pomBottleA little while back, our friends at Endless Simmer let on that they had received a sample of pomegranate juice from the folks at POM Wonderful.  Intrigued, I reached out to them to let them know that we, too, are food bloggers who appreciate the healthful properties of pomegranates and their juice.  Even though I was a bit hesitant to do so, I was really hoping to hear back.

Lo and behold, POM responded with an offer to send us some of their juice so we could see what we could do with it.  I first experienced pomegranate juice while I was working at Trader Joe’s, so I definitely had some ideas.  It was one of those products that would frequently find its way to the demonstration stand in an effort to introduce it to customers who had never tasted it before. 

Between the taste and the health benefits, pomegranate juice has definitely made its presence known in the juice aisle since then.  When I first tried it, I remember finding the juice bracingly tart.  These days, I’d describe the flavor as something akin to cranberry juice (the juice, not the sugary ‘cranberry juice cocktail’).  And the folks at POM are quick to boast about studies that have linked their pomegranate juice to heart health, prostate health and erectile function (they’re especially eager to point out the fact that it is their specific pomegranate juice that has been tested in these studies).

All of this combined to mean one thing for us – we needed to use this normally somewhat expensive beverage to the fullest of our foodie abilities to figure out just what the fuss is about.  Like Endless Simmer’s BS, our first thought was to find a way to boost the nutritional value of our drinking habit.  But we also took advantage of the opportunity to use the juice far more liberally than we might if we had paid for it.  Suddenly, juice-intensive reductions and glazes seemed well within reach…so we went for it.

Recipes for a POManhattan cocktail and a pomegranate-shallot reduction (with some photos) after the jump.

IMG_7726We started with the easier of the two applications – the cocktail.  And even if it wasn’t the easier one, it was certainly the one we were more eager to try.  As soon as I got home with the juice, I started searching for a recipe that would use the pomegranate to complement its basic flavors.  Go figure, my mind went to whisky.

And not just any whisky – Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky.  In my mind, I was already imagining the way the tart sweetness of the pomegranate would work with the smokiness of the unique whisky from Copper Fox Distillery.  From there, it was a natural progression to think about traditional whisky cocktails that could benefit from a shot of POM.  Or maybe I’m just predictable.

Either way, I decided to work the pomegranate juice into a standard Manhattan – that invigorating blend of Bourbon, bitters and sweet vermouth.  As it turns out, I’m not the first person to have this idea – Gourmet ran a recipe for a Pomgranate Manhattan back in 2005 that can still be found at Epicurious.com.  I make my Manhattans to taste, but the basic recipe calls for 1 1/2 ounces of Bourbon (or Wasmund’s whisky in our case), 1 1/2 ounces of pomegranate juice (we went with POM Wonderful), 1/2 teaspoon of granulated sugar, and 2 dashes of angostura bitters.  We opted to leave the vermouth in the original recipe in addition to the whisky and the juice, and we served it in rocks glasses instead of up.

The flavor was great – sweet and smoky, tart and mellow all at once.  It was also interesting to note the density of the juice relative to the liquor; when we poured the extra cocktail mixture into a POM bottle and stuck it in the fridge, we returned to find it had separated back into its component parts (see the picture above).

IMG_7902The success of the cocktail actually convinced me to modify my further plans for the pomegranate juice once it became clear that the smokiness of the whisky was a great flavor to match up with the tart bite of the fruit juice.  I would still do a pomegranate reduction, sure, and it would still be served over pork…but I decided to use it on a one-pound package of Jack Stack barbecued burnt ends from Kansas City instead of an uncooked pork tenderloin from Harris Teeter.

It was terrific!  The burnt ends needed a shorter period of time to cook as they were already pre-smoked, so I wasted no time in starting up a pomegranate-shallot reduction I found online.

I brought 1 1/2 cups of pomegranate juice, 1/2 cup of orange juice, 1/3 of a cup of chopped shallots and three tablespoons of sugar to a boil.  At that point I started the long (and tasty) process of reducing the liquid until it was thick and syrupy, about 1/2 cup’s worth of sauce.  For us, it took the better part of half an hour despite the recipe’s prediction of roughly 18 minutes.  From there it was just a matter of stirring in four teaspoons’ worth of chilled butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt and one tablespoon of red wine vinegar and letting them sit until everything had combined.

Using a pastry brush, I coated the burnt ends with the reduced sauce as they were getting ready to go into the oven.  When they emerged, 12 or 15 minutes later, they had a rich, lacquered look.  I took the opportunity to add a second coat of glaze, being generous with its application and making sure each bite of pork was accompanied by some savory shallots from the mixture.

IMG_7903When the time came to eat, we were more than ready.  The burnt ends were at once crisp and juicy, and the POM reduction turned the meat into something truly delicious.  It was a great recipe, but I have to admit that I would have thought twice before making it if I had to pay for the pomegranate juice myself.  Now that I’ve tried it, though, I can say that it would be worth a splurge to pick up some more pomegranate juice and try this reduction with other roasted items like goats, salmon, or brisket.

Having thoroughly enjoyed a cocktail and an entree made using POM Wonderful, we can honestly say that the juice has a great flavor that could help to wake up some other foods depending on how you use it.  A big thanks again to the folks at POM Wonderful for sharing some of your delicious juice for us to work with.