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Friday, December 10, 2010

Pom 101

This is Jake's favorite time of the year.  Sure, there's the whole Christmas thing.  But food-wise, it's the season for one of his favorite foods:  Pomegranates!

These fruits are available around this time of year and it's worth the wait.  When really ripe, they are a little sweet and a little tart, crunchy, incredibly nutritious and very versatile.  They're as good on ice cream as they are on a salad or with roasted meat.  Jake (and I) think they're best simply popping them in your mouth.

But if you're not familiar with a pom, it can be a bit intimidating.  So I'm here to help.  Here's how to pick out and get the seeds from a pomegranate without any stress.

First, picking out a ripe one is extremely important.  Like many other fruits that have lots of juice (citrus and watermelon, for example), you want to pick a pomegranate that feels heavy for its size.  An underripe pom is depressing--no juice, no flavor, not even much color.  But a ripe one is filled with deep red seeds just bursting with juice.  They literally pop in your mouth as you eat them.

So once you have a nice heavy pom, wash it off and then cut the top and bottom off--just a thin slice.  Try not to hit many seeds.  Then, using a sharp knife, score the skin--dividing the pom into quarters.  Again, don't cut so deep that you hit the seeds.  Just the skin needs to be scored.

Next, fill a bowl (big enough to hold your poms) with cold water and let the poms sit there for about 5 minutes or so.  That will help to soften the skin on the inside and make it easier to break apart.

Now it's time to remove the seeds.  Gently break the pom apart where you scored the skin.  The scoring will make it much easier to do this.  Once open, you'll get your first glimpse of the little gems inside.  Using your fingers, gently force the seeds out of their "sockets" and let them drop into the water.  The seeds will sink to the bottom and any of the white pith will float.  If you see any pith at the bottom, you know that's a seed with some pith still attached. 

Take your time!  If you are too rough or try to go too fast, you'll end up with exploded seeds.  Make sure you're not wearing a nice new white shirt just in case.  You'll get the hang of it after a little while.  If you turn the section of pom that you're working with sort of inside-out, the seeds will stick up a little bit and be easier to remove.  In a way, it's like picking a crab--just less messy and a less work.

Once you have removed all the seeds, remove any floating pith in the water with a strainer or your fingers and you should be left with a bowl of sunken treasure.  What I do next is strain the water out and put them in a salad spinner to dry them off.  I store them in an airtight plastic container with a paper towel on top to absorb any excess moisture.  I keep them in the fruit crisper in the fridge.  Pomegranate seeds freeze extremely well, too.  Put them in a zip-top freezer bag and lay them flat in the freezer until the seeds are frozen.  To use, just take out what you need and use--they will thaw very quickly.

So, are you going to try a pomegranate now?  Go ahead.  You'll be glad you did.  A little work is involved, but it's worth it--and it's actually kind of fun!

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