The Mess-Free Way to Enjoy Pomegranates

Fall Is the Best Time of Year for Pomegranates

While Fall is more commonly associated with apples, squash, and pumpkin spice, it’s also the best time of year to enjoy fresh pomegranates. During the fall months, pomegranates are sourced mainly from California, Texas, and Arizona in the northern hemisphere. The color of the skin is a glossy ruby-red, and the fruit size range from that of a large orange, to a grapefruit. The shape can vary from round when picked and transitioning to more cubing as pomegranates ripen. The inside of the fruit is loaded with arils, which are edible seeds coated in red flesh. The entire aril is edible, and the flavor is a burst of sweetness with a slight tart undertone. 

While Packed With Flavor, the Arils Can Stain

While I love the flavor of pomegranate arils, I don’t always look forward to removing the seeds. It’s not that the removal is difficult, but rather the fact that the arils can stain surfaces and clothing due to the tannins. One of the best ways to reduce staining is to seed pomegranates in a water bowl. Once the top and bottom are cut off, and sides scored, I submerge the pomegranate and break it open under the water’s surface. Submerging a pomegranate reduces juice spraying and makes separating the membrane from the arils easier. 

Remove a Thin Slice of the Top and Bottom

With a sharp paring knife, slice the top and bottom of the pomegranate off. You don’t want to cut a thick slice, only about an eight or quarter of an inch. Once slicing through the top and the bottom, create an “X” on the top of the pomegranate. Again, you don’t need to cut deep, only about an eighth inch. At each end of the X that touches the sides of the pomegranate, cut into the skin of the pomegranate straight down to the bottom, about an eighth inch. On the bottom of the pomegranate, cut another “X.” Align the “X” so that each of the four points touches the lines that you cut on the sides of the skin. 

Fill a Large Bowl With Cold Water

Find a bowl large enough to submerge the pomegranate with cold water, sparing enough room for your hands to work beneath the water’s surface. Usually, I fill the bowl about three-quarters of the way with water. Extra space provides enough room for the water to rise once adding the pomegranate. However, the water can spill while breaking the fruit apart, so I suggest placing the bowl inside your sink. 

Once the pomegranate is fully submerged beneath the water’s surface, grip the pomegranate with your thumbs in opposite quadrants. Pull the pomegranate halves apart, and then pull each half again. From this point, you will break the quadrants apart with your hands. As you work, the arils will sink to the bottom, and the white membrane pieces rise to the surface. With your fingers, remove fragments of the membrane as you work. 

Strain and Rinse the Arils

Once the arils have separated, skim the membranes from the water’s surface. I usually stir the arils to release any stray membrane pieces and wait a few minutes for the arils to settle to the bottom. After removing any final membrane pieces, strain the arils into a colander. Rinse with cool water, and lightly pat the arils dry with a paper towel. 

Store the arils in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five to seven days. After that, you can freeze pomegranate arils. While the temptation may lead you to freeze a whole pomegranate, I don’t advise it; always remove the arils first. Once separating the arils, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Once frozen, transfer the arils to an airtight freezer-safe container with the date frozen written on it. Frozen arils can be kept in the freezer for three months. 

How Are Pomegranates Eaten?

While pomegranates are excellent by themselves as a snack, the arils provide a wide variety of culinary purposes. You can add arils to salads, yogurt, and even rice dishes for a crunchy texture and burst of flavor. In addition, the arils are used in baking recipes, baked directly into cakes and muffins, or as a garnish. Finally, pomegranate juice is popular in cocktails, sauces, and jellies.  

To make fresh pomegranate juice, add the arils to a food processor. Pulse the arils three to five times until the arils have turned into a pulp. Place a mesh strainer over a bowl and pour the pulp into the mesh. Using the back of a large spoon, grind the pulp along the bottom. Continue to press the pulp with the spoon until no more juice drips down. Once squeezed, discard the pulp into a compost pile.

While pomegranate season is here, pick up a few the next time you’re at the grocery store! The water method is a great way to save your clothes and counter from stains. Just ensure you are always working beneath the water line to help prevent pomegranate juice spraying. So, what are some of your favorite ways to enjoy pomegranate arils? 

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