When I was a little girl, my best friend always came to school with fancy lunches full of things that were unheard of in my household: fruit roll-ups, sliced apples wrapped in saran wrap to keep them from browning, white bread. I was, I admit, jealous. From the vantage point of a 10-year-old raised on home-made whole wheat bread, apples peeled and browning in tupperware, and (okay, so I never minded the cookies) chocolate cookies made from scratch, my friend’s lunch was already pretty enviable. Then one day she showed up with a pomegranate.
I may have been bragging a little before (come on, as if homemade whole wheat bread did me any long-term damage), but I can tell you this humbly– I had never in my life seen nor heard of a pomegranate. Honestly, I don’t even know where her mom found it back then. I remember her nonchalantly pulling it apart, popping those brilliant red seeds in her mouth as if they were nothing, as if they were something she had every day, like ramen noodles or teddy grahams. She let me taste it, and I remember I was fascinated by the burst of juice as I bit into the seeds (now I know they’re called arils) and flummoxed by the little seed in the middle, which I spit out and dropped on the playground.
After that time, I never saw another pomegranate for years. Now, of course, pomegranate is everywhere. Those juicy little rubies jazz up every dish imaginable, and bottles of pom lurk in fridges across North America. But isn’t there still something impossibly exotic about a pomegranate?
Well, impossible, maybe. When I started buying pomegranates and trying to eat them with the nochalance of my old friend, I discovered one thing I hadn’t realized back then. That beautiful red? It’s really red, and it gets EVERYWHERE if you don’t know how to get into the fruit to release those little arils. Luckily, I’ve discovered a fool-proof (or at least juice-everywhere-proof) way to get into a pomegranate.
First, I cut a little cap off the top, like cutting a cap off a pumpkin. I do this at a shallow depth, to avoid cutting into the arils (see above). Once the top is off, I cut the pomegranate into quarters (like the photo at the top of this post), just scoring the skin (with the cap off, you’ll get an idea of the depth you need to cut so that you don’t cut into the arils). I pull the quarters apart, then submerge them in a bowl of water, gently pulling the little seeds away from the membrane. Actually, I’m not very gentle about it, to be honest, but with the pom underwater, there’s no danger of getting squirted with juice anyway. The arils will separate and fall to the bottom of the bowl, while the papery membrane will float to the top. When your pomegranate quarters are all emptied of seeds, just skim the floating membrane bits off the surface of the water, then drain the arils in a strainer.
Once you have the arils separated, you can store them in a bowl in the fridge, or do something crazy with them, like juice them to make homemade grenadine. Oh yes, that post is coming soon.