A recipe for a pineapple cream cheese filling for canned pears?
February 27, 2014 7:23 PM   Subscribe

I once frequently ate in a cafeteria where they served a delicious dessert-slash-side dish of canned pears with a filling of pineapple and what I think was cream cheese, and while I've come close to replicating it, I can't get it exactly right. I've googled this to death; I've beginning to wonder if it was one of those recipes you find in, say, a Jell-o cookbook from the 1970s or on the side of a cream cheese box.

It consisted of a canned pear with a cream cheese filling - with canned pineapple in the filling itself. The dish was sweet but not too sweet - it could also have been a side dish, not just a dessert. It was in a hospital cafeteria, so I doubt it was developed "onsite" like in a restaurant.

I've found similar recipes on the internet, but most involved pudding or gelatin or required some kind of cooking of the pears or were just obviously too sweet or were not prepared the way I had it (I've still tried them). Surprisingly, the closest approximation I've found was a dip - both in flavor and texture. The texture was not as solid as a cream cheese dip, but it wasn't soupy or runny either.

I can almost duplicate it but something is always off - either I'm missing an ingredient (like lemon juice, although wouldn't the pineapple add adequate acidity? Also have tried keeping the pineapple juice) or my proportions are off. Maybe sour cream? Maybe lemon juice and sugar? I'm pretty sure it did not have whipped cream, and I know it was simple (when I asked about it, the staff said it took 5 minutes to make). I've definitely considered that the filling itself was for something else and then adapted for the pears, and tried many recipes of that too, but still no luck.

I've tried so many recipes with nuts that it's destroyed my memory of whether or not the original had nuts.

This was mostly pre-internet, so I know the recipe most likely came from a printed source. I've searched through old Betty Crocker type cookbooks, etc., but haven't found anything. Before I give in and say that the cafeteria must just have had their own recipe, does anybody know of this deliciousness?
posted by barchan to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The fact that this was a hospital cafeteria makes me wonder if it was made with any of the "whipped dessert toppings" that were popular at the time -- e.g., Cool Whip or Dream Whip -- as I would guess those would probably be cheaper and likely to keep from spoiling longer than something made with dairy.
posted by scody at 7:40 PM on February 27, 2014

It's almost certainly a commercial recipe of that type, post-WWII.

I'd separate the filling from the pear and Google "pineapple cream cheese filling." I get a lot of recipes when I go at it that way.

Hate to say it, but a lot of things like this from that era involve mayo, as well.

Try searching this book for "fresh pear salad with ginger dressing." It has a lot of the features of your recipe.

I found another version of pears with pineapple ginger cheese in a different cookbook. Maybe ginger is your secret missing "zing."

In general, Google Books is a great place to look for things like this that probably originated in a print source.
posted by Miko at 7:41 PM on February 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Cottage cheese/ricotta + mayonnaise/Miracle Whip?
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:42 PM on February 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

This past Christmas I was tasked with the fruit and veg tray for a party and I decided to go a little nuts with the dip. I was googling classic fruit dips and apparently it was once a thing to make a canned pineapple dip with frozen orange juice concentrate. Every recipe of this I've found was a base of cream cheese, with varying ratios of either marshmallow fluff, some kind of pudding, sour cream, or "whipped dessert topping". So try frozen fruit juice concentrate, maybe?
posted by Mizu at 7:44 PM on February 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

My grandmother made this with mayo. /goes back to repressing the memory
posted by gatorae at 7:54 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

As I was reading your question, this old recipe came to mind. It is made with canned pears.

Kay's Pear Salad


8 ozs cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/8 cup maraschino cherry (juice)
8 leaves lettuce
30 ozs pear (halves)
8 maraschino cherries
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
posted by JujuB at 7:56 PM on February 27, 2014

This recipe is at Kraft's website.It's just cream cheese, milk, sugar, and pineapple. You have probably tried this basic recipe, though.

For a collection of label recipes, This recipe book is pretty good. I have it, so will take a look.
posted by annsunny at 8:11 PM on February 27, 2014

If it's missing acidity, this might come from fresh pineapple (unlikely, given the rest of the ingredients) or mayonnaise (which contains vinegar) - I think Miko's suggestion is spot on, personally.
posted by ninazer0 at 8:19 PM on February 27, 2014

I have made this. I used a thing of whipped topping, a thing of cream cheese, and a drained can of pineapple, and a mixer. You serve it on top of pear halves on top of lettuce leaves, and you can put walnuts in there but I don't. I wish I could be more specific; whipped cream cheese is easier to work with.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:21 PM on February 27, 2014

Just a quick meta note of advice. If you'll step back and consider, this is not a fancy gourmet recipe. And a hospital cafeteria is not a fancy gourmet place. So as you search and experiment and ponder the various permutations, I'd suggest always drilling toward the cheapest, easiest approach. Cuz that's surely what the hospital cooks are doing. If you get bogged in subtleties and special maneuverings (which lots of food people on the Internet will surely suggest...it's just the way of things), you'll get further and further away from what you're looking for.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:32 PM on February 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wonder whether the reason you can't replicate the cheese exactly is because it was something like Primula, also sold as Kavli. I'm also pretty sure that back in the day there was a pineapple variant although dicing canned pineapples in would have been easy.

Primula/Kavli is an acquired and distinct taste, but still has a devoted following in a few countries. It is a cream cheese, but slightly runnier. It is not runny. If it is Primula/Kavli it might explain why it tastes like cream cheese but is clearly distinct from Philadelphia.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:01 AM on February 28, 2014

Try cream cheese with somewhat drained crushed pineapple mashed into it with a fork. Add the pineapple to the mash until it looks like you want it to. Sorry for the inexact measurements.
The pear halves are canned. They are available in light syrup instead of that awful thick goo. Serve on a bed of lettuce for salad, on a small plate for dessert. It is a rather bland dish.
Chopped pecans can be added. Maraschino cherries can be subbed for the pineapple, but I hesitate to advise anyone to eat those super-processed dyed cherries.
posted by Cranberry at 1:03 AM on February 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm remembering this as made with Miracle Whip (specifically, not mayonnaise). That's probably the tang that you can't quite place.
posted by Houstonian at 3:16 AM on February 28, 2014

Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone, but I've tried pretty much everything here already -I've been trying to find this for almost 15 years*. And it definitely did not have mayo or miracle whip - that was one of the first things I tried long ago (I say still shivering from the results of that experiment) - I should have noted that.

I know it must be quite simple- it's possibly just one of those recipes that is easier at scale (aka for a cafeteria) then when I'm trying to make it for the scale of one regular can of pears. (In other words, for example, the recipe might have called for one industrial sized can of pineapple with juice.) That's one reason I think my proportions are off.

MuffinMan, you did give me an idea, though - I always try this with the Kraft philly cheese, and what if I need a cheaper, Sysco kind of cream cheese? I'll try to see if another variant works...a cheaper variant, probably.

*I've also considered that my food memory is not exact either, but every time I get close, I get a little zing of recognition.
posted by barchan at 11:16 AM on February 28, 2014

Have you tried the low fat variation of soft cheese that is sold next to the cream cheese? Nuefatchal (sic) or something like that ? To me it has a slightly sharper taste than cream cheese. And I think it would be something a hospital cafeteria would use.

If it was the 1970's I am not certain if they had crushed pineapple canned in its own juice. Perhaps try that if the regular heavy syrup pineapple is too sweet.
posted by moonlily at 10:14 PM on February 28, 2014

Look up recipes for Ambrosia Fruit Salad, this sounds like a version of that. You eat it with the meal, it's not a desert, and shouldn't be too sweet.

(I was browsing MF a few days ago while recovering from food poisoning and this question ruined me, just fyi.)
posted by Dynex at 10:19 PM on February 28, 2014

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