Who doesn’t love pomegranate? The juicy, tangy, sweet seeds are addictive. It can be challenging to open and to seed them if you’re not familiar with the technique, but the result is definitely worth the effort.
I don’t even remember how and when I learned to open pomegranates. My parents have mandarin orange orchards. There are also pomegranate and quince trees around them. My father brings home a big bag of pomegranates every few days. Since I’ve been helping to people around me opening them during my childhood, one day, I started doing it by myself! Practice, practice, practice ;)
It’s also quite important for me to open them very carefully without stabbing the seeds because they’re like precious gems protected by the fruit’s thick peel! When I’m having them as fruit or using them as a garnish, I like to have them all plump and shiny, not wet, like they’re bleeding in their juice. The idea of damaging the pomegranate seeds with a knife frustrates me, so I always show cooks in my kitchens how to do it delicately! The only time we’re allowed to cut them in half is when we’re making juice.
Pomegranate fascinates me, not only because of its gem looking seeds, its beautiful flowers when it grows, or its addictive flavor but also because of how it’s influenced cultural life since ancient times. Pomegranate represents fertility, prosperity, love and health in Middle Eastern culture. In Turkey, it’s a tradition to throw a pomegranate to a newlywed couple’s door to wish them a big healthy family, or to a new opening commerce to wish wealth, prosperity and longue vie to their business. Pomegranate and its flowers are traditional ornaments in tapestry, carpets and fabrics because of their symbolic meaning. There are also lots of stories about pomegranate in mythology that I like, but I’ll keep them for another post.
In Turkey, pomegranate is an essential fruit for winter to eat or to juice; you can see juice vendors on almost every busy street corner. For cooking, on the other hand, its syrup (a.k.a. pomegranate molasses or nectar) takes more prominent place than the fruit itself for marinating, making salad dressing, sauces, and flavoring. Keeping that in mind, let’s make homemade pomegranate syrup and salad dressing with it. I’ll give more recipes to use this syrup in other posts!
If you want to make the syrup in traditional way you need to reduce only the pomegranate juice, but this will cost a fortune; for 2 L (64 oz) of juice from 10-12 pomegranates to get 2 tablespoons of thick syrup… When I was traveling in the southeastern region of Turkey, where pomegranates are abundantly cultivated, I was looking for pure pomegranate syrup, which is very rare to find in markets nowadays. The sellers kept them in another room, and their price was ten times higher than the commercial ones. So, when I started to make homemade pomegranate syrup I decided to add a little sugar to have a better consistency without letting vaporize most of the precious juice!
- 8 cups (2L) pomegranate juice
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- The most important part of this recipe is making the juice: please, please, please don’t use the electrical juicers! It will cause a very bitter taste. The best equipment for this is a manual juice press. Cut the pomegranates in half and squeeze them one by one. Be careful, it's a messy job!
- In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400F (200 C). Put a small plate in the fridge to check the consistency of the syrup later on.
- Heat all ingredients in a nonreactive pot t until sugar dissolves about 10 minutes. Pour it carefully in two 12''X18" baking sheet, if you don't have two of them just bake in two batches.
- Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake it about 50-60 minutes, stirring time to time with a heat resistant rubber spatula. To check the consistency, pour a teaspoon of syrup on the chilled plate and swirl, if it moves slowly it's done, otherwise, bake 5-10 more minutes. It makes about 450-500 ml syrup.
- Leave it to cool completely and reserve in a glass bottle or jar in the fridge up to six months.