If I had listened to my father I would still think that preparing a pomegranate was tantamount to repairing a fine Swiss watch. He insists that although he loves the flavour, the preparation is not worth it. I had visions of him removing each seed with a pin under strong light with a magnifying glass to assist him. My second memory of a pomegranate involved not eating one too… it was as the subject for a still life in my A Level Art final exams. I chose it because of the variety of textures and colours that a cut pomegranate offered. For many people I suspect that the fruit stays as something they know exists but it’s not for them.
I can see why. First of all, in a time when I would be the first to advocate low food miles, it is quite clearly not a native of the most optimistic British garden. It’s only by Googling for this blog that I knew they grew on trees. I suspected as much but couldn’t quite picture it. This is primetime for pomegranates in the Northern hemisphere though – anywhere between October and February. In Britain we are typically exposed to it in one of two forms – as a juice or as fruit to garnish. I would also recommend the pomegranate molasses which you can buy in many supermarkets these days. It’s great in dressings or even on ice cream.
It is lovely to eat on its own but it’s tendency to cling to the seeds mean it’s not really a practical lunchbox treat. I like to think of them as mini coral reefs with all the action hidden in the little gullies and crevices. If you watch Jamie Oliver at work you’d think that a couple of sharp raps on the skin with the back of a wooden spoon will have the little blighters cascading through your open fingers into the bowl below. This isn’t my experience. The pomegranate also regularly features in recipes which include fruit and meat on the same plate. There are many people who still can’t countenance that prospect.
It’s also something of a luxury fruit; not particularly expensive for what it gives you compared to the other candidates but it is often a finishing touch or an ingredient to a dish rather than the main attraction. My own way of preparing them is to give myself a wide berth from any white fabric, and wear an apron. I’d agree with my father that it is a messy process but not difficult. I cut them in quarters and then break each half in thirds. This seems to quickly access all the seeds without breaking them because the seeds are remarkably resilient. The return is a pretty good crop of juicy, flavoursome – slightly sweet and sour – tooth-shaped snacks with a sensation of bursting the outer membrane and a crunch in the middle. A recent guest who hadn’t eaten pomegranate before asked what the “little jewels” were. It’s a great description with a vivid pink colour under a shiny exterior.
I recently found some magnificent pomegranates at Costco. There were six large and very heavy fruits for £6.99. I bought them and they have not disappointed. Some supermarket and greengrocer offerings are well past their sell-by date and I’ve not mastered how to detect this consistently. There is nothing worse than either slightly decaying seeds towards the outside or colourless, flavourless ones if they are unripe. These ones are good but my purchase has raised a question. I’m guessing that they won’t freeze well without some form of preparation because of the high water content. This leaves the problem/opportunity that, because they yield a lot of fruit (one of these pomegranates produces enough fruit for two if they are eaten on their own), what am I going to do with the rest? My eyes may once again be bigger than my belly. Juicing is a possibility but as Mrs M rightly pointed out its a pretty expensive way of getting pomegranate juice. I could use it in one of the many flexible tagines I wrote about here but that is a lot of tagine for a couple to get through. I thought about making some molasses of my own because it will keep well in jars but I am open to suggestions. Anyone got any killer pomegranate recipes for me?