Pomegranate and Orange Blossom

Along with blood oranges, quince and yuzu, pomegranates make me anticipate winter. Their season starts in the autumn and continues even when our northern European lands enter the somber grey days of February. Most of the pomegranates in Belgium come from Turkey, but I’ve discovered that Spanish and Californian fruit has the best taste, a rich melange of sour, sweet and mildly tannic notes that calls to mind red wine and Cornelian cherries.

To select a good pomegranate, look for a glossy, heavy fruit that doesn’t have soft spots. Different varieties of pomegranates range from dark red to pale pink, so pick the richest colored fruit from the batch. Opening a pomegranate holds a sense of suspense–what will it hold inside its leathery skin? The moment when the orb breaks open to reveal the segments full of garnet beads is a small wonder. I’ve opened hundreds of pomegranates in my life, but this giddy delight never lessens.

The best way to open a pomegranate is to make cuts along its six ridges and then split it open. I will describe the process in more detail below. The usual techniques of cutting the fruit in half or whacking it with a spoon over a bowl of water are messy and wasteful. Once you open it and take out the seeds, you can keep the arils in the fridge for a couple of days.

I use pomegranate to garnish baba ganoush, Georgian bean salad and spinach side dishes. I also make my winter cucumber-pomegranate salad. A handful of pomegranate seeds over a piece of salmon baked with green onions and cherry tomatoes adds a fruity, tart note.

 

orange-blossom

The easiest way to enjoy pomegranate is out of hand, and it needs few embellishments. Yet, if I were to gild the lily, I would pick out the arils, pile them up in a bowl and add a splash of orange blossom water. The floral scent of orange flowers reminiscent of wild strawberries is a perfect complement to the tangy fruitiness of pomegranate–all of the perfumes of Alhambra in one bite.

pomegranate1pomegranate2

Orange Blossom Scented Pomegranate

Serves 2

You will need one pomegranate, 2 teaspoons of orange blossom water (and optionally, sugar to taste). Score pomegranate with a knife along its six ridges, cutting through the skin. Cut off the corolla and with your fingers press in the center to break out the fruit. It should yield easily. If not, make the cuts a little bit deeper.

Remove pomegranate seeds (arils) and divide into two portions. Sprinkle with orange blossom water (and if using, sugar). Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to a day. Enjoy!

Extra: 10 Ways to Use Orange Blossom Water and Orange Blossom in Fragrances

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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40 Comments

  • Awfulknitter: Aril! Now I know what to call the knobbles in a pomegranate – what a nice little curio of a word.

    Coincidentally, today I’m picking up a botle of Haute Votige by L’Artisan Parfumeur, which is meant to have a pomegranate top note. (It was a blind buy, TK Maxx in the UK have had one of their spates of discounted L’Artisan fragrances.) I’ve always liked the oriental pomegranate of Calvin Klein’s Euphoria, and Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir so I’ll be interested to see how this compares: I’m expecting something a bit lighter (but hopefully not too sweet and gourmand).

    I like pomegranate with shrikand (I refer back to your recipe for this, Victoria!). Now I’m wondering whether you coud do a version with orange blossom water instead of the rose water. And maybe some pistachios to garnish? I think there might be some experimenting this weekend – although I should stick to my half-executed plan to make Parmesan ice cream to eat with pears (there’s cheese-infused cream already sat in the fridge, waiting to be turned into custard). February 10, 2017 at 7:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Shrinkand with orange blossom water sounds wonderful. You can add dried apricots instead of raisins, which go especially well with orange flower water. Or you can add a pinch of nutmeg, another nice complement.

      Have you tried Santa Maria Novella Melograno? I especially like the soap. February 10, 2017 at 11:54am Reply

      • Awfulknitter: Ooo, I haven’t tried that. Another one to add to the seek-it-out list! February 10, 2017 at 6:10pm Reply

        • Victoria: The cologne is a bit too linear, but the soap is great. February 12, 2017 at 3:08am Reply

  • Susan: Wonderful post, as always Victoria.

    Your reference to the ‘perfumes of the Alhambra’ reminded me of a recent trip to Granada to visit that magical monument to the past. The pomegranate is actually the symbol of Granada, and I noted many images of them in the ancient architecture. The wondrous fruit even figures in Greek mythology has powerful antioxidant and antiinflamatory properties, and is a symbol of prosperity. February 10, 2017 at 7:48am Reply

    • Victoria: I remember visiting Salvador Dali’s house in the fall and noticing lots of pomegranates in the garden. They were overripe, so they hung splitting and splitting seeds from the trees. Appropriately surreal. February 10, 2017 at 11:55am Reply

      • Amanda: Oh wow!! Where was this? February 10, 2017 at 12:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: It was in Pubol, Spain, although now that I think of it, it was Gala’s, his wife’s castle and garden. He wasn’t even allowed to visit. February 10, 2017 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Amanda: I’m going to get pomegranates today! February 10, 2017 at 12:06pm Reply

  • Leslie: I just tried adding orange blossom water to a glass of POM and it was lovely. Thank you for an idea. February 10, 2017 at 12:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: That really sounds good, Leslie! February 10, 2017 at 1:27pm Reply

  • mj: I love pomegranates in salad. On Xmas day my mother always makes a roasted suckling pig, and pomegranate and curly endive salad to go along. The salad is very easy: curly endive, pomegranate and a dressing of olive oil, cumin, salt and grated garlic. So good! February 10, 2017 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds wonderful. Somehow I only pair endives with shallots or chives, but you’ve inspired me to try a garlic based dressing. February 12, 2017 at 3:02am Reply

      • mj: If you like bitter greens like curly endive you should try Xató. It’s a salad typical of Sitges and Vilanova (two cities in the province of Barcelona), that’s prepared with curly envidive, tuna, salted cod and anchovies with a dressing of xató sauce, a sauce made out of peppers, oil and hazelnuts (it’s similar to romesco sauce). February 12, 2017 at 5:07am Reply

        • Victoria: You guessed correctly, I love Xató. But I never tried making it myself, which shouldn’t be too complicated. Must cook it one of these days. February 13, 2017 at 1:41am Reply

  • Mer: Miss them… I rarely buy them here because they’re so expensive. Same with artichokes, figs… I discovered knolselder though 🙂 February 10, 2017 at 3:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: I had to look up knolselder, and it turns out to be celeriac. How do you cook it? February 12, 2017 at 3:02am Reply

      • Mer: Yes, sorry at the moment I couldn’t recall the english name. By now my boyfriend has mostly taken over cooking because he likes it. He always adds it to puréed potatoes (it can really make a boring dish very interesting!), and it is also very nice as fat chips, and gratinéed. You can stew it or put it in soup. It is also nice that it lasts forever in the fridge.

        I am just a big fan of its family of flavours: celery, fennel, dill, parsnip, chervil, lovage… and apparently one of my favourite notes of all time is also in the family: galbanum 😀

        I have a hard time understanding how anyone can’t like celery sticks. February 12, 2017 at 3:18am Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t buy it that often, but whenever I do, I wonder why I don’t cook them more often. A small piece also soups tastes more interesting.

          By the way, my aunt add chopped celery or lovage leaves to boiled potatoes, and it’s such a great combination. February 13, 2017 at 1:37am Reply

      • Mer: And very sad that none of the things I mentioned grow well in my garden, the soil is too heavy! I planted an Angelica last spring and was so disappointed that it also didn’t grow well, and the slugs, which are legion, loved it too. Fortunately my in laws have sandy soil and I get a token now and then.

        Sorry I am deviating from the pomegranates 😀 hm… I also like to make cocktails with pomegranate 😀 love it with some aromatic sherry (amontillado or oloroso), plus some gin or something. February 12, 2017 at 3:30am Reply

        • Victoria: We have a tiny pot outside, so our gardening activities are limited. But we manage to grow chives. February 13, 2017 at 1:39am Reply

    • Victoria: By the way, I make a salad with finely julienned celeriac, parsley, garlic and pomegranate seeds. The flavors go really well together. February 12, 2017 at 3:04am Reply

      • Mer: All lovely things, we must try it! February 12, 2017 at 3:19am Reply

        • Victoria: Pomegranates and mangoes also go well together and look pretty. February 13, 2017 at 1:38am Reply

          • Mer: Must also try that, I’d never have thought of it. February 13, 2017 at 5:43am Reply

            • Victoria: Oh, and passion fruit too! February 15, 2017 at 9:10am Reply

  • Kaitlin: I like to peel mine in a bowl of cold water. Less mess, no spattering, and no stained fingers! I loooove pomegranates. I’ve made a chocolate bark with pomegranate arils and it was delightful – the burst of tart juiciness with the creamy dark chocolate was divine. February 10, 2017 at 4:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: The way I cut it there is no mess or juice squirting at all, but your technique is very good too. That chocolate bark sounds heavenly. February 12, 2017 at 3:07am Reply

  • Gabriela: Lovely post! Love the way you describe simple pleasures in life.. wish everyone had that ability.
    I live in Spain and we have lots of pomegranates. Thanks for the tips on opening them! February 11, 2017 at 5:03am Reply

    • Victoria: Little things like that can be surprisingly effective at times when one feels blue. And pomegranates, they’re magical. 🙂 I’m envious of your bounty. February 12, 2017 at 3:10am Reply

  • Noemi: Pomegranates are traditional in Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Have you tried them with red wine and sugar? There’s a tree in my parents house and we have them on winter. February 12, 2017 at 10:21am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you just mix them with sugar and red wine? February 13, 2017 at 1:42am Reply

      • Noemi: Yes, in a bowl, and we eat it immediately, otherwise the grains loose the flavor. February 13, 2017 at 9:12am Reply

        • Victoria: I tried it, and yes, it was delicious! Thank you. February 15, 2017 at 9:11am Reply

  • Aurora: How much I learn from your posts. And the arils (new word) look more beautiful than rubies in your lovely photos. Orange flower water + pomegranate sound heavenly. February 12, 2017 at 1:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s such a nice combination, and I do all sorts of variations on it. For instance, yogurt mixed with orange blossom water and topped with pomegranate and pistachios. A beautiful and delicious breakfast dish. February 13, 2017 at 1:43am Reply

      • Sibel: That sounds divine! It will be my breakfast for tomorrow! 🙂 February 13, 2017 at 6:00am Reply

        • Victoria: Hope that you liked it! February 15, 2017 at 9:11am Reply

          • Sibel: Yes! It was delicious! February 15, 2017 at 9:28am Reply

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