My fascination with pomegranates started with the bowls of pomegranate arils I enjoyed as a snack when I was little and grows with each recipe I develop. Over the years, I must have cut, seeded, and juiced almost a quarter ton of pomegranates, half of which were for the recipes I developed for my book, The Artful Baker. The first one is the Pomegranate Sorbet, which my friends deem the only dessert that may be enjoyed without the slightest guilt after an indulgent New Years Eve meal (amateurs!) and the second one is the Pomegranate Jam. Earlier versions of both of these recipes are on my blog (here and here), but I highly recommend the versions in my book, especially the updated version of the pomegranate jam (with homemade green apple pectin) as it completely changed my jam making forever.
Both recipes call for fresh, hand-squeezed pomegranate juice. Using a juicer might seem like a shortcut, but I strongly advise against it as the tannins in the membranes will make the juice bitter. Juicing pomegranates by hand is easier than you might think, and it’s well worth the effort. Theoretically, you could substitute store-bought fresh pomegranate juice, but at least as far as the jam is concerned, I just can’t see the point of preserving something that comes in a bottle. If we’re thinking alike and pomegranates are bountiful where you live, let’s start.
HOW TO CHOOSE A POMEGRANATE
A perfectly ripe pomegranate should feel heavy for its size, have pronounced ridges with flat areas on each side (rather than a perfectly round shape), and a matte, rough, leathery skin without any cracks or soft spots. Pomegranates with yellow, green, light pink, or light orange rinds may be a sweet variety and aren’t suitable for the recipes in this book. Look for ones with deep red, burgundy, or reddish-brown rinds, which will encase deep-red arils that are both sweet and tangy.
HOW TO CUT A POMEGRANATE
Holding a paring knife at a 45-degree angle, carve out the crown of the pomegranate by cutting around it in a circle. If the ridges of the fruit aren’t pronounced, after removing the crown, score the pomegranate crosswise about 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) below the crown and peel the rind above to expose the sections divided by the membranes. Score the pomegranate lengthwise (top to bottom) about 1/8 inch (3 mm) deep along the ridges into (typically six) sections, cutting through the red rind and the albedo (pith) underneath but avoiding the arils. Gently pull apart the pomegranate into sections.
HOW TO SEED A POMEGRANATE
Working in the sink over a large bowl, hold a pomegranate section aril side down, slightly suspended in your palm, and tap the rind with a wooden spoon to release the arils into the bowl. Pluck any stubborn arils from the rind, and discard any membranes that have fallen into the bowl. One medium (1 pound; 455 grams) pomegranate will yield about 1 2⁄3 cups (233 grams) of arils; a large one (1.4 pounds; 635 grams) about 2 1⁄4 cups (315 grams).
HOW TO JUICE A POMEGRANATE
After pulling apart the pomegranate into sections, without releasing the arils, grasp each section in your hand, aril side down, over a large bowl set in the sink and squeeze as you would a lemon. Strain the juice through a mesh strainer into a separate large bowl, squeezing any arils caught in the strainer with your hands as best you can. Discard the seeds and membranes in the strainer. One medium (1 pound; 455 grams) pomegranate will yield about 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 grams) of juice; a large one (1.4 pounds; 635 grams) about 3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (210 grams).