How to Attack a Pomegranate
Pomegranates may not replace everyday fruits, like apples or oranges, but they add exoticism and flavor to your fruit crisper. And they happen to be in season, selling for good prices. I found them recently for less than a dollar each.
While I don’t claim to know all the health benefits of eating pomegranates, I do know the fruit has gained a growing group of zealous supporters due to its high level of antioxidants.
But it's been a long time since I've purchased a pomegranate at home. Probably because making pomegranate syrup is a bit of a pain.
First, you pulse the fruited seeds—called arils—in a processor. Then push the pulpy mash through a fine strainer—called a chinois—or through cheesecloth, twisting and twisting to extract the juice from an ever-shrinking knot of cloth. Lastly, boil the extracted juice with sugar (2 Tbsp. of sugar for every cup of juice) until it reduces into a flowing syrup. Optionally, finish it with a squeeze of lemon for a brighter tone. The resulting syrup, luscious though it is, can be purchased in a specialty goods store without enough difference in quality to justify the work expenditure for a home cook.
I remember working in a restaurant and watching an intern make syrup—he was lifting a ladle higher than advisable, preparing to push pomegranate mash through a chinois. I remember thinking to myself, "should I say something?" Then, "nope, too late," as red pomegranate fled the strainer, covering the intern with a never-to-come-clean spray of red across his white cooks coat.
Enough said. Syrup may be a lot for the average cook to tackle, but eating is another thing. You just need a few tips, or recommended techniques.
Some split the fruit in half, scoring across the equator, and slapping the split fruit with a wooden spoon, as the arils spill into a bowl. It works surprisingly well, but many of the pods bruise and split, making a mess and a less pleasant fruit to eat with your fingers.
Another technique involves trimming the stem and bottom, then scoring the fruit along the discernable lines separating the pods. Next, pull apart the husk and empty the seeds and inedible lining into a bowl of water. The tasty arils sink to the bottom and the inedible skins and pulp float to the top. That works too.
I prefer an even simpler method though: Make a small incision in the husk—anywhere works—and tear open the fruit. Put the torn fruit on a plate and pick the fruit apart as you eat. Half the fun is in the handling and exploring the fruit with your hands.
Expect the fruit to be tangy, sweet, and tart. Like a berry, the fruit surrounds an edible seed, which could be a deal breaker for those sensitive to crunchy texture. I do not mind the seeds, eaten a few at a time.
If you haven’t already, try a pomegranate this winter for a fun change.