In our house Easter celebrations are unashamedly associated with feasting. Chocolate truffles and brightly wrapped foiled Easter eggs for breakfast, followed by a long, leisurely lunch. It’s no wonder overindulgence is the order of the day. An inescapable given. This year it didn’t help that Easter coincided with school holidays and was preceded by a week long family getaway to the South Coast with more unrestrained eating. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that this week I’m embarking on a much needed post Easter detox with an emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables.
It helped that we returned home from our extended week away to an empty fridge and a carload of the bounty of my father’s Autumn garden. Tucked away amongst the fresh herbs, pumpkins, spinach and silver beet was a box of late harvest pomegranates. An ancient Middle Eastern super food.
Encased in a leathery skin, each pomegranate holds hundreds of juicy, ruby red arils (seeds). High in Vitamin C, rich in antioxidants and polyphenols, pomegranate arils are very, very good for you and attributed with a wide range of health benefits. From improving immunity and aiding digestion to protecting against cancer and heart disease. Fat free, they also complement a well balanced diet. Half a cup of pomegranate arils contains 72 calories while half a cup of unsweetened, undiluted juice just 68.
Tart but sweet, crunchy yet juicy pomegranate arils are wonderful eaten out of hand and on their own. In the past I have used these glistening little jewels to add sweetness and texture to my salads; Burnt Eggplant with Garlic, Lemon and Pomegranate Seeds, Autumn Fig, Pear and Radicchio Salad With Prosciutto and Pomegranate or Lamb Shank, Sweet Potato and Barley Salad With Pomegranate and Fresh Herbs. Or teamed them with dark, bitter chocolate to produce a wonderful dessert Salted Dark Chocolate And Lime Mousse With Blueberries and Pomegranate. This time around with a whole box of ripe pomegranates at my disposal I’ve decided to have a go at making pomegranate juice. It’s a lot easier than I had originally imagined.
Making fresh pomegranate juice involves a two step process. First the pomegranate needs to be seeded to release the arils from the pith and membrane. Then the arils need to be lightly crushed to release their juice. Peeling and seeding a fresh ripe pomegranate is a little messy with all its free flowing juices and best performed over the kitchen sink. But quick and easy when you know how. Just follow the instructions provided below to be rewarded with a tart, sweet and refreshing juice that is delicious on its own or can be used in a large array of cocktails and smoothies. I was pleased with my efforts and can honestly say that the home made version tastes vastly superior to anything that can be purchased commercially off the shelf.
Makes approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fresh juice
One medium-sized pomegranate
sugar and squeeze of fresh lemon juice, to taste
USING a sharp knife, cut the fruit vertically in half. Use your hands to gently break the halves into two or three smaller sections depending on the size of the fruit.
WORKING with one section at a time, simply flex or twist the peel to loosen the arils and use a teaspoon or your fingers to carefully prise them from their pith into a bowl. Discard the pith and peel.
REMOVE any stray pieces of pith from the bowl of arils, before transferring the arils and any residual juice to a blender.
PULSE the arils until they just break apart and release their juice. To avoid a cloudy juice be careful not to over process the arils.
TRANSFER the entire contents of the blender (pulp and juice) to a sieve placed over a clean jug or bowl. Using the back of a large spoon press down on the pulp to extract more juice.
TASTE the juice. It should be sweet and tart. If the pomegranate is perfectly ripe it should not require any sweetener. Adjust to taste with a little sugar and a squeeze of lemon if necessary