How to Handle and Cook With Pomegranate

Be careful! Pomegranate juice will stain

Pomegranate cut in half.

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The fall season brings the harvest of one of the oldest fruits, as well as one rich in history and folklore: the pomegranate. The multitude of seeds are not only beautiful and tasty but also produce a tangy, sweet, rich and flavorful juice. This juice, which has an acidic, citrusy flavor, becomes the base for sauces and flavorings for drinks, savory dishes, and sweets, while the whole seeds are a simple delight eaten fresh or used as a colorful garnishing accent.

Using a Pomegranate

Whether you are using the seeds as is or blending them to extract their juice, you first need to remove the seeds from the fruit. This is a little bit of a process and can be messy so it's important to follow these steps.

Once you have separated the seeds from the fruit, you can make the juice. Place the seeds in a blender. It's best to pulse a few times to release the juice--blending for too long can break the seeds and create a cloudy juice. Strain the mixture, using the back of a spoon to push against the pulp and extract as much juice as possible.

The pomegranate juice is an ideal substitute in citrus marinades, either whole or in part, for a flavor change. You can also make pomegranate molasses by bringing the juice to a boil and then simmering until thick.

Concentrated, unsweetened pomegranate juice or paste is made from the reduced juice of sour pomegranate seeds. It is known in some ethnic markets as pomegranate molasses. It lends a tart flavor to dishes.

Handling Pomegranates

Be forewarned that the juice will stain not only your fingers but also your clothes, which is why it has been used as a natural dye by many cultures. Wear an apron when working with the fruit since as you cut it, the juice may naturally burst out in a stream and potentially spot your clothing. (Stains should wash out with pre-wash treatment in most cases, but better safe than sorry.) You may also wish to use rubber gloves to avoid pink fingers. A new variety of pomegranates with white seeds and non-staining juice is now showing up in markets.
The juice will also stain plastic containers, so use glass or disposable plastic bags. Avoid using aluminum and carbon steel knives or cooking vessels with pomegranates as they can turn the juice bitter.

One medium pomegranate should yield 1/2 to 3/4 cup seeds or 1/2 cup juice.