How to break open a pomegranate

While the fall holidays may be over, fortunately the pomegranates aren’t. You can still find them in abundance, and prices are dropping to incredible lows — four shekels a kilo. We have a whole heap of discount pomegranates in the kitchen. And they’re lovely.

I was hoping to come up with some creative pomegranate recipe for the holiday, but we couldn’t seem to keep ourselves from eating the fruit before I got to cook with them. But actually, that’s fine with me — pomegranate seeds are a trendy condiment tossed over all sorts of dishes, such as roasted eggplant; mixed into tabbouleh; and as an addition to salads. All decent combinations, but none beat the unadulterated punch of just biting straight into a row of juicy seeds, straight from the fruit.

There are probably a million techniques for breaking open the pomegranate itself, in order to get at those seeds. When I lived in Haifa, the popular method involved throwing the pomegranate at the ground, a not-so-gentle reminder that rimon, the pomegranate’s Hebrew name, also means grenade. The pomegranate would split open from the force of the impact, splattering red juice everywhere. In a slight nod to hygiene — or the kitchen floor — we would often tie the pomegranate inside a plastic bag first.

Now, while this is a surefire way to amuse college students, I’ve come to believe that it’s not the most effective way to open a pomegranate. After all, the bloody mess is a sign that you’re losing valuable seeds. At this point, my goal is to break as few of them as possible — both to minimize the mess and to have more seeds to eat.

So here’s our trick: Instead of just slicing the pomegranate in half, my husband scores a ring around it, cutting no deeper than the outer layer of skin. At that point, the only thing holding the pomegranate together is the bitter pith between the seeds. If you pry your fingers between the split skin, you can pull the pomegranate apart, no broken seeds, no mess. A few seeds will pop out in the process, so beware.

That’s about as deep as you have to cut.

Actually, you don’t even have to slice right across the middle, like most people do automatically. You could slice it at an angle, too, and this gives you the advantage of quicker, easier access to the seeds (cutting across the middle lets you see the form of the star-shaped pith, which is less conducive to easy seeding).

Then you can break the two halves down into smaller sections, simply by pulling them apart. More seeds will pop out.

Look at the cutting board. Notice that it is white.

Have you ever seen so little collateral damage?

At this point, my husband picks the seeds out of the pith, in order to eat from a bowl with a spoon. But I prefer to eat them straight out of the pomegranate — I peel back the membrane to expose glistening rows of seeds, and bite in. Why? Because biting into the densely aligned seeds gives you a better mouthfeel than eating them by the spoonful — something more reminiscent of your average fruit. Just make sure you avoid the pith.

I mean, doesn’t that cluster of seeds look tempting?

  • If I can keep enough fruit around for it, I’ll be making this recipe for pomegranate syrup: Basically, a liter of juice boiled with a cup of sugar until it reduces to 400 grams. Conveniently, my current bottle just ran out.
  • And since it’s the season, here’s Sarah’s ode to pomegranates, with a sorbet recipe.

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