Pomegranate juice joins trendy crowd

SIPS

Ruby-red and tart, it's very refreshing

October 01, 2003|By Sara Engram | Sara Engram,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Pomegranates have been consumed and celebrated for centuries in many parts of the world. But somehow this luscious fruit has never gathered a big following in this country. Maybe all those seeds seem to make too big a mess. If that's the problem, then pomegranate juice - no seeds allowed - may have a brighter future than the fruit.

Already there are signs that pomegranate juice is catching on. At least one listing of current trends has named it the hottest new alcohol-free drink. "Pomegranate juice is like wine without the hangover," said a recent issue of Out magazine.

Pomegranate juice is still a rarity in local grocery stores. But it's getting easier to find. Trader Joe's in Towson recently introduced 100 percent Just Pomegranate Juice, noting that its taste offers the best of summer and fall. A 32-ounce bottle sells for $3.99.

Pomegranate juice has a tart, refreshing taste that pairs well with many flavors. I offered it to several kids, all of whom either drank it and liked it or finished it without complaint.

I also tried it in a smoothie, with half a banana, 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt, 1 cup of juice, 6 to 8 ice cubes and 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice. It was terrific.

But the pomegranate hasn't become legendary on taste alone. Looks - notably this fruit's beautiful, ruby-red hue - have made it a favorite choice for adding elegance to many courses of a meal.

As for beverages, pomengranate juice is flavoring cocktails, such as mimosas and Pomtinis. Also, pomegranate juice has enhanced many a drink in the form of grenadine. It's grenadine that makes a Shirley Temple blush; without it this classic drink would be nothing more than lemon-lime soda with a cherry on top. Alas, most grenadine syrup on the shelves these days is largely an artificial concoction having nothing to do with pomegranates and much more to do with sweeteners and dyes.

Try sampling the real thing by making your own grenadine from fresh pomegranates that are now available in grocery stores.

Pomegranate Syrup (Grenadine) Makes about 2 cups

Seeds of 2 large pomegranates (see note), or 2 cups seeds

2 cups sugar

Combine seeds and sugar in a nonaluminum saucepan; stir to mix, crushing until you have a wet mass. Cover and let stand 12 to 24 hours.

Bring to a boil over moderate heat, stirring constantly. Lower heat and simmer 2 minutes.

Strain out seeds, pressing down to extract juice. Pour into a hot sterilized jar. Cover with a piece of cloth or clean towel until cooled.

Remove cloth, cap tightly, then refrigerate.

Note: To seed pomegranate, cut the blossom end and some pith, taking care not to pierce the red within. Score the skin in quarters, then break the fruit gently, following the lines. (Do not cut, or the juices spurt.) Bend back the rind and pull out the seeds. If the operation is performed in a bowl of water, as food writer Paula Wolfert advises, the job is easier and neater. The pith all floats, and the cleaned fruit sinks.

-- "Uncommon Fruits and Vegetables: A Commonsense Guide" by Elizabeth Schneider (William Morrow and Co. Inc., 1998, $32.95)

Pomtini

Serves 1

1 ounce pomegranate juice

1 1/2 ounces vodka

1 1/2 ounces grapefruit juice

1/2 ounce sour mix or 1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime and 1/2 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and cold water dissolved together)

orange peel for garnish

Assemble all ingredients but orange peel into a bar or mixing glass. Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with orange peel.

- Pom Wonderful, a producer of the California Wonderful variety of pomegranates

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