Pomegranate Pumpkin Pie


The genesis of this pie went like this:

Me: “I wonder what I should make with my pomegranates.”

Chad: “I want pumpkin pie.”

Silence, as an illustrated timeline materializes in my mind — on the far left, under “Now,” a few gleaming arils of pomegranate swirl about. A long red line connects them to a slice of pumpkin pie on the far right, under “Late November.”

Chad: “I want pomkin pie!”

Silence, as I arch an eyebrow in his direction.

Chad: “I bet it shows up on Google!”

Silence, except for my typing.

Chad: “No, not pompkin — pomkin.”

And there it was, this pumpkin pie recipe from POM that calls for pomegranate juice.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’ve always expected more from pumpkin pie than I’ve gotten out of it. Despite the variety of spices, sugars, and crusts that can used with the pumpkin, the pie usually comes off as a bit stodgy. The bright tartness of pomegranate could be just the thing to make it pop.

Then again, I had two bright red organic pomegranates from the Saturday Santa Monica Farmers Market that were possibly the best pomegranates that I’ve ever brought into my kitchen. Maybe they were too good to bury in an arguably stodgy pie. Or maybe I should give the pie its best chance. And snack during preparation. And hope that the pie only required one of my two pomegranates.

So, I made pie dough, chilled it, rolled it out, lined my shallow pie pan, chilled it, baked it, and then got on with my pomegranate work. I put on gloves, inserted my knife into the open end and twisted it to open it without slicing through the arils, and turned each half upside down and freed the arils with my fingers; I’ve heard about the underwater trick, but for some reason, I just never feel like trying it out.

Fresh pomegranate juice is easily marred by astringency from the membrane, seeds, and pith, so I tried to make it as easy as possible for the juice to run free from danger. I picked out any extraneous matter from the bowl of arils, and then briefly ran them in my food mill so that the juice slipped off without breaking their large seeds.

One pomegranate yielded the necessary half cup of juice, and the rest of the recipe involved simple mixing manuevers. Pumpkin pie is essentially a custard with a crust, so similar to a creme brulee, it comes together quickly and cooks in the oven for a while.

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I can’t completely recommend this recipe, b/c our debate over whether the pomegranate is noticeable and what flavor it contributes exactly has reached an impasse of uncertainty. Chad is unequivocal about being able to taste it, but can’t describe what it contributes exactly. I think that there is a sour tinge that makes the pumpkin more interesting and points up the spices, but it’s elusive. I’m sure that you could eat this pie in ignorance of the pomegranate presence.

But it’s a tasty pie nonetheless, and if you have some leftover POM, you should give it a try. It has a pleasant creamy texture that’s also all the more interesting given the complex flavors behind it, and negates the need for whipped cream. It makes me think that grated lemon or orange peel may also be welcome in pumpkin pie… and that a few pomegranate arils as garnish on top of a regular pumpkin would be very good, and would require less work and pomegranate, to boot.

So, I still have one more gorgeous pomegranate… which I hope to pair with walnuts to make the fesenjan-inspired dessert that I’ve been kicking around since last year.

8 Responses to “Pomegranate Pumpkin Pie”

  1. Brian Says:

    Ooh! I just got a lovely big pomegranate in my first CSA basket, and have been mulling over the same thing — what to do with it. I want to come up with a relatively sure thing because a big, beautiful, organic & local pomegranate is a rare thing in Austin… but I don’t have too long to think! I’ll be curious to see how your pomegranate-walnut dish comes out.

  2. Nina Says:

    Seriously, it’s challenging to put a fresh pomegranate to its best use! They can be juiced, for a sorbet, granita, soup, syrup, gelatin, poaching liquid, etc, but then I feel like POM suits those things just fine. Otherwise, the arils only seem best used to scatter around a dessert as garnish. The only recipe that I’ve seen that prominently features them is a jello w/ the arils suspended it…. and that doesn’t sound too exciting to me. I do a have a pomegranate rum infusing from earlier pomegranates that is delicious so far, but again, it doesn’t feel like a great use for a prime pomegranate. I used the recipe from Gunther Anderson’s site.

    I’m thinking about doing a caramelized walnut tart sprinkled with pomegranates. Or maybe a pear tart w/ a walnut anglaise garnished all around with pomegranate arils.

    If not, I guess the old-fashioned way still works, too…. eating them aril by aril from a bowl.

  3. Brian Says:

    See, like figs, I feel like the seedy crunch is an essential part of a pomegranate (or maybe I just have been eating them wrong this whole time and you’re supposed to spit those out, I actually don’t know) and, like figs, you only get that with the fresh, whole fruit, so I’m trying to come up with a way to feature that.

    Maybe I’ll juice half the arils and use the juice in a panna cotta, and spread the rest of the arils on the bottom of each custard cup so they come out smoothed across the top.

    Now that I think of it, that’s essentially a jello w/ the arils suspended in it. And I’ve been making so much custard and whatnot, I know panna cotta’s not quite a custard, but very much the same experience.

    Well, if whatever I make turns out well I’ll put it up. Maybe even if it doesn’t, as long as it’s a spectacular disaster. 🙂

  4. fattypr Says:

    FYI- there is another way to get pomegranat juice without risking seed contamination. When we were growing up my father would just squeeze the fruit and poke a hole in it and hand it to us, and we sucked out the juice to our hearts’ content and it tasted excellent, despite whatever marring may have occred from the membranes. I recommend you try it, at least just to see what it tastes like, if not for getting juice to bake with.

  5. fattypr Says:

    AND, i forgot to tell you, but despite my years of resistance, I like, and even now sometimes crave, fesenjun. we have the iranian buffet here in Bmore to thank for that.

  6. gwen Says:

    Try using pomegranate molasses instead of fresh juice (or the juice can be reduced, but a bottle of pomegranate molasses is so incredibly useful once it’s poised at the ready in your cabinet!). You may want to omit the sugar, though, if you choose to try this.

  7. J. P. Says:

    The underwater trick works wonders with pomegranate…I use it all the time…no mess and the arils seperate quite nicely. My favorite use for them is a relish on pork tenderloin with finely chopped onion, honey, and cilantro. Yum.

  8. Nina Says:

    Mmm… sounds like the perfect time of the year for a dinner party to me. 🙂

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