About seven years ago, I made an impulsive purchase of a pomegranate tree while passing by Whole Foods Market (I knew little about gardening at the time). When I got home, I stuck the tree in a small hole in my backyard terrace that I envisioned would one day be full of fruit trees. I did not amend the soil or provide food for the tree, even though the terrace land consisted of grayish fill dirt put in after a mudslide. Not surprisingly, the tree soon disappeared.
About three years ago, I decided that since poor gardening was not a genetic trait that need forever shape my destiny, I would take some time to learn something about it. With a little knowledge, I too could grow plants! One of the most important things I learned was that SOIL MATTERS! Soil is a living resource that needs to be tended and cared for. Gray is not the color of soil. Healthy soil is dark brown and looks like chocolate cake crumbs. If anything was to grow on my back terrace, I needed to create soil. That gray fill dirt did not have the organic matter that is essential to soil.
I assumed my pomegranate tree was long dead, but I had not given up my dream of a terrace full of fruit trees. To care for the soil, I started by planting a cover crop, a crop grown to help the soil by doing things such as breaking up compaction and adding nitrogen. I scattered the seed and covered it with compost and mulch. Once the crop started to flower, I cut it down and turned in the green plants to feed the soil. It was easy and fun with no digging or tilling required. When spring came, I began planting trees. And, amazingly, my little pomegranate tree reappeared!
Today, the pomegranate tree is 10 feet tall, and I harvested over 50 big juicy pomegranates. So….what do you do with 50 pomegranates?
After enjoying the fresh juice, I decided to preserve it as grenadine/pomegranate syrup and pomegranate molasses. I have two juicers, an old-fashioned citrus press in a stand and a new Huron Slow Juicer. To use the hand press, I just cut the pomegranates in half and pressed out the juice, just as I would with orange juice. To use the Huron juicer, I needed to remove the seeds or arils and put them in the juicer. I was pretty sure I would get more and better quality juice from the Huron juicer, but that was not the case. I juiced five pomegranates in each juicer. The quantity of juice produced was basically the same. However, when I used the Huron juicer, I had to start by removing all the arils, and the juice was cloudy. The Huron juicer let bits of the white seed inside the arils through into the juice. I let it sit overnight and then filtered it through a jelly bag. For this task, the hand citrus press was clearly the tool of choice! Here are the recipes for what I made.
Pomegranate molasses -Pomegranate molasses is delicious and an ingredient I keep as a pantry staple. It can be purchased at any Middle Eastern market. It is great in salad dressing, homemade sodas, as glaze on fish or chicken, and drizzled on ice cream. It is a common ingredient in Persian and Moroccan cuisine. Pomegranate molasses is a very thick syrup made by reducing pomegranate juice. Some recipes call for adding sugar. I chose not to do this.
Simply reduce four cups of freshly squeezed pomegranate juice down to 1 cup on your stove top - there is your pomegranate molasses. Use low to medium heat. It takes about an hour. I made 2 cups total. This is quite an extravagant use of pomegranate juice. I am going to keep it in the refrigerator since it has no preservative of any type and I imagine it will keep at least 6 months. Recipes typically call for between one tablespoon and 1/4 cup so my two cups will last a while.
Grenadine - I have never been a fan of store-bought grenadine, but I remember the time my mother made it. It is a sweetened pomegranate syrup, not reduced like pomegranate molasses, so it has light, bright flavor. I drank my mother's grenadine in Shirley Temples and also loved it on pancakes. My mother baked with it, drizzling it between cake layers and tossing it with apples and pears in pies and tarts. It was delicious. I found two ways to make it, one fresh and the other cooked. One recipe in a favorite book, Shake, Stir, Pour - Fresh Home Grown Cocktails by Katie M. Loeb, suggests mixing juice from the two methods together. That is what I chose. This yields complex flavor by combining bright freshness with deeper caramelized flavor. I think it tastes fantastic and will be a great hostess gift for the holidays.
2 cups fresh pomegranate juice
2 1/2 cups organic sugar
2 teaspoons orange flower water
1 oz 100 proof vodka (acts as preservative)
optional: scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pour the pomegranate juice into a large jar or container with a tight lid that you can shake. Gradually add the sugar, stirring to prevent clumping. Screw on the lid and shake until the sugar dissolves. This takes a while - just keep shaking!. Add the orange flower water, vodka and vanilla if using. Shake to combine.
2 cups of pomegranate juice
2 cups organic sugar
2 oz. pomegranate molasses
Cold Process Grenadine
Bring the pomegranate juice to a boil over high heat. Turn it down to a simmer until the juice is reduced by half. Slowly add the sugar, whisking to dissolve completely. Add the pomegranate molasses and whisk again. Simmer for 3 more minutes, then remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Combine with cold-processed juice, then funnel into sterilized bottles for storage. I suggest storing in the refrigerator although the recipe authors say it keeps indefinitely on the shelf.
I hope you are inspired to plant a pomegranate tree or, if you already have a tree, to try one of these techniques to preserve your fruit. While you're waiting for your tree to mature, look for pomegranates or cold-pressed pomegranate juice at the farmers' market.
If my tree yields as much fruit next year, I will try my hand at pomegranate jelly.