In My Pomegranate Kitchen

smashed_pomegranate

Καλή Χρονιά! Happy New Year! Just step over the smashed pomegranate on the stoop on your way into my kitchen. Messy, I know, but it’s there for a reason. I’ll explain, but a little background information is required first. To paraphrase Lewis Carroll, I’ll begin at the beginning and go on until I come to the end. Perhaps, by the end, the smashed pomegranate will make sense.

pomegranate_ornament

There is a British superstition that your Christmas tree must taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5th) and one of the ornaments I’ve taken down and packed away is a hammered brass pomegranate made by the mother of a Greek friend of mine. All during the Christmas holiday, as it hangs on the tree, it is a constant reminder of a particular Greek New Year’s custom – one I thought to emulate this year. On the stroke of midnight, on the eve of January 1st, the family assembles outside and smashes a pomegranate at the entrance to the house, like many Greek households across the globe. The scattered seeds symbolize prosperity and good luck – the more seeds the more luck. Although this custom probably has links to ancient Greek myth, the symbolism of the pomegranate as prosperity is widespread and crops up in many cultures through the ages. So…reading the evidence of the pomegranate’s entrails on my kitchen stoop, it looks like a prosperous year, although this method of telling the future is about as accurate as tasseography or scrying with a crystal ball.

vasilopita_all_baked

Vasilopita or Ayios Vasileios (Saint Basil) bread is another Greek custom I follow for the New Year. Ever since making this under the tutelage of my Greek friend years ago, I’ve made loaves of vasilopita. The recipe I use is an Istanbul Greek version of the holiday bread using mastic – the aromatic resin from the Pistacia lentiscus tree from the island of Chios – and mahlepi (Turkish, mahlab) – the kernels of the Prunus mahaleb or St. Lucie cherry. You can read about it in my post, Bread for Saint Basil. No pomegranates involved, however!

pomegranates

Over the past month, I started collecting a few links for pomegranate basics from blogs I follow. Very useful, since, as you can see from the photo above, I had plenty of pomegranates and was nearly out of pomegranate molasses. I thought I’d try my hand at making it from scratch – from fruit to syrup. It worked very well and I now have a new stock of lovely pomegranate molasses, slightly more fruity than the store bought variety.
How to get seeds (arils) out of a pomegranate
Fresh Pomegranate Juice
Melassa di Melograno (Pomegranate Molasses)

lamb_pizza

One of my favorite ways of using pomegranate molasses is drizzled on a Spicy Lamb Pizza. This type of spiced meat flatbread can be found throughout the Middle East – lahmacun (Turkish), lahmahjoon (Armenian), lahm bi ajine (Lebanese). I make the dough using a Turkish pide recipe from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s beautiful cookbook, Turquiose, a book detailing – in spectacular photographs, recipes and stories – their culinary journey through the different provinces of Turkey. I modify the recipe slightly by throwing a handful of nigella seeds into the dough. The meat mixture is simply:

  • 1 lb. lean ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 5 plum tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded and chopped

The mixture is spread very thinly on the rolled and stretched dough and baked for ten to fifteen minutes at a high temperature (about 425 degrees F.). While it is still warm, the flatbreads are scattered with fresh coriander, pomegranate seeds and drizzles of pomegranate molasses. Yummy!

ecover_pomegranate_wipes

Lately, I’ve been seeing pomegranates everywhere. A package of natural cleaning products arrived a little while ago that included a free trial of cleaning wipes infused with pomegranate and lime. Just the thing I needed to clean up the smashed pomegranate on the stoop!

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who lists all of us IMK bloggers, writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page (just click the link).
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36 comments

    • The lamb pizza is (was – since we gobbled it up just after taking the photo) delicious. I don’t know if drizzling it with pomegranate molasses is traditional, but it just seemed the right thing to do.

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  1. Loved to read about this tradition… I think i’ll smash a pomegranate too next year!
    I love pomegranate too… I also have some recipes with them to post you may like! 🙂
    For sure i make my own molasses every year now! 🙂
    Your pizza the sounds and looks delicious!
    Love your pomegranate kitchen! 🙂

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    • I look forward to hearing about Italian traditions from your blog – like the Befana and the lovely almond cake you made. You are right, homemade pomegranate molasses is much more tastier than the store bought variety. I’ll be making it every year from now on, too.

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  2. Very interesting, thank you ☺️ I love pomegranate seeds, solo tasty. I remove the seeds from the fruit in a big bowl of water, it saves me getting covered in the red juice 👍

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    • Solo tasty is a great way of saying what you meant! It implies that it is the only was to taste something… I saw the bowl of water method – Stefan’s Gourmet Blog mentions this as well as simply hitting it with a wooden spoon over a large bowl (which I admit does splatter a bit). Either way, it is a decided improvement over picking the pesky things out. The resulting juice and molasses are spectacular – so fruity and different from the store bought varieties.

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  3. Great post Deb! I love the cultural and historical references! And I also love Malouf’s books. Have you seen Saba and Saraban? I’ll have to try my hand at making pomegranate molasses, I love it on tomatoes.

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    • I don’t have Saha or Saraban, but they are both on my Amazon wishlist. I absolutely love the photography in these books. The pairing of pomegranate molasses and tomatoes has given me an idea! Thanks!

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    • It was made by my friend’s mother. I know she has made at least one more (for her daughter – my friend), but don’t know if she has made any more. Generally she makes jewellery for the Greek tourist trade and I know she gets bored with repetition, so it is unlikely there are more out there! It’s nice having something special, especially one that has a story behind it.

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    • I asked my Greek friend the same question. She just leaves her’s for the birds to enjoy, but I was a bit intimidated by the thought of other “critters” nibbling on the remains so close to the house. So, most of it went into the compost bin, but some seeds were scattered further away in the garden for the birds. It’s an interesting tradition – different from the fireworks exploding around us from neighbours’ gardens!

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  4. What a gorgeous, rosy pomegranate filled post! Poms are $5 each here, so I won’t be smashing any, but I wish you all the very best of luck for the year from your smashing! 🙂 Your bread looks delish, and how cool that you made your own pomegranate molasses!

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    • Oh, if pomegranates cost that much here, I’d have had second thoughts as well. Luckily, I got them at a bargain price in my local Turkish market – at a fraction of the cost (less than £1 each). Homemade pomegranate molasses is really much more tasty than the store bought stuff, even if it took 6 large pomegranates to produce about 200ml of thick syrupy sweetness!

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  5. It was a joy learning about the traditions you’ve incorporated into your home and holidays. That handmade pomegranate ornament is gorgeous! I also love the idea of pomegranate-topped pizza — delicious sounding combo!

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    • Thank you! I really love holiday traditions and as we have worked in Greece for many years (as archaeologists) and have many Greek friends, it seemed only natural to incorporate some of these traditions into our own. The lamb pizza is a favorite here and is eagerly gobbled up as soon as it comes out of the oven. I had to fend off several hungry family members just to take the photo!

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  6. I love pomegranates, too- and I like the pull apart and remove method because I think that they are a work of art and deserve the time and attention it takes to pull them apart.
    I don’t think I could stand throwing one on the front stoop- but then I do dry one out every year or two so I can keep them in a bowl with my orange pomanders.
    I love them sprinkled on top of stuffed dates- and in a pineapple fruit salad.
    The ornament is lovely.

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    • Pomegranates are great! I know what you mean with picking the seeds out – satisfying on a certain level. But, when making pomegranate juice or molasses, there were many to deseed and the beating with a wooden spoon method came in handy. I got a lot of pomegranates at a bargain price from our local Turkish market, so didn’t feel I was being extravagant when we smashed one. And, the birds enjoyed some of the seeds, so it didn’t go completely to waste! I like your idea of drying one out to go in a bowl with orange pomanders. I’ve accidentally dried one or two out in the past!

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  7. Next year, I too will smash a pomegranate on my door step! LOVE everything pomegranate! Especially the pomegranate body scrub Santa left in my stocking. And I’m sure I’d love that pizza too! Happy New Year!

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    • Setting a trend – smashing pomegranates 😉 You’ll love the pizza and I’d recommend making the pomegranate molasses. It really is much better than the store bought stuff. Happy New Year!

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    • I really look forward to St. Basil bread (vasilopita) every January. I don’t make it at other times of the year because I want to feel it is a special treat for the season, and (of course) it is traditional for January 1st. The lamb pizza, on the other hand, is something my family regularly requests throughout the year. It is easy and oh so delicious! Glad you liked the post!

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  8. […] Meanwhile, we celebrated the New Year with Vasilopita – the Greek bread for Saint Basil (Greek Ayios Vasileios) whose saint’s day is January 1st. And, also the smashed pomegranate on the doorstep, but you can read about these particular customs in my last January IMK post – In My Pomegranate Kitchen. […]

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