Our Pomegranate Jelly Springs From a Mythic Source

 

In Greek mythology, Hades, god of the underworld, kidnaps Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, and drags her into the earth to be his queen. The girl eats a few pomegranate seeds during her ordeal and seals her fate. Pomegranates symbolize marriage, and Persephone’s indulgence binds her to Hades for eternity.

Anyone who has cracked open a ripe, dripping pomegranate and delighted in picking out the sweet, tart seeds can understand Persephone’s choice. Pomegranates are an amazing fall fruit, but as Persephone discovered, enjoying them requires a commitment. Layers of bitter membrane and white pith surround and cover the juicy seeds. How do you get to the good stuff? And how do you juice a pomegranate so you can make jelly?

It's Tricky

Juicing pomegranates is a true labor of love, and that’s why pomegranate jelly is such a rare treat. Last year, Chef Becky and Culinary Coordinator Mario Hernandez struggled with juicing Frog Hollow Farm’s pomegranate harvest. They captured 25 gallons of juice. That might sound like a lot, but Chef Becky wasn’t happy with their juicer. It captured the juice, but also put too much pressure on the fruit, which added some bitterness from the membrane and pith. 

This year, Chef Becky and Mario think they have found a solution, and they’re more prepared, so they’re expecting to capture twice as much juice as they did last year. They are using a grape de-stemmer with a specially fitted screen, and they’ve been happy with the sweet pomegranate juice that flows through. It’s delicious and refreshing – the epitome of a superfood – and it’s a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, with no bitter aftertaste.

Don't Let Sugar Get in the Way

The next challenge is added sugar – most jelly recipes use A LOT of sugar. That’s because when you work with juice, you have to add pectin, and pectin needs sugar to help it gel into jelly. (Jam uses the whole body of the fruit, which provides the pectin that helps thicken and set the mixture.)  

Chef Becky didn’t want to obliterate the pomegranate flavor with sugar, so she found a pectin that requires less sugar to do its job. The result is a jelly with a softer set, and all the sweet, tart, slightly acidic flavor that pomegranate lovers crave. Frog Hollow Farm’s Pomegranate Jelly is delicious with butter and scones, and on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can try it with turkey sandwiches, too – think of it as an alternative to cranberry sauce! If you’re feeling adventurous, try stirring a spoonful into pan juices and serving it with pork or chicken.

So... What Became of Persephone?

Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds from the underworld, so she had to stay there. Her mother Demeter was devastated, and she starved the land with a famine. Finally, Zeus had to get involved. He ordered Persephone to live part of the year underground with her husband, and the rest of the year with her mother. The myth explains why we have seasons. During Spring and Summer, Demeter is happy and loving her daughter’s company – everything grows and blooms. When Persephone says goodbye and returns to the underworld, the earth is quiet and cold. 

At least we have pomegranate jelly to get us through! 

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