Localicious: Hillside Poms

One of my fondest memories of childhood is spending hours with my cousins picking pomegranates from our grandmother’s tree and tirelessly working the sweet seeds free with stains and smiles to show for it. Smiles shining through pomegranate-stained faces is the highlight of owning a U-pick pomegranate orchard, says Suzanne Wunsch of Hillside Poms.

Suzanne and her husband Eric moved their family to the southeastern corner of Tehama County in 2003 and set to work putting in a pomegranate orchard. They had a dream of raising their children in the country and having their own farm. Pomegranates were the perfect fit for the climate and the perfect fit for the Wunsch family as they already had a deep love for the seeded fruit and its health benefits. They describe the reality of their dream as a little piece of heaven and are so grateful to be able to share it with their children and the guests that visit Hillside Poms.

The orchard is U-pick and a great place for a family outing. Hillside Poms is unique in that it is U-pick by appointment, which means you can have private picking sessions with your family and friends. You’ll want to bring a few people with you to help operate the juice press. What’s better than private pomegranate picking? Pressing your own pomegranate juice! Check out the Hillside Poms Facebook Page to view the juicer in action.

Schedule a trip to the orchard by simply texting Suzanne with your desired date and time. The pomegranates are ready for harvest from October to December, with variability each year due to weather and other unpredictabilities of farming.

Pomegranates are peculiar-looking fruits and can be extra fun for kids who haven’t seen them before. They are round with a rough exterior and 6 internal segments that make them lumpy on the outside. On the inside pomegranates are covered in white membranes with little pockets of sweet seeds. There are many techniques for separating seed from membrane but Suzanne’s favorite is to simply cut off the crown, cut down each segment and open like a flower. The gem-like seeds are nutritionally rich. You can sprinkle pomegranate seeds over almost anything, including grilled cheese, PB&J, tuna salads, chicken, dressings and oatmeal. You can even use them to infuse your drinking water.

Eric’s mother made a tradition of gifting the family with a case of homemade pomegranate jelly each year for Christmas. The family treasured this and has kept the tradition alive. They now share homemade jelly from their own pomegranates with friends and family.

If you would like to capture a bit of your pomegranate picking experience in a jar, follow the Wunsch Family Pomegranate Jelly recipe. This recipe is sweet but not too sweet, perfectly preserving the memories of a day at the orchard. Hillside Poms Orchard is located in Corning and can be reached by email at hillsidepoms@gmail.com or phone (530) 228-3050.

POMEGRANATE JELLY

Yield: 8-9 pints or about 16 half-pint jars of jelly

  • 12 cups pomegranate juice
  • 6 cups organic sugar
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 2 T calcium water (mixture of water and calcium powder – included with Pomona’s Pectin)
  • 2 T Pomona’s Pectin
  • • Pint or half-pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands 

Instructions

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the pomegranate juice, the lemon juice and the calcium water. Bring to a rolling boil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and Pomona’s Pectin. Slowly stir mixture into boiling juice. Stir until dissolved, then bring to another rolling boil. Stir often enough to prevent mixture from boiling over.

Ladle jelly into hot, sterilized canning jars leaving ¼ inch space from top. Wipe rim of jars clean of any spillage. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight. Place jars in boiling water for 5 minutes Remove and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

If Pomegranate Jelly isn’t for you, try the following pomegranate treat that is quick and easy for little hands.

From the blog Shiny Happy Bright. http://www.shinyhappybright.com/blog/pomegranate-dark-chocolate-bites

POMEGRANATE & DARK CHOCOLATE BITES

  • 2 1/2 cups pomegranate seeds
  • 5.25 ounces (150 grams) good dark chocolate, melted
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt

Instructions

Across 12 muffin cups, sprinkle a single layer of pomegranate seeds. Add the melted dark chocolate to a piping bag or plastic bag. Snip off the end, so a small stream of chocolate can come out. Pipe a crisscross pattern of chocolate across the pomegranate seeds. Add another layer of pomegranate seeds, then more chocolate, and then the last layer of pomegranate seeds. Finish with a pinch of sea salt on each of the pomegranate chocolate bites. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. After removing from the fridge, serve immediately.

Erin Bianchi
About Erin Bianchi

Erin Bianchi is a registered dietitian from Northern California. She has a huge passion for local agriculture and fermented foods. Erin owns Cook, a kitchen boutique in Red Bluff, CA, that carries kitchen tools, local foods, beer and wine.

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