Pomegranate molasses

December 4th, 2010

Begin with a bowlful of juicy arils

A marvelous seasoning – a magic ingredient – hasn’t turned up on the vagabond’s usual shopping circuit, so I set out to make pomegranate molasses chez nous. But why get into the loop of juicing and simmering this ruby fruit: why bother?  Is this just one of those esoteric culinary trends that come around in cycles?  Everyone has their motives when ingredients are involved, and for this cook in the Périgord, it relates to duck – lots of duck and all other feathered fowl so plentiful in our region.  Not only for duck, but the sweet tang of pomegranate molasses lends a complex dimension to many rich meats, a “secret ingredient” in the lamb and poultry tagines of the Middle East.  When I opened Crazy Water Pickled Lemons*, Diana Henry’s delicious romp across the cuisines of the eastern Mediterranean, to “Breast of Duck with pomegranate and walnut sauce”, my pursuit of pomegranate molasses began in earnest.  The recipe only asked for two tablespoons, so why not stir it up at home?  Concocting my own pomegranate molasses was not difficult – it simply takes a little time, a “Saturday afternoon with no rush” sort of project.  Winter sunlight slanted through the kitchen door windows as I whacked, peeled back the rind to pop out the arils (shiny red seeds) and juiced two mid-season pomegranates.  Our bio-grocery displays Valencia fruit from Spain’s east coast (possibly from the region of Elche), and once cut in half to top a salad, I noted the density of seeds in these pale-skinned pomegranates.

Dense with arils, the membrane releases easily

First, the seeds needed some encouragement to release from the skins, so I whacked them with a small rolling pin before scoring each fruit in quarters.

A few taps to loosen the arils

Then over a large bowl, I held the rinds and peeled them back to release the glistening arils.  A little juice was released, while the seeds were plump and easily separated from their veil of membranes.  Caution: cover yourself, as this juice stains cloth….in fact it is used as a dye for Turkish carpet wool.

Pull away any clinging bitter membrane

Curious about how much would be needed, I let the seeds accumulate to fill a two cup pyrex measure.  That was from one and a half pomegranates.  After tapping and peeling, juicing the “jewel of winter” is the second step in the process.  My blender has a juicing column attachment, so I filled the filtered column with rosy seeds and pulsed the juice out in short order.  It needs to be scooped and scraped once or twice to allow top layer seeds to fall closer to the central blades.

Pour the juice out through a small sieve into a saucepan, turn the heat on low and let it simmer for 20 to 30 minutes to reduce by half.  Watch carefully that it doesn’t burn.  Have a sterile jar and lid ready, or a small lidded cup to keep your pomegranate molasses ready for use.

Depending on variety and country, it can be a pearly pink or ruby red

And what about the other half a pomegranate, bursting with scarlet arils?  Ah, they are preserved in good gin – just a small jar full – to top a festive New Year’s sorbet or….perhaps to enhance a duckling as we welcome 2011.

* Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry, published in 2002  by Mitchell Beazley, takes a fresh look at multitudes of traditional dishes across Turkey, Spain, North Africa, Greece and southern Italy.

Next up: a little beignet for the holidays

2 Comments »

  1. Ilke says

    That is it? No magic ingredient or sugar even? I guess I should not be surprised as it lends sourness to the dish!
    Thanks for sharing :) Now I will have to get in the kitchen this weekend and try it, as it is in season!

    December 7th, 2010 | #

  2. marolyn says

    Ilke – this was a surprise for me, too: that’s it, pomegranate juice. period. Again, it depends on the varieties you can find in your markets – some are more tangy and might ask for a touch of sugar, but most have enough natural flavor to keep the (condensed) character naturally. All the better for us! Just found another twist: try a drop or two in sparkling water or sparkling wine, with a few arils it makes a festive & refreshing apéro…. let us know how you use it!

    December 10th, 2010 | #

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