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Healing Kitchen

Pomegranate Molasses
Pomegranates are a pretty cool fruit. The skin is tough and leathery, but when you cut it open, it reveals many pockets of jewel-like seeds covered with bright red, juicy fruit. As a kid, I couldn't wait for the pomegranate season to begin. Not only was the fruit exotic but I was encouraged to eat the fruit, seeds and all. It was like chewing on a crunchy nut covered in sweet fruit.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon pomegranate molasses, a thick syrup made from cooked-down pomegranate juice. I can't make any claims about discovering pomegranate molasses; its been around for awhile. However it used to be that you could only find it in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Now, since restaurant chefs began using it on their menus, it's showing up all over in gourmet and specialty shops.

Although it's called molasses, this is merely a reference to its syrupy texture, not its taste. Pomegranate molasses is a slightly astringent, sweet-sour condiment that is deep and dark (and slightly ruby) in color. Its sweetness does not come from sugar, but is simply the concentration of the fruit's natural sugars. This is just the kind of ingredient I like. Something that provides pizzazz, but doesn't overpower. Like a bass in a band; it provides the underscore without taking over.

After tasting it straight out of the bottle, I tried to imagine how to use this pizzazz to heighten dishes. Naturally, I had to try it in a barbecue sauce. Onions and garlic cooked in red wine combined with pomegranate molasses, cumin and coriander, made a great barbecue sauce for lamb. Pomegranate molasses stirred into a little ketchup along with olive oil and rosemary made a fabulous glaze for salmon. Then I switched gears and tried it in some salad dressings. The combination of pomegranate molasses, honey, a touch of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil was enticing as a dressing for a citrus salad. I could go on and on about pomegranate molasses, but then I think you should try it yourself!

A 10-ounce bottle of Cortas brand pomegranate molasses can be ordered for $5.25 plus shipping and handling from Adriana's Caravan at 800-316-0820.

P.S. While we were investigating the world of concentrated fruit juices, we also ran across a pomegranate "essence" from a pomegranate orchard in California. The essence was similar to the molasses, though it was not quite as concentrated. We quite liked the essence, but it has a short season and is produced in limited quantities. They often run out of stock by as early as January (the pomegranates are harvested in the fall). If you remember to pursue this next fall, give the Grape Vine Trading Company a call at 800-469-6468. An 8-ounce bottle of California Harvest pomegranate essence is available for $6.50, plus shipping and handling.

Author: Sandra Rose Gluck
Date Published: 04/10/2000
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