These winter jewels are a real treat, but cleaning them can be a challenge. Our associate editor shares a little trick for getting at the seeds without the mess.
If I were to make a list à la Julie Andrews’s in The Sound of Music, my favorite things about the holiday season would all be food related: fresh, in-season citrus fruit; crispy roasted Brussels sprouts; this long-simmering lentil curry I love to make in the first days of the new year; and, at the very top of the list, a handful of juicy pomegranate seeds.
Technically, pomegranate season in the Northern Hemisphere starts in September — but for me, there’s something about a pomegranate that feels deeply intertwined with the holidays. At Thanksgiving, for instance, I’ve taken to spiking the cranberry sauce with a glug of pomegranate juice. And for the New Year’s Eve countdown, I think there’s nothing more festive than a champagne-pomegranate cocktail.
When it comes to the seeds, or “arils,” the culinary options are practically limitless. They’re delicious stirred in to a bit of coconut yogurt for breakfast. I love them (and cookbook author Danielle Walker does, too!) sprinkled atop a salad of wintry greens. If I’m baking a sweet potato for dinner — and I often am — I’ll take it with coconut oil, wilted kale, and pomegranate seeds, please.
If you’ve ever tried to clean one of these bad boys, though, you know they present quite the conundrum. You can’t just cut through a pomegranate — you’ll have juice running all over your hands and staining your countertop. And you can’t really just pry the seeds out — many of them will likely burst onto the nearest surface (which, for me, is usually something white and freshly laundered). And the pith inside the fruit can be rather stubborn, sticking to the seeds and spoiling your snack.
That’s why I love to clean pomegranates with this easy method. It’s quick, it’s neat, and when you’re done, you’ll be left with a beautiful pile of juicy pomegranate seeds for whatever holiday treat your heart desires. Here’s how it’s done.
Step 1: Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the top and bottom off the pomegranate.
No need to cut too deep — you just need a flat surface to work with.
Step 2: Use your knife to carefully score the pomegranate into quarters, cutting about ¼ inch deep around the circumference.
Step 3: Using your hands, carefully pry the pomegranate into quarters.
Step 4: Fill a large bowl about 2/3 full with water.
Step 5: Submerge one pomegranate quarter at a time in the bowl, and use your fingers to gently pry the seeds from the fruit.
Any seeds that burst will do so underwater, keeping your clothes and your counters stain-free!
Step 6: Once you’ve cleaned all four quarters of your pomegranate, gently rub the seeds underwater with your fingers to remove any remaining pith.
The juice in the seeds will keep them sunk to the bottom of your bowl, while the white pith will float to the top!
Step 7: Use a spoon to skim the pith from the top of your bowl, drain the water, and enjoy!
As an added bonus, this method separates the ripe bottom-of-the-bowl seeds from the floaters, which are often withered and juiceless. Discard them with the pith and keep only the good, juicy ones!
Pomegranate seeds will keep in an air-tight container in your fridge for up to five days. For more pomegranate recipes, check out “Pomegranate Power” from our December 2015 issue.
Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of our team’s “Kitchen Tricks & Slips” series, where we offer suggestions on recipe modifications, helpful tips, and real-life challenges so you can avoid similar messes in your cooking experiments. As any recipe only offers guidance, not guaranteed results, we encourage you to play with these recipes, too, and find what works best for you. We’d love to hear what you cook up!