By: Justin Russell | February 22, 2013
My "Cold War" hedge is going great guns this summer. If you've got no idea what I'm talking about, the hedge in question is made up of pomegranate shrubs: The Russian variety 'Galusha Rosavaya' alternated with the American variety 'Wonderful'. Each plant produces a crop of big juicy bombs, but instead of aiming them at each other, I collect the pomegranates and eat 'em.
To be more accurate, I eat some. There's only so much you can do with pomegranates, and fresh eating is probably one of the lesser uses. What I prefer to do is turn the fruit into some kind of preserve, and the best of the lot, in my view, is grenadine. Pomegranate juice has a delicious piquant flavour, but it's even nicer when made into a syrup, which is essentially what grenadine is.
Making it is easy. Simply mix whatever quantity of juice you have with an equal quantity of sugar (ie one cup of sugar to one cup of juice), and boil the liquid until the sugar has dissolved and it starts to get syrupy. Pour into sterilised bottles and it will keep for a couple of months.
That's the easy part. The tricky bit is extracting the juice. Basically, what you need to do is separate the arils, the jewel-like seed capsules, from the pith, which is bitter. I've found that the simplest method is to cut the fruit into segments, carefully pick out the arils by hand, collect them in a bowl and throw the pith on the compost. It's time consuming, but you end up with a relatively clean bowl of ruby coloured jewels bursting with juice. To clean up any stray bits of pith, cover the arils with water. The arils will sink, and the pith will float to to top, where it can be scooped up with a strainer.
To extract the juice form the arils, they can be pressed, or easier still, tossed into a food processor. Give them a few pulses to release the juice, then pour everything through a strainer to separate the seeds. Depending on the size of your pomegranates, you'll end up with around a cup of juice for each piece of fruit. Not a bad return, is it.
Grenadine can be used like cordial, poured over ice-cream, or used traditionally as an ingredient in cocktails. It's incredibly refreshing served chilled after a hot afternoon spent working in the garden.
For more info about growing pomegranates check out my article on rare fruit in the March/April issue of Organic Gardener magazine.