what to do with 8 cups of pomegranate juice, brought to you by POM Wonderful

By the time I was in the third grade, I had read all of the fiction in my elementary school library. The librarian, eager to support a young nerd's love of reading, recommended me to the nonfiction sections of the library that closest resembled fiction: folklore, history, mythology. Of all the books I read from the school's dusty, not-updated-since-before-I-was-born nonfiction stacks, three have still stuck with me: a biography of Lady Jane Grey, a collection of pre-1900 American ghost stories, and most influential of all, Edith Hamilton's Mythology.

One of my favorite myths in Mythology was that of Persephone. (I assumed it was pronounced "Purse-i-fone," but hey, I was 8.) No matter how many times I read the tale, I still wanted to yell at her when she was about to leave Hades's kingdom: "Persephone, don't eat that pomegranate seed!" Having read the folklore section, I already knoew that you are never supposed to eat food otherwordly entities give you, because then you'll be under their spell. Not to mention the fact that Hades had a whole FEAST in front of her, and when she finally caved and ate something, all she chose was a seed? I found it frustrating. But then, I'd never had a pomegranate. I wouldn't eat my first pomegranate for 12 more years, and when I did, I understood right away why Persephone caved and ate some. They are delicious!

So back in November, when the nice people at POM Wonderful contacted me to ask if I was interested in trying a case of their 100% Pomegranate Juice, of course I said yes. Pomegranate juice gives you all the deliciousness of pomegranates without the work, mess, or chewing. When 8 lovely 8-oz bottles of POM Wonderful's awesome pomegranate juice arrived at my door, I was really excited to try some pomegranate recipes.

But first I had to line them up and photograph them, since I'm weird and obsessive like that.
So, what to do with 8 Bottles of pomegranate juice?

Bottle 1: I just drank it. I always water down juice (I don't really like sweet drinks), so I ended up mixing the pomegranate juice with seltzer to make a spritzer. It's good stright, though, if you're into juice. If you've never had pomegranate juice or pomegranates, for that matter, imagine a darker, richer-tasting, slightly sweeter version of cranberry juice. Also, if you haven't tried pomegranates or pomegranate juice, seriously, try some.

Bottle 2: Pomegranate Tofu with Walnuts.
I was inspired by this chicken recipe.

First, I dredged chunks of tofu in cornstarch, flour, salt and pepper, then sauteed it in a tiny but of oil until browned.
The goal was to give the tofu a crispy layer that would soften and resemble a skin as it cooked. For the record, It worked, but to be honest, next time I'd do without the coating and just brown the tofu. It's easier, and no one really needs their tofu to have a skin. So the instructions below are for skinless tofu.

1 16-oz block tofu
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
1.5 Cups walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh pomegranate juice
2 Cups water
2 tsps lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp pepper
optional: 1 tsp cornstarch, stirred into 1-2 Tbsp water

First, press the tofu if you have time, to get out excess moisture. Cut tofu into bite-sized (or larger) chunks. Heat 1 Tbsp of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and saute the tofu, allowing to brown lightly on each side. Meanwhile, chop the onion and the walnuts. Remove the tofu from the pan; add the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil to the pan, then add the onions and walnuts. Cook until the onions are wilting and starting to brown, stirring as often as you need to not to let the walnuts burn (but they should brown, too).

Add the remaining ingredients, and cook until the mixture boils. It will not look very pretty, but that's okay--it is delicious.
After the mixture comes to a boil, add the tofu. Now your goal is to cook it until the sauce reduces enough to glaze the tofu and thicken a bit; 10-20 minutes, depending on how high your definition of "medium heat" is. You do want some liquid at the bottom of the pan throughout cooking so nothing burns or browns. If you have a lot of walnut meal, it may thicken as it cooks, so you may need to add more water (up to a cup)--and if you want it to thicken more than it's doing, you can add the optional cornstarch mixture, then stir another 3 minutes. This serves 3-4.

If you read my edible gift post, you already know what I did with Bottles 3-6: Homemade Grenadine.
Grenadine is a great mixer for alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, as well as a useful, beautifully colored addition to baked goods. Most grenadine you find in stores is far removed from its pomegranate roots, containing little more than high fructose corn syrup and food coloring. As I said, I got the original recipe from The Cupcake Project, but I deviated a little, so I'll give you my version here.

3 Cups pomegranate juice
1 1/2 Cup sugar
1 more Cup pomegranate juice

Put the first 3 Cups of pomegranate juice in a saucepan over high heat. Bring it to a hearty boil.
Reduce the heat to medium, and let simmer until reduced by half. Remove from heat, stir in the sugar until dissolved.
Here's where I differ from The Cupcake Project: once all the sugar has dissolved, whisk in the remaining 1 Cup Pomegranate juice. Why, you ask? Well, boiling and reducing pomegranate juice takes away much of its characteristic tartness, and gives it a mellow, thicker, cooked taste. Adding the extra cup of fresh juice gives it back the kick it lost while making it taste a little lighter, all without detracting from the new grenadiney taste.

Store in a tightly-sealed container in the refrigerator. It will keep for a long time; at least 4-6 weeks.
I like to mix grenadine with seltzer for an Italian soda, but it is most commonly used in cocktails (including non-alcoholic Shirly Temples).

Bottle 7: Pomegranate Granita
Granita is basically Italian ice. It's a chunkier, icier sorbet, and it goes GREAT as a light dessert or as a complement to cookies. It is very easy to make granita, but it's one of those things people assume you spent a lot of time on. I like pomegranate's tartness, so I didn't sweeten it very much, but if you don't want it very tart, increase the sugar to 1 Cup. If you want it tarter and with more intense flavor, add another cup of pomegranate juice.

1 Cup pomegranate juice
1 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar

Pour the pomegranate juice into a glass baking dish. Set aside.

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and stir them over high heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat, pour into the glass dish. Put the glass dish in the freezer. Every 20-30 minutes, remove from the freezer, use a fork to break up all the ice that forms on the top, sides, and bottom of the dish, stir, return to the freezer. In 2-3 hours, you will have an Italian-ice-like dessert!

This serves 2-3 if you give each person a bowl of it; 4-6 if you have dainty little cups of it to accompany a richer dessert.

Bottle 8: Maple-Pomegranate Sauce.
The boyfriend made this, because he is a champion. He combined equal parts pomegranate juice and maple syrup, the seeds of one pomegranate, and 1-2 Tbsp cornstarch (I wasn't paying attention) to make the most delicious pancake topping I've had in quite a while.
And that brings us to the end of the case of pomegranate juice.
So empty, so sad.

I am a big fan of pomegranates, so I already liked POM Wonderful before they sent me anything, but I am an even bigger fan now that they gave me the opportunity to spread my love of pomegranate to you readers. I've noticed that POM now sells containers of pomegranate arils (the seeds), which saves you the work and mess of having to dig them out of the fruit yourself. So you can feel like Persephone by daintily sampling one seed any time you want!*

*-And then, if you're like me, you can feel like a nerd for remembering and being excited about emulating a Greek myth.


Dazed and Infused said... Best Blogger Tips

this is so amazing--i definitely want to try that tofu recipe. How does POM brand compare to the trader joe's 100% pomegranate juice (way cheaper)?

For homemade grenadine, my recipe is very similar, but I actually do 1 cup juice to 2 cups sugar and keep the heat low (so only a very soft boil), then--like you suggest--add "raw" pom juice which is much fresher.

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

I haven't had Trader Joe's version, but I've had the Lakewood Organic version, and I found that that stuff seemed more watery (waterier?) than Pom.

We should do blind pomegranate juice taste tests! (When we get rich.)

The tofu recipe is delicious and not as sweet as you'd think... but it doesn't photograph well.