For Love Of Pomegranates

picture267 Crowded Earth Kitchen has featured pomegranates in several recipes this month, and with good reason.  Pomegranates are essentially the perfect winter fruit.  Pomegranates are high in fiber, contain a wealth of vitamins including Vitamins C and K, and are widely considered a “superfood” due to their abundance of antioxidants.  Pomegranates contain a particularly amazing compound called “ellagitannin,” which breaks down to form another amazing compound, “ellagic acid,” in the human body.  Also found in foods such as raspberries, strawberries, and walnuts, ellagic acid has been shown in medical studies to have powerful anti-cancer properties.

Oh, and pomegranates are delicious.  Why wouldn’t they feature prominently in winter recipes?

It occurs to me that I never actually demonstrated what I believe is the easiest, least messy way to open a pomegranate and capture all of those juicy, jewel toned, nutrition packed arils.  My apologies.  Let’s open a pomegranate together and enjoy a simple winter fruit salad, shall we?

Ingredients (makes 1 quart of fruit salad)

1 pomegranate

6 – 8 clementines, tangerines, or oranges

1 peppermint tea bag

picture240Directions

Step 1)  Use a paring knife to score a pomegranate all the way around in a circle, about 1/2 inch from each end.  Use the tip of the paring knife or a finger to gently pull up the leathery skin.  After the ends are loosened, simply pull them off.

picture241Step 2) After the ends are removed, you will be able to see the pattern of the white, pithy membranes inside the pomegranate.  These membranes resemble the white pith found on the insides of oranges.  Use your paring knife to score through the pomegranate skin, end to end, along each section of white membrane.

picture242Step 3) Over a protected work surface, pull your pomegranate apart along the lines you’ve scored.  Notice how there is NO JUICE in this picture.  That’s not a camera trick… careful scoring really will keep all of the juice where it belongs, inside of the arils!

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picture244Step 4) Separate the pomegranate arils.  This is very easy.  Simply lift away the papery white membranes inside of the pomegranate, and the arils will come right off in your hand.  As shown in the photo to the left, one pomegranate contains about 2 cups of tightly packed arils.  That’s a lot of fruit!

picture268Step 5) Combine your pomegranate arils with sectioned clementines, tangerines, or oranges in a pretty bowl.  For maximum flavor, serve your winter fruit salad only slightly chilled.  Ice cold fruit is less flavorful than fruit which has been allowed to warm up a bit!  Garnish your winter fruit salad with a few flecks of peppermint from a tea bag.  Enjoy!

Crowded Earth Kitchen hopes pomegranates become a winter staple in your pantry!

Cranberry Pomegranate Mustard

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Mustard is a wonderful condiment, and this mustard is my very favorite.  It is as lovely enjoyed alone on a slice of whole grain bread as it is served alongside ham or turkey.  As a bonus, mustard seeds are surprisingly nutritious, containing Omega-3 fatty acids (who knew?) and a whole host of antioxidants including selenium.

This mustard recipe is so easy to prepare, you’ll wonder why you ever bought that bright yellow bottle lurking in the back of your refrigerator.  You know the bottle… the one full of food coloring and too much salt?  Rinse it out, recycle the bottle, and try this recipe instead.  You can thank me later.

picture067Ingredients (makes 10 half-pint jars)

16 ounces yellow mustard seeds (available in bulk for just a few dollars at any spice shop)

4 cups white vinegar

1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries

1/2 cup fresh pomegranate arils (or substitute an extra 1/2 cup whole cranberries)

1/2 cup pomegranate juice or cranberry pomegranate juice (pure only!)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Step 1) Combine mustard seeds, whole cranberries, and vinegar in a large glass bowl.  Cover and let sit for two days.  The mustard seeds will absorb vinegar and expand, so make sure your bowl is big enough!

Step 2) After two days, stir pomegranate arils, pomegranate juice, and salt into the mustard seed mixture.

Step 3) Working with one to two cups of the mustard seed mixture at a time, puree mixture in a sturdy blender until you are happy with the consistency.  Approximately one minute of high speed blending will yield a course ground mustard.  A creamier consistency can be achieved by blending for two or three minutes.

Step 4) Ladle into sterilized canning  jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Don’t forget to poke out the air bubbles!

Step 5) Place lids and bands on your jars, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Done!

This mustard makes a wonderful hostess gift, if you can bear to part with a jar.  Enjoy!

Orange Marmalade and Spinach-Pomegranate Citrus Salad

picture138Orange Marmalade

(makes 10 half pint jars)

Orange marmalade is a winter delight.  When my garden plot freezes and wears a blanket of snow, I begin looking forward to the brightly colored displays of citrus fruits at my local market.

When I first started making my own jams and jellies, I shied away from marmalade.  Many of the recipes I found were pretty, well, precious.  I wasn’t interested in the many, many steps and copious amounts of time required.  Eventually, I came up with this.  Four ingredients, ten simple steps, and maybe two hours of time.  The end result?  Ten half pint jars of tangy, citrusy goodness – perfect for spreading on toast or muffins, drizzling over a winter salad (see below), or eating right out of the jar with a spoon.  I won’t tell.

Ingredients

picture1344 pounds of organic oranges (about 8 organic oranges)*

1 1/2 cups water

6 cups white sugar

1 pouch (3 ounces) liquid pectin

*Yes, your oranges really, really do need to be organic.  Why?  Because marmalade uses the peel.  Do you want to eat orange peel that has been treated or sprayed?  Neither do I.

Directions

Step 1) Wash your oranges.  No really, WASH your oranges.  Scrub them in hot water for a few minutes.  You’re eating the peel, remember?

picture135Step 2)  Peel your oranges with a vegetable peeler.  This is surprisingly fast, and works well to separate the thin layer of bright orange zest (which you want) from the thick layer of bitter white pith (which you do NOT want).

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Step 3)  Slice your orange peels into thin strips using a paring knife.  My strips ended up being about 1/4 inch wide and 2 to 3 inches long.  The dimensions aren’t terribly important.

Step 4)  Add your sliced orange peel to a large pot.  Add 1 1/2 cups of water and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Step 5) While the peels are simmering, remove the white pith from your oranges.  Pull the oranges apart into halves and remove the spongy white center.  Remove the seeds, if needed.  [It is possible to purchase organic, seedless oranges.  Just sayin’.]  The idea here is to have as much “orange” and as little “white” as possible.  As you are working with your oranges, save all the juice.  Working over a baking pan with shallow sides helps.  Chop up your oranges into little bite size pieces.

Step 6) After the peels have simmered for 20 minutes, add the chopped oranges and any juice you’ve collected.  Simmer, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

picture136Step 7)  Add 6 cups of white sugar to the pot, keep stirring, and bring that pot to a Mad Boil… the kind of boil that is too fierce to calm down, even with stirring!

Step 8)  Once you have achieved a Mad Boil, add your pectin.  Continue stirring and boiling for one more minute.  Remove from heat.  Your kitchen will smell fantastic right about now.

Step 9)  Review Crowded Earth Kitchen’s canning guidelines, and fill your sterilized, half pint canning jars.  Be sure to leave 1/4 inch of headspace.  Place lids and bands on your jars, and process in a boiling water bath for 1o minutes.

Step 10)  Grab a big spoon and your cooking pot, which probably has a few tastes of marmalade left at the bottom.  It would be a shame to let those tastes go to waste, right?  Don’t burn yourself.

That’s it!  Now, let’s do something more respectable with our marmalade than lick the pot…

Spinach-Pomegranate Citrus Salad

(makes 4 generous servings)

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This might be the world’s easiest winter salad.  It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, containing iron in addition to Vitamin C and other antioxidants.  During cold and flu season, we need all the help we can get!

Simply fill a serving bowl with 8 cups of a 50/50 mixture of baby spinach and mixed salad greens.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of fresh pomegranate arils.  Peel 2 oranges or clementines, slice, and tuck into salad.  Serve with a drizzle of orange marmalade.

Delicious!