Ingredients

Pomegranate

Other Names: Chinese apple, granada (Spain), grenade (France).

General Description: The pomegranate (Punica granatum) is a round fruit with hard red skin and many translucent crimson-colored small edible seeds. Native to Persia (now Iran), the pomegranate is one of the seven fruits mentioned in the Old Testament. Rubylike multitudes of shiny seeds have made the pomegranate the symbol of fertility in legends around the world.

The Moors brought pomegranates to Spain around a.d. 800 and the city of Granada was named for them. The French named their hand-tossed explosive after the seed-scattering properties of the fruit. Pomegranates were brought to California by Spanish settlers in 1769 and are now grown in the drier parts of California and Arizona. Pomegranates are also grown in the Middle East, Africa, India, Malaysia, and southern Europe.

Pomegranates are nearly round, 2.5 to 5 inches in diameter, and crowned by a prominent calyx. The leathery skin is pink or rich crimson over yellow. Inside, pods of ruby red kernels, each containing a hard seed, are enclosed in a thin membrane surrounded by white, acrid, spongy pith. The many varieties of pomegranate include Balegal, Early Wonderful, Fleshman, Green Globe, Phoenicia, and Wonderful. The large, glossy, deep red or purple Wonderful is the most widely planted pomegranate in California.

Season: Pomegranates are in season from August to December.

Purchase: Choose large, brightly-colored, shiny pomegranates that are firm to the touch and heavy for their size. Pomegranates are ripe when they make a metallic sound when tapped.

Avoid: Overripe fruits tend to have cracks in their skin. Avoid bruised, shriveled, dull, or overly hard pomegranates.

Storage: Pomegranates keep well at room temperature for 2 to 3 weeks, becoming juicier and more flavorful with time. Or store pomegranates for up to 1 month in the refrigerator. Freeze pomegranate seeds for up to 3 months.

Preparation: Note: Avoid using aluminum and carbon steel knives or pots as they can turn the juice bitter.

Preparation:

  1. Cut off the crown.
  2. Gently scoop out some of the center white core with a spoon.
  3. Score just through the outer rind, marking the fruit into quarters.
  4. Place your thumb in the center of the core and gently pull apart the sections.
  5. Peel away the white pith and discard.
  6. Turn the skin inside out and pop out the seeds.
  7. To separate the seeds from any remaining white pith, place sections of pomegranate in a bowl of cold water and gently swish around. The white pieces should float to the top while the seeds sink.

Note: To juice a pomegranate, put the seeds through a juicer or ream the halved fruits on an orange juice squeezer. Alternatively, warm the fruit slightly and roll it between your hands to soften. Cut a hole in the stem end and place it over a glass. Let the juice run out, squeezing the fruit to extract it.

Serving Suggestions: Add pomegranate juice to lemonade. Use pomegranate juice to make jelly or sorbet, flavor baked apples, and instead of or in addition to citrus juice in marinades for meats and poultry. Simmer pomegranate seeds in water to cover till soft, then press out the juice through a sieve, add an equal amount of sugar, and simmer for 10 minutes to make a syrup. (Cool and store in a bottle.) Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on Middle Eastern dishes such as hummus, baba ghanoush, and rice pilaf.

Flavor Affinities: Apple, cardamom, chicken, cinnamon, ginger, honey, lamb, lemon, orange, pork, port wine, red wine, tangerine, turkey, white wine.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com