How To Select and Clean A Pomegranate

Three perfect pomegranate's.

Three perfect pomegranate’s.

With the holidays coming and going, people like to not only decorate their homes for the season, but it also inspires them to try new things with the food they are preparing for family and friends. It seems that since the pomegranate began to gain popularity they have become a holiday season treat. I’ve also noticed that replicas of the pomegranate are being sold as decorations.

Inside of the shell that you see in the photo above are “arils” which are the fleshy seed that you eat. The pomegranate is the perfect  exotic garnish for any salad and not to mention the perfect snack all by itself. The arils also go great with sliced bananas, strawberries and blueberries. The arils are sweet and are crunchy. A lot of companies have tried to replicate the taste for various products that sort of taste like the cranberry. I do not think they are similar in taste.

Pomegranate’s are one of the oldest fruits on record and have been seen in writings and artifacts of many different cultures. The pomegranate is thought to be a native of Persia.  The growing seasons depends on where the tree is being grown. In the northern hemisphere it’s September-February while in the southern hemisphere it’s March-May.

Typically in the United States, where I am located, they start to show up in the grocery store around mid September. The brand that my local grocery store carries appear to be grown in California.  They retail anywhere from $2.99 each but are often on special at 2 for $5.00.  Around the holiday,s a lot of my local grocery stores and mega stores  sell them so cheaply that they practically give them away.

The only downfall to the pomegranate is that they can be a challenge to clean. I am going to give you some tips to ease you through the process.  It’s true that you can choose to purchase a container of arils that have already been cleaned off of the pomegranate, but you will pay twice the price for something you can do on your own.  You’ll get more for your money too,  if you’re using a lot of the fruit,  than you would if you were to purchase them in a container.

First, you need to select a pomegranate.  As with other things in life, size doesn’t necessarily mean anything. You want a pomegranate that is fairly heavy. This tells you that the pomegranate is full of ripe juicy arils and that’s what you want.  If you select a pomegranate based on size, without paying attention to its weight, you may be disappointed later when you cut it open to find that it doesn’t have a lot of arils on the inside. Or wasn’t quite ripe yet.

You also want to look at the skin and make sure that it is not wrinkled or rippled. This is a sign that the pomegranate has been sitting on the display for awhile. Also try to avoid ones that have cuts or bruises on the skin.   It is true that a pomegranate has a shelf life of up to three months, but since you’re standing in the grocery store making a new purchase, pass that one by if you can.  You don’t want to get home and find that your pomegranate is moldy on the inside.

Now that you have your pomegranate, you will want to prepare it to be cleaned.

I use my kitchen sink to soak the pomegranates in hot water for 30-40 minutes.  It’s as simple as filling your sink or a very large bowl full of hot water. How hot? A step above what you would hand wash your dishes in. Let them soak in the water for at least 30 minutes. You don’t have to keep the water hot just let them soak.  This will not damage the arils or make them mushy. When we are finished I am going to tell you to rinse them in cold water. That will crisp them again.

Let the pomegranates soak in hot water for 30-40 minutes.

Let the pomegranates soak in hot water for 30-40 minutes.

Next you will need a cutting board or something that you don’t mind cutting food on.

I suggest that you use a knife that is longer than your pomegranate. They aren’t terribly difficult to cut through, but a paring knife will be awkward.

Two warnings.

First, this is going to be a little messy. You may want to have a darker colored dish cloth or paper towel near by just in case.  The juice will stain your cutting board but cleaning with bleach will eliminate the stain.  You’ll want to look at the wall in front of you when you are done because you probably squirted juice on the wall.

Secondly, the rind or skin, may discolor your cuticles and finger nails.  When I clean my pomegranates I usually wear gloves. You’ll want to wear something that allows you to be able to move your fingers in a picking motion.  It hasn’t always happened but it only took one time for me to start using gloves. My fingers were stained yellow and it was not pretty.

Next, you’ll want to place your pomegranate so that it is upright, as it’s pictured below. You are going to cut it in half and then into four pieces. I start cutting in the middle of the top in an effort to make my pieces the same size.

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Cut the pomegranate in half, starting at the top.

Cut each half of the pomegranate in half again so you have four pieces.

Cut the pomegranate in half and then cut each piece until you have four pieces.

Cut the pomegranate in half and then cut each piece until you have four pieces.

Next, have a bowl or colander ready to catch your arils.  Hold one of the pieces in your hand. Take the thumb on each hand to fold the pieces backwards at the top and bottom, with your fingers supporting the middle.  The seeds will separate easily from the rind and fall in to the bowl. You simply keep picking at the arils until they are all gone from your piece.

Peel the rind back to expose the seeds.

Peel the rind back to expose the seeds.

It’s as simple as that.

Up close and personal with arils-

Up close and personal with arils-

When you are finished cleaning the arils from the pieces rinse them with cold water. Then simply let the water drain from the colander. When they are dry then place them into an airtight container and place them into the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them.

I can clean three pomegranates in about twenty minutes and make a minimal mess. It’s seriously an art.

What do you think? Is this something that you are willing try? Have you cleaned your own pomegranate? How did it go?