Housebound with Pomegranates
I received a cream-colored pottery bowl for Christmas and immediately pictured it filled with rosy red pomegranates. Because the grapefruit-sized pods are now in season, I ran to the market, bought a half dozen, and piled them into the bowl. They looked as pretty as I had pictured in my mind, the thick red skins bringing a much needed punch of color into these dreary winter days spent at home. For the first few brief moments I felt like the kind of person who buys pomegranates for the sole purpose of decorating. Like I was the sort of person who might have a weekly pomegranate decorating budget. Imagine: tossing one set of wrinkled pomegranates and replacing them with new, taut-skinned ones, all for the sake of keeping the bowl brimming and beautiful.
It was a brief dream. Someone raised by a Scot will never have something called a pomegranate decorating budget. And someone also raised by an Italian might pile fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables into bowls in the kitchen, but she will always cook with these. When my two halves come together – the practical side and the beauty-loving purposeful side – I buy what I can use and use what I have on hand to make something delicious.
The temperatures kept me indoors yesterday, housebound with tetchy dogs, the aforementioned pomegranates, and a few lemons I needed to use up. So I made a quick pint of Lemon and Pomegranate Marmalade. A perfect mid-day project, the marmalade cooked quickly and the small yield required no elaborate water bath canning. After only ninety minutes I made a dent in the pomegranate pile, used up the lemons, and had marmalade ready for my breakfast toast. For first time jam makers, this marmalade may whet your appetite for more. For readers who want to do more with pomegranates than toss the seeds on salads or side dishes as a finishing touch, the recipe will give your pomegranates real purpose.
The marmalade recipe calls for both juice and seeds of the pomegranate, although adding the seeds to the preserves is up to you. I like the additional crunch; others may not. To gather the juice and seeds needed for this recipe, you will need 2 pomegranates. Cut both in half. Squeeze 3 of the halves (exactly like you might squeeze an orange half) over a strainer set in a bowl to collect 1/2 cup of juice.
To collect the seeds, hold the final half over another bowl, cut side down, and thwack the skin side with a wooden spoon handle to loosen the seeds from the spongy white membrane. With a few swifts hits, the seeds with their juice sacs should loosen and fall right into the bowl. A quarter-cup is all you need.
Lemon Pomegranate Marmalade
- 1 pound whole lemons, about 4
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 2-1/2 cups water
- 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, optional
Wash and trim the ends from the lemons. Slice the lemons thinly and remove the seeds as you go along. At this time, you may either quarter the slices (if you like long peel in your marmalade) or chop the slices in the food processor using a few pulses (if you like smaller pieces of peel). Collect all the lemon and the juice and place in a medium saucepan.
Add the water and juice to the saucepan along with the lemon. Set the pot over high heat. Cover it and bring it to a boil. When the fruit and liquid boil, remove the cover, reduce the heat enough to maintain a simmer, and let the lemons cook until the peel is very soft, anywhere from 30 – 4o minutes.
When the lemon peel has softened, pour the stewed fruit and liquid into a measuring cup to measure. You should have about 2 cups.
Pour the fruit back into the sauce pan and add 3/4 cups of sugar for every cup of fruit, so about 1-1/2 cups sugar total. Your amounts may vary, so just remember the ratio of 1 cup fruit:3/4 cup sugar.
Return the heat to medium and let the fruit and sugar cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat to maintain a bubble without letting the sugar burn. Begin testing at 15 minutes.
As the fruit cooks with the sugar, place a small plate in the freezer. After 15 minutes of steady cooking and stirring, remove the plate and drop a bit of marmalade onto it. Place this plate back in the freezer for 30 seconds. Remove and run your finger across the surface of the blob of marmalade. If it wrinkles on the top as you draw your finger across, the jam is done. If not, continue cooking the jam for another 5 minutes and test again. When done, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pomegranate seeds, if using.
Pour the finished marmalade into a hot, clean pint jar.
Let cool slightly, cover, and place the jar in the refrigerator for immediate use.
©2013 Jane A. Ward