is covered in juice in an airtight container, refrigerate and use within five to seven days. Let the fruit return to room temperature before eating to improve flavor.
Freshly cut pineapple can be frozen in juice or syrup, but it will lose some flavor. Peel, core and cut into chunks. Place in airtight plastic bags or covered containers with their natural juice and freeze up to 6 months.
Canned pineapple is available in slices, chunks, crushed, and juice. It takes three pineapples to produce one can of sliced rings. The fancy grade comes from the sweeter bottom portion of the pineapple. Soaking canned pineapple in cold water for half an hour will remove some of the metallic flavors.
Canned pineapple can be stored up to one year on the shelf in a cool, dry cabinet. Leftover canned pineapple should be refrigerated in its juice in a covered container and consumed within a week.