by Lexi Levy Milani

I always think that, much like the man or woman who ate the first oyster, the person who enjoyed the first pomegranate must have been either brave or desperate. How would you know what to do with this fruit if you hadn’t already been shown?

Being of a certain age and living nowhere near the kind of climate that a pomegranate prefers, I am pretty sure I didn’t see an actual pomegranate until I was well into my twenties. I had no idea that this ancient fruit, so leathery on the outside, contained such beauty inside. Its “seeds”—actually juice sacs—are unmatched in terms of their beauty and unique taste and well worth the work it takes to access them.

Now the pomegranate is almost ubiquitous: you can find it in almost any grocery, and its juice is probably sold in your local gas station convenience store, too. But it’s still a treat to eat a ripe pomegranate out of hand: such a tactile experience in every way, from cutting into the fruit to peeling each precious pod out of its skin and savoring the tangy pop in your mouth. Nothing else compares.

Pomegranates are unique in that their juice can tip savory or sweet, depending on the other factors in any given recipe. They can be used to flavor dishes or to add that one-of-a-kind snap to finish a plate. In the harvest-time recipe to the right, they do both. If you are feeding a crowd, you should have enough molasses to easily glaze up to six pounds of pork— adjust your cook time accordingly.

Recipe: Pomegranate Roast Pork Tacos

For 6–8 people.

For pomegranate molasses:

  • 4 cups pomegranate juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Combine pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until the mixture has reduced to 1 cup, approximately an hour, stirring occasionally, until it has the consistency of thick syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to cool completely before covering and storing in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. If you are strapped for time, look for pomegranate molasses at natural foods stores or Middle Eastern groceries. The molasses is also delicious spread on bread or drizzled on yogurt and can be used to glaze a leg of lamb instead of pork, if you prefer.

For pork:

  • 1 boneless pork shoulder (aka Boston butt), approximately 3 lbs.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Let the pork come to room temperature (approximately an hour). Rinse the meat and pat dry. Using a paring knife, make ½-inch-deep incisions on both sides of the meat, then massage with olive oil. Salt and pepper liberally, and then glaze generously with the pomegranate molasses. Line a deep roasting pan with foil, set a rack in it, and coat the rack with non-stick spray. Place the meat on the prepared rack in the roasting pan, fat side up. Cover with foil, and roast for approximately 3 1/2 hours or until the meat is fork tender, turning and basting with molasses approximately every half hour. Remove the rack. Cool the meat in its juices in the pan. Discard the foil liner, then shred with two forks in the pan. Reheat gently in the juices before serving.

For taco assembly:

  • Corn tortillas
  • Shredded red or green cabbage
  • 2 fresh pomegranates
  • Queso fresco, ricotta salata, or feta cheese, if desired

Warm the tortillas by your preferred method. Fill with the warmed shredded meat, and top with cabbage, pomegranate seeds and cheese (if desired).

Lexi Levy Milani lives in central Maryland with her chef husband, toddler son, and two rescue dogs. For almost ten years, she and her husband owned and operated a restaurant in historic Ellicott City, MD. She has loved eating and writing since she can remember.