Late fall is peak season for pomegranates, so seize the day. You may have to work a little to enjoy this superfood, but the fruits of your labor will yield a wonderful prize: tart, gemlike seeds (also known as arils) packed with antioxidants, fiber, and potassium. According to New York City-based nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, pomegranate juice can have up to three times the antioxidant activity of green tea. One cup of 100 percent pomegranate juice also has more potassium than a medium-size banana -- good news, since the mineral keeps your heart healthy and can help lower blood pressure. Look for fruits that are heavy for their size -- a sign of juicy seeds inside. Mottled or darkened skin isn’t necessarily bad, but the fruit should be firm.
Use a sharp knife to score the fruit all the way around. Cut through its tough skin but not deeply enough to hit the seeds. Twist the two halves apart, and hold each cut-side down over a bowl. Whack the back and sides repeatedly with a heavy spoon to make the seeds fall out. Alternatively, cut pomegranate in quarters, then use your fingers to quickly loosen seeds, allowing them to fall into a bowl.
Put seeds in a manual citrus juicer -- like one from Hamilton Beach or Nemco -- or squeeze them in a ricer. A food processor also works: Just grind the seeds with a little water, then strain through a fine sieve. This will yield a slightly more tannic product with a cloudy appearance. Whichever method you choose, your juice will be superior to the processed version, which is pasteurized. A large pomegranate will yield about 1/2 cup juice.
3 Fresh Ways to Use Pomegranate
A handful of plump seeds adds color and crunch to a sweet, creamy panna cotta or caramelized fennel; the juice enhances both sweet and savory dishes -- and makes a versatile molasses (which you can also buy in stores).
For Breakfast: Buttermilk Panna Cotta
Who says you can't serve this Italian dessert at brunch? Think of it as a super luxe version of your morning yogurt. Our buttermilk rendition is spiced with cardamom and topped with pomegranate seeds, mandarins, and toasted coconut.
For Dinner: Braised Fennel
You only need 30 minutes to throw together this easy side dish. Fennel wedges are simmered in garlic, orange juice, chicken broth, and pomegranate juice until tender, then served with fresh mint, fennel fronds, toasted hazelnuts, and pomegranate seeds.
Anytime: Pomegranate Molasses
Forget store-bought! You can whip up the real deal with a mere three ingredients: pomegranate juice, sugar, and lime juice. It makes a delectable ice cream topping, stands in seamlessly for vinegar in meat stews, and is just the thing to perk up a vinaigrette.