by Kate Heyhoe
Nothing graces the holiday table more beautifully than glistening jewel-like pomegranate seeds. Whether tossed in a salad, sprinkled into a sauce, or garnishing a roast, juicy ruby-colored pomegranate seeds add sparkle to a dish, and a sweet-tart tang that rivals the traditional cranberries so common this time of year.
Right now we're in the peak of pomegranate season, which runs from October through December. Pomegranates, with their leathery skin enveloping hundreds of juicy seeds, can be a tad intimidating if you're unfamiliar with them, but they're actually very simple to prepare. Just be aware that the juice, like that of berries, will stain, so be careful when working with them. Here's the scoop on pomegranates from the Pomegranate Council:
Removing the seeds: Pomegranate seeds arrive, like jewels, in their own leather-like pouch. To remove seeds easily, cut the crown end off the pomegranate, then lightly score the rind from top to bottom five or six times around the fruit. Immerse the fruit in a bowl of water and soak five minutes. Hold the fruit under water (which prevents juice from spattering) and break sections apart. Next, separate seeds from the rind and membrane. Seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl; rind and membrane will float. Skim off and discard the rind and membrane. Drain seeds, then pat dry. That's it; they're ready to use. And yes, the entire seed is edible.
Name: The world pomegranate derives from Middle French, pomme garnete, literally "seeded apple;" it is sometimes referred to as Chinese apple. The pomegranate's botanical name, Punica Granatum, translates as "Apple with many seeds."
Lore: The pomegranate's rustic beauty has long been an inspiration for poets, writers, painters, and sculptors. The Bible and writings of Homer mention pomegranates. Ancient myths cite this fruit as favored by the gods. Pomegranates, bursting with seeds, symbolize fertility in Chinese, Greek, Persian, Roman, and Hebrew lore. They symbolize hope in Christian art. According to Jewish tradition, pomegranates are a symbol of prosperity.
Origin: This fruit originated in tropical Asia but has been cultivated throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East. History credits Spanish padres with bringing pomegranates to California more than 200 years ago.
Description: Pomegranates grow on shrub-like trees, with vivid orange-red flowers and glossy leaves. Size varies. A medium pomegranate is about the size of a large orange and weighs about 9 ounces. The fruit itself is full and rounded, with a flared, spiky crown. A translucent, scarlet pulp surrounds 800 seeds (each fleshy, unusually bright-colored, glassy unit is called an aril) that are compartmentalized between shiny, tough membranes. The flavor of the seeds is sweet with a hint of sour.
Buying: Pomegranates come to market ripe and ready to eat. The season begins with the Granada, Early Foothill, and Early Wonderful varieties. The Wonderful makes up 80% of California's harvest and appears in stores from mid-September through December. Choose pomegranates heavy for their size, without cracks or splits. The skin varies from bright to deep red with a fresh leather-like appearance.
Yield: One medium pomegranate yields about 3/4 cup seeds and 1/2 cup juice.
Nutrition: The edible fruit from one medium pomegranate weighs about 5-1/2 ounces and contains 104 calories, 1.5 g protein, 26.4 g carbohydrate, 9 mg vitamin C, and 399 mg potassium.
Storage: Whole pomegranates keep well at room temperature for several days, away from sunlight. They'll last up to three months stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Refrigerate seeds up to 3 days. Freeze, in single layers, on trays; then up to 6 months in airtight containers. Remove only the seeds you plan to use. Refrigerate juice up to 3 days. Freeze up to 6 months in airtight containers.
Releasing the juice: Liquify the seeds in a blender, then strain through cheesecloth. Or, roll the pomegranate across a hard surface, pressing with the palm of your hand to break the seeds inside (crackling stops when all seeds have broken open). Pierce the rind and squeeze out the juice or poke in a straw and press to release the juice. Tip: Rolling can be done inside a plastic bag to contain juice that leaks through the skin. Caution: Pomegranate juice stains.
Pomegranate juice can be purchased in Middle Eastern markets, along with a concentrate known as Pomegranate Molasses. I'll be back in a few months with more recipes for using bottled pomegranate juice, a favorite ingredient of chefs for everything from drinks to entrees to desserts.
Kate's Global Kitchen for November 2002:
11/01/02 Thanksgiving Headquarters 2002
11/08/02 The Pleasures of Potlucks
11/15/02 The Happy Holiday Potato
11/22/02 Pretty as a Pomegranate
11/29/02 Morning Muffin Magic
Copyright © 2002, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created November 2002
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