About a million years ago, a boy and I were in a coffee bar, chatting and dreaming and whatnot when I spied out the window a strange sight. High up in a tree there was a single scarlet pomegranate. No sooner had I commented on it that the boy ran outside, climbed atop a car, and plucked it from the tree, proffering it to me once back inside.
I’ve had a fondness for pomegranates ever since. (The boy, not so much any more.)
Huge heaping piles of them are for sale this week, and I couldn’t resist. I bought a couple without even knowing what I would use them for. Eatin’, perhaps. But then I ran out of marmalade and the serendipity express pulled into town yet again. Pomegranate marmalade. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? Yes. It was a moral imperative.
And it began.
I headed back out and grabbed another fat juicy pomegranate (large and heavy for its size, just like Alton Brown always warns us to pick), a couple of gigantic lemons, and a net bag of Clementines. I thought that their tender rinds and seedless sweetness would make for a lovely complement to the tart power of the pomegranate, a fruit strong enough to keep a chick underground four months out of the year.
And I like lemons, so…lemons.
The food/science guru, Alton Brown, tackled pomegranates in his Food 10 from Outer Space episode of Good Eats, in which he says to submerge the fruit in a bowl of water before dismantling it. It works. Fer totes.
To release the juices (sounds dirty…) of the pomegranate aryls (that’s what those things are called, yo), I boiled them up and crushed ‘em a bit with a masher, then ran them through the food mill. Seriously, that thing has been one of the best kitchen purchases ever.
After a few hours of dripping the milled ‘granates through a jelly bag, I got about two and a half cups of pomegranate juice. Here’s the deal: about 20 ounces of fresh pomegranate from the sweat of my brow (not seriously – that would be grossly unsanitary) cost me about eight bucks. The same amount of pre-squozen juice runs about $12.00. At least four dollars saved. Plus, it’s less fun to just open a bottle.
The Clementines proved problematic.
I tried to skin them like I did the oranges and grapefruits and lemons, but the skin was too thin and it peeled right off, pith and all. Problem. But, like I told my students when the projector bulb blew, a problem is just an opportunity for creativity. So I busted out my trusty zester and zested off wee thin strips of Clementiney skin.
It looked so gorgeous, I did the same to the lemon and vowed (yes, vowed) that it would be my marmalade prep tool of choice from here forward.
Clementines are seedless. Apparently the growers are sort of Mafioso about keeping it that way, even suing bee keepers who live near the Clemmy groves to keep their flocks away, ensuring no cross-pollination with seeded citrus.
Their seedlessness helps with the prep. Instead of painstakingly supreming them, I simply cut them in halves and squeezed them thoroughly, pulp and all. Much easier than supreming a grapefruit, but with a bag of Clemmies, you have to do this many, many times.
Six cups of juice all total, plus a good deal of the zest ribbons. I boiled it up with sugar and went through the whole cooking, canning, preserving routine.
The result was wonderful. Tart and sweet, a ruby red jam with orange and yellow streamers floating in it. Ah. It’ll be great to revisit it in four months when Persephone heads back to earth.