Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BUY: A Pomegranate

It's Pomegranate season! You probably see tons of them piled high at every grocery store as pomegranates are in ample supply from late fall until about January. So, if you've seen them around and thought "what the heck would I do with that?", I'm here to tell you. First off buy one (or even two).

Pomegranates have become very popular over the last couple of years, and are now known as one of those "super foods". Full of antioxidants and vitamin C, it's been their juice that seems to be getting most of the attention. The juice is available all year, so I can see why many recipes (from savoury to sweet, and even for martini's) use it, but I think a fresh pomegranate needs some attention too. It's just as good (better in my opinion), and a lot more fun!

Pomegranates are around the size of a large orange and have a think, reddish colour skin. Choose to buy ones that are heavy for it's size, and are free of any major bruises or blemishes. Inside, a white bitter membrane (not unlike the pith of an orange) separates little bunches of seeds. A translucent red pulp that is slighty sweet, but also quite tart surrounds these seeds, and that is what is used for the juice. The entire seed is edible though, just not the white membrane - it's very bitter. Also, the juice itself tends to stain anything it touches, so take care when you are working with them if you are worried about your cutting board, or your clothes.
There are many ways to get at these seeds. I've seen videos and tutorials online that recommend cutting the fruit very delicately, and submerging it it water while you pick the seeds away from the skin. Not me. I go about it by cutting the pomegranate into quarters, and then working to harvest the seeds from their surrounding membrane with my fingers. I usually break the piece apart as I finish dislodging all the seeds from one section to get access to the next. It takes a little bit of time (and can be messy), but it's totally worth it, and doesn't involve the additional step of fishing all the unwanted pieces from the bowl of water. You will want to work over a large bowl though to catch the flying fruit and juice, and to avoid a large scale kitchen clean-up. Another option is to hold the piece, seed side down, over a bowl and whack the skin side with a wooden spoon. I find this will dislodge some of the seeds, but you'll often still have to go back with your fingers to get them all (and do get them all!).

These delicious ruby jewels can then be used sprinkled over salads (a great idea for a dinner party), tossed atop pancakes or french toast, or my personal favourite (and what we always did as kids), just eat them. As is. I put them in a bowl and eat them with a spoon, maybe with some vanilla ice cream or yogurt if I have it, but you certainly don't need to be that refined. Just go ahead and pop them in your mouth with your fingers. Be warned - if you do use your fingers you will most likely be left with a bright red stain as a reminder of what you've just consumed. Chances are, it will only prompt you to go out and buy another one!
Photos taken from Kraft and Food TV.

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