Ingredient of the week: Pomegranates!

by DaniGirl on December 6, 2013 · 4 comments

in Eating and thinking and thinking about eating

Back in April, I had the brilliant idea for a series of blog posts on the theme of “ingredient of the week,” to explore new foods and share inspiration. I made it through Parmesan and kale. And now, after forgetting allowing the anticipation to build up for eight months, I’m back with another ingredient that is equal parts intimidating and delicious: POMEGRANATES.

Pomegranates

I love pomegranates. They’re just the right mix of sweet and tart, and they’re so good for you! The fact that they’re one of the few fruits that are only available in certain seasons makes then even more appealing. But seriously, is there a messier fruit? Apparently you can buy the arils (not seeds – the seeds are the crunch bits at the end of the arils, which are the red juicy kernels that you eat) bulk at Costco, but where’s the fun in that? Up until earlier this month, when I wanted to crack into a pomegranate I would cut one in quarters (spraying juice everywhere), invert the quarters one at a time over a bowl, and use my thumbs to liberate the arils. By the time I was done, the kitchen looked like a mass murder had been committed in the kitchen (which some who have eaten my cooking may intimate takes place on a regular basis. Ahem.) Convinced there had to be a better way, I turned to my friends on Facebook for tips.

Responses on how best to de-aril a pomegranate fall into two camps. You have those that swear by the spoon, and those that swear by the bowl of water. So vehement were the supporters of each method, I knew I had to try out each one. Oh the things I will do in the name of bloggy fodder. Welcome to my pomegranate test kitchen!

Both methods require the same beginning: start by scoring the pomegranate around its diameter so you’re cutting through the skin to where the arils are. Maybe half a centimeter deep?

Pomegranates

This part is a little tricky. You have to work your thumbs into the cut without spraying too much juice everywhere, and then pull the halves apart.

Pomegranates

Here’s where the methods diverge. The spoon method appealed to me because it involved whacking the living hell out of something. Sweet juicy fruit and therapy all rolled into one? Hells yes! It’s surprising how well this one works.

Take one of the halves and hold it arils-down loosely over your palm over a reasonably large bowl. Take a wooden spoon or other firm tool – Don from FoodiePrints says a pestle works well – and whack the skin side of the pomegranate. Avoid your fingers. (You might think that would go without saying. You’ve clearly never been in my kitchen.) The arils will drop into your palm and roll into the bowl. Keep whacking until all the arils fall out.

Pomegranates

You can see by the spatters on the inside of the bowl in the above photo that this was not a particularly tidy way to remove the arils. I wouldn’t say this method was much less messy that what I’d been doing before, especially since the skin split at one spot when I whacked too sharply, and thus sprayed pomegranate juice everywhere each time I hit it thereafter. Perhaps this is a practice thing. Regardless, I rate the wooden spoon method two stars out of five for neatness, three stars for ease of removal, and five stars for fun.

The other popular method is removing the arils in a bowl of water. As above, you score the skin and split the pomegranate in half. You then submerge half of the pomegranate in a bowl of water and use your thumbs to push the arils out. If you push down on the centre of the uncut skin, it’s super easy to pop the arils out and the arils conveniently sink to the bottom of the bowl while the skin floats to the top.

Pomegranates

I was surprised at how quickly this method worked. While it had taken me nearly 15 minutes to remove the arils with my thumbs but not underwater, using the bowl of water took maybe three minutes at most. I found it a bit of a pain to skim the bits of skin off the top of the water (I eventually dug out a mini-strainer for the task from my drawer of neglected kitchen tools) and it did the trick. The water method gets four stars for neatness (would have been five if not for the skimming issue), five for ease of removal, but only two stars for fun.

Pomegranates

So, now that you have a bowl full of juicy, delicious pomegranate arils and only a few flakes of white skin that you’re too lazy to bother picking out, now what? Well, you can just eat them out of the bowl. Oh so yummy! But here’s a great idea: kale salad with pomegranate, mandarins, pumpkin seeds and a honey-lemon dressing. (I continue to be astonished that I have actually learned how to cook.)

Here’s how: make your dressing with one part honey, two parts oil (I used olive) and one part lemon juice. Add just a tiny drop of mustard (or more if you like the flavour) to keep the liquids from separating after you whisk them. (I learned that one at the gym last week – thank you Food Network and Chef Michael Smith!)

Pour the dressing over the kale and rub it in to the leaves. I just learned about massaging kale, too – it helps cut the bitterness. Peel two mandarin oranges and throw them in with about half of the pomegranate seeds. Throw in a handful of pumpkin seeds or whatever you have on hand to add a little crunch – sunflower seeds, pecans, walnuts. Voila! A crazy-healthy salad that the kids and adults both love.

image

Okay, now you! Any thoughts on the best method for getting the arils out of the pomegranate? Or better yet, any pomegranate recipes to share? Whatever you do, just promise me you’ll never be intimidated by these lovely fruit again, and don’t you even consider paying for one of those silly tools they sell in the grocery store!


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous December 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Pomegranate martini.
šŸ™‚

2 that nelly December 10, 2013 at 11:47 am

YOU HAD ME AT POMEGRANATE!
seriously, i’ve been consuming one a day for a month. It’s directly responsible for my ability to be telepathic with unicorns.
and rainicorns.

this message is brought to you following a 2 hour meeting that contained the phrase, “reapprove preapproved messaging”.

carry on ..

3 CoCo December 14, 2013 at 4:41 pm

This is how I did mine today. Cut the end off the pomegranate. Score from top to bottom about 6 times. Do not cut deep enough to reach the seeds. Put the cut edge down in a bowl of cold water. Leave for 5 minutes. I got distracted so it was more like 10 minutes. Break or peel the pomegranate where you have scored it. Do this under water.Then the seeds are just dying to jump out. So easy!!

4 Catherine December 16, 2013 at 9:14 am

I’m a fan of the spoon method – it works like a beautiful charm. Maybe you just need a little more smacking practice šŸ™‚

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