May 30, 2009
by Gareth Mark
Grenadine is used in many drinks, but the grenadine you can buy in grocery and liquor stores is, well, nasty. And it might not even have any pomegranate in it, but it may contain some "tasty" corn syrup and bright red dye. Unfortunately, pomegranate juice really isn't bright red, and grenadine shouldn't set your teeth on edge with sweetness.
There are lots of recipes for grenadine available. Most of them start with bottled pomegranate juice. If you've forgotten to plan for the guests arriving in a couple of hours, fine. Make a simple syrup using bottled pomegranate juice. It'll be better than any grenadine you'll find in the store. But if you can plan ahead a bit, hand-crafted grenadine requires nothing more than fresh pomegranates and a few days.
When selecting pomegranates, be sure to reject any that have a brownish area at the blossom end because they're past their prime and will have an "off" flavor. Carefully cut the pomegranate open crosswise, then remove the seeds using a spreader or other blunt-end knife. Avoid the cottony white pith; it's very bitter. If you want to buy just the seeds, go ahead.
Measure the quantity of seeds; you'll get about one cup from one ripe pomegranate. Put the seeds and an equal amount of sugar into the work bowl of a food processor and add one-fourth as much water. That's a 4:4:1 ratio, and it scales up nicely; one pomegranate will produce about six ounces of grenadine. Pulse a few times to make a rough purée. The object is to break open the pulpy membranes and release the juice. If you don't have a food processor, a blender will work fine.
Pour the purée into a glass bowl, cover with a cloth, and let stand at room temperature for 3 days, stirring now and then. Place the bowl into a larger bowl with some water in it to avoid sharing with ants. If you taste every time you stir, you'll find the flavor deepens and richens over time, and that the color darkens slightly.
To finish, line a sieve with dampened butter muslin or two layers of dampened cheesecloth, place over a saucepan, and drain the purée for two or three hours, extracting all the juice without any pressure. Then place the saucepan over medium-low heat, raising the temperature of the syrup to about 180°F/82°C and no higher than 200°F/93°C; you should see tiny bubbles rising to the surface. Cook for about 3-5 minutes at temperature. Pour into a sterilized bottle, cool, cap, and store in the refrigerator.
You may find you need to adjust your cocktail recipes somewhat when using hand-crafted grenadine. It isn't as sweet, so you might need more.