Pomegranates start showing up in Midwestern grocery stores in the fall, and you can usually find them through the winter. Which is lucky for us. They’re a beautiful fruit, and seem especially suited for the holidays, with those sparkling scarlet seeds. I use them to liven up a kale salad or garnish a dessert.
If you haven’t worked with a pomegranate, they can be a bit baffling. How are you supposed to get to the good part? The good part, of course, is the shiny red kernals, also known as arils. They’re covered in a leathery, muted red peel, with random sections of white pithy skin on the inside. I can tell you, it’s easier than it looks, if you know a few tricks. Chef Orr walks us through the process on the podcast, but here is a description and a few photos to help you out.
Imagine the pomegranate as a globe, with the blossom and stem ends as the North and South poles. Cut the pomegranate in half along what would be the equator. Place the cut side of a pomegranate half over the palm of your hand, over a large bowl. Now whack the back of the pomegranate half with a large spoon. The arils will fall out, onto your hand and into the bowl. Repeat until each half is cleared of its arils.
Make a cut just a half inch below the blossom-end of the pomegranate. This will reveal the sections of the fruit, expressed as white lines pointing towards the center of the fruit. Use a paring knife to score down the outside of the pomegranate along those white lines. Then peel off those sections of the outer skin. Now you can break open the fruit into attractive sections.
The second method is a bit more involved, but results in some nice clusters that you can either eat out of hand, or arrange on a plate. The first method is much quicker, and you end up with the singular pomegranate arils, perfect for garnishing desserts.