Cut open a pomegranate. Hundreds of juice sacs form a nearly perfect star, red as blood. Little wonder it is celebrated in myth and ritual by all ancient peoples—Chinese, Greeks, as well as Jews—as a symbol of fertility and abundance.
On Rosh Hashanah, Jews often eat the pomegranate, one of the miperi ha-eretz, seven choice fruits of ancient Israel, in fulfillment of the commandment to eat a fruit not yet sampled this season. For, according to Kabbalistic tradition, the pomegranate contains exactly 613 seeds, the precise number of commandments a pious Jew must follow; eating this perfect fruit on Rosh Hashanah embodies the hope that we may perform as many good deeds and righteous acts as the pomegranate has seeds.
The pomegranate’s virtues are not merely symbolic. Latest scientific research suggests it may slow the aging process and fight diseases like cancer. For the cook, it adds a tart, complex fruitiness to foods, tenderizes tough cuts, and even reduces the amount of salt needed in meat dishes. In this recipe, the juice tenderizes the brisket and invests the amethyst gravy with a haunting depth. More beautifully layered autumn colors and flavors unfold slowly: a cushion of bronze caramelized onions cooked to a jammy confit, or “onion marmalade,” giving way to a shower of tart-sweet pomegranate seeds. It’s a glamorous show-stopper, worth every minute in the kitchen. For a discussion of pomegranate substitutions, see Cook’s Note.
© 2000 Jayne Cohen. All rights reserved.