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How to choose, store and de-seed pomegranates

These juicy fruits with jewel-like flesh are one of the trendiest super foods around. Despite not being popular in the Western world until recently they have always been a big deal in the most of the Middle Eastern countries. Those of you who have been following us for some time, know what type of posts the How To’s are: we research, try, taste and try to give you the most practical information about a product in a concise manner.Pomegranates

To be frank though, until just couple of months ago I could not imagine using pomegranates left apart writing about how to deal with them. That’s because until recently pomegranates were something with a vaguely familiar shape that was more likely to raise childhood memories, than the appetite. I remember the pomegranate tree as being a very beautiful one (my grandparents had it in their garden). I also have very fond memories of picking and eating fruits and …messing all over the place – the ultimate fun when you’re kid.

This winter I rediscovered pomegranates – slowly but gladly! We are happy to have it local, and I don’t know why we ignore it for so long, despite knowing about the beneficial qualities of this fragrant fruit. Maybe because of the fact that as bright and festive, as pomegranates may look, I’d always thought of them as labor-intensive and generally messy stuff.

Not if you know how to deal with them, as I discovered. The fragrant sweet-sharp juicy seeds can be an interesting addition to lots of different dishes – from salads and savory appetizers, to ice creams and desserts. And they are tasty on their own!

How to choose pomegranates?

Pomegranate arilsPomegranates are picked when ripe, and unlike other fruits, they will not be able to ripen more. Once picked, the fruits will slowly begin to get dry. To protect the fragile arils pomegranate’s skin is quite stiff and from inside the fruit is separated in sectors by a honeycomb like membrane.

When choosing a pomegranate, you want as freshly picked fruit as possible. You should consider the weight of the fruit – it should be heavy for its size: that will indicate there is a lot of juice inside the arils. When pomegranates start drying they become noticeably lighter in weight.

The pomegranate’s skin color could vary considerably. This however doesn’t really reflect the state of the inside of the fruit. And it’s ok, if the skin has blemishes or various scratches, as long as they don’t have cracks, as this dries the inside of the pomegranate.  Overall suggestion here is that the skin, should not feel dry, but leathery.

The shape of the pomegranate is not very indicative, too. The thing to look at while considering the shape of the fruit you’re about to buy, is some form of symmetry. Although it can’t be as round as an orange, make sure it’s got no flats – this may indicate that part has gone bad.

Cutting the crown of the pomegranateHow to de-seed a pomegranate?

There are few ways to do that, but we found the most effective one to be the underwater technique. It will help you avoid stains and will make easy to keep all the juicy arils, till the last one.

You will need a sharp knife, a large bowl full of water and a colander or strainer.

First, cut the crown-like end of the pomegranate and discard.

Score the skin of the pomegranate in several places, as you do with an orange – cut shallow, only the skin, not all the way through.

Soak the pomegranate in the bowl with cold water. Break apart the outer skin – you will get big parts of the fruit – rind, arils and inner membranes. Gently remove the arils with your finger tips; they will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the white membrane and pomegranate rind will float on the surface.Scoring the rind of the pomegranate

Once you’re done, skim the membranes from the top of the bowl, and strain the seeds from the water.

If you want to squeeze the juice out of a pomegranate, one way to do it is to first gently press the whole fruit against the counter top from each side, but without scoring the rind. Then by making a small hole in the rind of the pomegranate squeeze the juice out of it.

Another way to to prepare pomegranate juice is to cut the the fruit into two halves and squeeze them using a hand citrus juicer or, as we prefer, to have all the arils extracted from the rind first, the way we explained above, and by using a blender giving them just few quick pulses. Either way it’s better to strain the juice through a sieve or cheesecloth.

How to store pomegranates? Extracting pomegranate arils

Pomegranates are easy to store – just avoid leaving the fruit in direct sun light and it will keep on the kitchen counter for up to a month. Of course, the fruit don’t have to be opened and in case it is, consume it as soon as possible.

Stored in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator pomegranates could be good for up to 3 months, but even without a plastic bag, as long as it’s refrigerated it will keep for as long as 2 months.

If you already have arils extracted from the pomegranate, you can store them (well drained, covered in a bowl or sealed in a plastic bag) in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

It is not a good idea to freeze the whole fruit, but you can freeze the arils for later consumption. This way they can be good for up to 6 months. To freeze them properly, you need to first drain them well, then spread over wax paper (in order to freeze every aril separately) and put in the freezer for 2 hours. Remove the arils, place in a plastic container or sealable plastic bag and return in the freezer until the moment comes.

Here our favorite winter salad: Lettuce and apple salad with pomegranate and pine nuts.

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