Why the pomegranate should be the ‘it’ fruit for your holiday table
By Kara Elder
We’re deep into Thanksgiving at WaPoFood headquarters (have you clicked through Thanksgiving Central yet?), but that doesn’t mean the wealth, and price, of pomegranates around us has gone unnoticed. These round, red fruits with the tart edible seeds called arils are in season till early winter. Are you maximizing them to their full potential? Read on.
The Pomegranate Council recommends buying pomegranates that feel heavy (indicating they are full of juice), with firm and taut skin. Don’t shy away from a few scratches on the surface, because it’s the arils inside that you’re after. Do avoid fruits with soft or brown spots, which likely indicates rot on the inside.
Don’t be tempted to buy a package of pomegranate arils — they not only spoil faster (see tips on storing, below), but the packaged seeds are almost always pricier. A survey of local grocery stores found that whole pomegranates range from $2 to $3 each, while the arils go for $12 to $17 per pound. They’re typically sold in four- or five-ounce containers, so while it seems like a good deal to get four ounces of seeds for, say, $3.79, you can get more bang for your buck from a whole pomegranate.
Pomegranates make for pretty table decor, but if it’s culinary uses you’re after, then store them, whole, in the refrigerator, where they can last for months rather than days at room temperature. The arils themselves should be refrigerated for no more than three days, or they can be frozen (and used for smoothies or baking) for around six months.
You’ll find plenty of suggestions online for how to open a pomegranate, from cutting in just the right spot to find the segments to giving halved pomegranates a strong thwack over a bowl, thus releasing the seeds. My preferred method, which I first read on Food52.com but have also seen elsewhere, is as follows:
1. Fill a large bowl halfway with water.
2. Using a sharp chef’s knife, gently slice through the outer skin of your pomegranate, but not so deeply as to actually puncture the arils.
3. Use your hands to carefully pry the fruit in half , then submerge one half in the water and push the seeds out with your fingers. This avoids an abundance of splattering juice (but do watch out — the juice can stain).
4. Skim away any white membrane that floats to the surface, then repeat with the remaining half.
5. Drain the arils and let dry on paper towels.
Pomegranates could be the Pringles of autumnal fruit: Once you pop, the fun doesn’t stop. A few of our favorite recipes:
Butternut Squash Stew With Pomegranate Salsa. A meatless take on the Moroccan tagine, with bright flavors and stunning colors.
Fennel, Persimmon and Pomegranate Salad. Autumn on a plate.
Pomegranate and Apple Salad. A twist on the Waldorf salad.
Brussels Sprouts California Style. Perfect for Thanksgiving, or any time when brussels sprouts are available.
Maple Orange Squash Puree With Pomegranate. Another Thanksgiving option, this dish is sure to brighten any table.
Wild Rice, Mint and Pomegranate Salad. This puts both the arils and a product made from them, pomegranate molasses, to good use.
Fried Eggplant Rolls With Walnut-Garlic Filling (Badrijani Nigvzit). My favorite application of the pomegranate, by far, is scattering the arils atop fried eggplant slices stuffed with a pungent, garlicky walnut paste.
One final trick that we learned from local cookbook author and food writer Joan Nathan: Make “pomegranate punch.” Roll a whole fruit on a counter, pressing down just hard enough to pop the arils (you’ll hear them crunching) but without breaking the skin. Once soft all around, carefully punch a hole in the skin (Nathan suggests using a metal skewer), then insert a straw and sip.
Cocktail party quiz! Just how many seeds are in a pomegranate?From a 1.2-pound pomegranate, we got 12.13 ounces of arils (which is about 2 2/3 cups or 646 seeds). If you bought those 12.13 ounces in packaged form, they would cost, at best, around $13 — or about five times the price of the whole pomegranate.
There you have it; go forth and buy whole pomegranates. But first . . . .
Readers are cooking with gas, as they say! As viewed in our Recipe Finderonline:
4. Herb-Rubbed Pork Chops With Warm Broccoli Slaw. Another Nourish recipe; a healthful, hearty one-skillet meal.
5. Official Brunswick Stew. What a great time to make the classic chicken dish of Brunswick County, Va.