If you find it hard to get excited about fresh fruit this time of year, I have a challenge for you - go buy a pomegranate.
Though pomegranates are native to much warmer climates than we have in the Pacific Northwest, thanks to modern growing techniques you can find them in the grocery store almost any time of year. However, you'll find the best fruits, at the lowest prices from October through January. While they are in season, I like to pick up one or two a week. Eaten right from the fruit the seeds are a real treat. They are also a simple way jazz up other food.
Pomegranates range from light pink to deep red. Their leathery exteriors enclose hundreds of seeds encased in ruby red juice sacks, called arils. It is true, they take a little effort to eat but it is absolutely worth it. The juice is mostly sweet, almost syrupy, with a slight tartness. These little jewels are high in vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber - if you consume the seeds with the juice, which you can.
When selecting a pomegranate, look for plump, firm fruits, that feel heavy for their size. The skin should feel supple, like a new leather wallet. Avoid bruised fruit, but minor cosmetic blemishes should not effect the quality of the seeds inside.
Now that you have a pomegranate in hand, we have come to the part many people find baffling, how to remove the beautiful arils so you can eat them.
There are a few ways to seed a pomegranate. For all methods I advise putting on apron or, at the very least, avoid wearing a white shirt. Set aside a few minutes to seed the entire fruit, rather than liberating the arils a few at a time. This way you can keep a container of seeds ready for use and you'll be less likely to let half a pomegranate turn brown and sad in your refrigerator. (It is possible to purchase arils that have already been removed from the skin. In my experience these arils have been both pricey, and past their peak, every time I purchased even a small container.)
A straight forward, but slightly more time consuming method of seeding, is to cut the fruit into sections and gently pop each aril out with a spoon, or the back of your fingernail. For a quick and slightly more gratifying experience, try what I like to call the stress relief method: Remove the crown so the skin is smooth all around. Cut the pomegranate in half midway between the stem and the crown. With the cut side up make four, evenly spaced, 1 inch deep, slices around the top. Flip the half over and cup it face down over your palm. Hold your hand over a bowl, then use the side of a heavy wooden spoon to whack the outside of the pomegranate. The arils should plop right out! You may need to massage the fruit and make a few passes around the outside to get all the arils out.
Once you have liberated them, eat the arils alone or get creative. The jewel like arils make lovely additions to salads, desserts, yogurt, or even oatmeal. You can also make pomegranate juice by pulsing the arils a few times in a blender. Strain the pulp through a fine mesh strainer. Make sure to press on the pulp with the back of a spoon to get as much juice from the arils as possible.
Now that you have the hang of choosing and seeding a pomegranate you can enjoy this exotic and mysterious fruit all winter long.
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