Pomegranates have an air of mystery about them. Purported to be the forbidden apple of the garden of Eden, downfall of Persephone, buried with King Tut and revered by cultures from China to Persia to Spain. Sometimes called grenades, and the source of that cocktail pal grenadine, the juice is said to have healthful properties in anti-oxidants and anti-virals. Reduce the juice and you have pomegranate molasses, a necessary sweet-sour ingredient in many Middle Eastern foods.
Pomegranate seeds are one of my favorite ingredients. They add pop to salads, punch to desserts, and are a fun little snack all on their own. But while they do sell little tubs of pomegranate seeds, or arils as they are called, those are expensive and have often begun to break down in flavor and texture. A lot of people are afraid to tackle the whole fruit, which unlike most fruits, does not provide an intuitive way to peel or get at the seeds.
Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated
Television isn’t terribly helpful, since the chefs are either simply adding pre-prepped seeds to things or taking the unfortunate tactic of slicing the fruits in half and thwacking the crap out of them with wooden spoons. This is showy, but it is not a good way of actually getting the seeds out of a pomegranate. Luckily, we’ve got a method that’s no mess and all results.
Choose your pomegranates
You are looking for fruits that are a smooth and shiny deep pink without brown spots, no bruises or soft spots, and feel heavy for their size. Any wrinkling or matte skin indicates age.
Cut a window around the flower
That strange extended belly button isn’t the stem, it is where the flower was, and is the place to start to break down the fruit. Cut four straight lines with a small paring knife to create a square around that flower, and you should be able to use sideways pressure with your thumb on the flower to help pop off that “lid” revealing the fruit beneath. Some arils may stick to this top.
Cut down around the fruit
With the tip of your paring knife, score the fruit from the corners of the window you cut on top through to the bottom.
Gently pull the fruit into four sections along the scores you just made, which is likely to leave you with four lobes, plus a vaguely pyramid shaped section from the bottom, plus the lid.
Fill a large bowl with cold water
By removing the seeds underwater you save the mess and clean the fruit at the same time. Simply take a section, and in the bowl of water, use gentle pressure with your thumbs in a sweeping motion as you pull the skin backwards to remove the seeds from the pith. Any bits of bitter pith and connective membrane will float to the top and the arils will sink to the bottom. Repeat with all sections.
Use a skimmer or slotted spoon to skim the pith and membrane off the top of the water, and then strain the arils in a sieve. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days.
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