More than any other fruit, pomegranates are my harbingers of the holidays. After Thanksgiving, when my family would put out bowls of fruits and nuts, I would always go for one of those big, red globes, carefully cracking it open and methodically picking out and eating the glowing ruby seeds. Their sweet-tart zing and satisfying crunch thrilled me.
Nowadays pomegranates are dietary darlings, much touted for their healthful antioxidants. Consequently there's been an explosion in pomegranate farming in California, with the result that they've become extremely abundant at the markets in autumn.
While they have many uses, pomegranates are among the more labor-intensive fruits. You'll need to separate the seeds (or, as they're technically called, arils) from the pith, which is bitter and tannic. The trick here is to score the fruit and carefully pull it away underwater, worrying away the seeds with your fingers. The seeds drop to the bottom, the pith floats to the top, and you avoid covering yourself in permanently staining pom juice. Paige breaks it down in a step-by-step pictorial.
Once you've got your seeds at the ready, for most applications you'll want to extract the juice. This is most easily done by blitzing them thoroughly in a food processor, then straining out the solids, as Sean does; he goes on to make jelly from the juice. If you reserve a few of the intact arils, you can sprinkle them in and make a bejeweled pomegranate jam a la Café Fernando.
You can also obviate the need for store-bought products by taking things into your own hands. Take pomegranate molasses, common in Middle Eastern dishes. Turns out it's just pomegranate juice, lemon, and sugar, cooked down to a rich syrup. And grenadine? You may be surprised to learn that true grenadine isn't just HFCS and red food coloring, since that's what you buy off the shelf. It's just pomegranate juice and sugar, and you can do it via a cold or hot process. Your cocktails will thank you for it. And speaking of cocktails, why pay top dollar for trendy pomegranate liqueur when you can make your own? I'll drink to that.