October 31, 2008

the pomegranate

No art historian can speak of early renaissance illuminated manuscripts with out uttering these three words: jewel tone colors. We students feverishly wrote this down over and over in our notebooks and dutifully spit it back out in classroom discussions and essay questions.

It always made sense to me. All the slides we were shown had vivid colorings; rich blues, verdant greens, bleeding scarlet and glittering gold. I knew the printed photographs in our books and the slides in our lectures barely did justice to the actual works, and yet they were still astounding.

In the lounge of our Gothic dormitory, my friend K introduced me to the pomegranate. The moment I held one of those tart scarlet seeds, I knew what a jewel tone was. As a student of art and jewelry I knew the color of gems; richly saturated with the play of light within. Never before had I seen a color like this fruit.

The flavor of the seeds are equally multi-faceted. Sweet and tart, red and white, sparkling across the tongue.

I knew about pomegranates long before I started eating Ks. When Hades kidnapped Persephone, Demeter was so distraught she allowed all the green things to stop growing. In order to restore life to the plants Zeus went to retrieve Persephone from the Underworld. She could return to her mother only as long as she had eaten no food of the Underworld. But Persephone had eaten half of a pomegranate and Zeus decreed that she would spend half the year with her mother and half the year with Hades. The seasons we know are said to come from Demeter's joy and grief.

The Roman's thought that pomegranate seeds had contraceptive qualities. The ancient Assyrians and Egyptians ate them. Pomegranates are symbolic in Judaism and Christianity and appear in art and family crests. They are one of Buddhism's three holy fruits. Each little seed is a tangy, juicy bite of history.

In her book, gluten-free girl, Shuana has a recipe for pomegranate molasses braised chicken thighs. I love the way she writes and her creativity with food and I was intrigued by this pomegranate molasses. I assumed that it was some type of molasses infused with pomegranate. Something that I was pretty sure I couldn't eat.

Upon doing research, probably while I ought to have been working, I discovered that pomegranate molasses was simply a very thick syrup made from pomegranate juice and sugar. That is something I can handle.

I decided to do things the hard way and picked up six pomegranates from the fruit cart near my office. I opened the pomegranates one by one, popping the seeds out in a bowl of water. The seeds sink and the pith floats, making separation easier. I briefly ran the seeds through the blender, in batches, to break the skins. I then pushed the pulp through a cheese cloth sieve with a spoon, collecting the juice and discarding the seeds. And then I made my molasses.

This was certainly a time consuming process, and not necessarily any less expensive that buying the pomegranate juice, but there is a certain satisfaction one gets from holding up the finished product and saying "I made this, from start to finish, with my own hands".

pomegranate molasses

3 cups pomegranate juice
4 tbsp honey
In a small sauce pan slowly heat the pomegranate juice and mix in the honey. Simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it is reduced to about 3/4 of a cup.

See? That was easy! Although it does take several hours, it's totally worth it if you can't use the store bought kind.

1 comment:

Vittoria said...

From Cherylharris (sorry, somehow I accidentaly rejected this comment and couldn't recover it)

I've made this before (but with agave) and it's just phenomenal. There's nothing quite like pomegranates!

your blog is gorgeous, thanks for such lovely inspiration