Simple fruit jelly gets all grown up, made with pomegranate juice and a shot of Chambord liqueur.
The joy I find in jelly is undiminished since I first encountered it as a kid at a birthday party: a clear plastic cup filled with emerald green jelly in which some cubes of peach and pear had been magically suspended, with a layer of Carnation evaporated milk poured on top. And, apparently, this strange and beautiful thing was for eating. Bond sealed forever.
Today I still take childish delight in jelly’s animated wobbliness, though the flavours are more grown-up. I will make a fruit jelly from anything seasonal – a favourite, when they’re around, is the juice of blood oranges adulted up with Aperol, like a Spritz in jelly form. Here I opt for the deep, dark red of pomegranates and – this is desirable but optional – add more depth and colour with a splash of Chambord, the deeply purple black raspberry liqueur.
Extracting the juice from a pomegranate isn’t easy – unless you’re wearing white, of course, in which case it will suddenly become the juiciest, squirtiest fruit you’ve ever encountered. But otherwise, you need a lot of pomegranates and even more patience to produce a good quantity. Domestic juicers will grind up the seeds, so you have to strain it carefully. If you have access to pure pomegranate juice, and there are a couple of superb brands that are all juice with no additives, I suggest you save yourself the trouble use that.
I use leaf gelatine because it’s easier and more reliable than the powdered stuff. Jelly made with powder can develop an unpleasant glue-like texture and flavour, where leaf has a completely neutral flavour profile. It comes in different strengths and sizes, so I’ll be very clear about exactly what I use here. Each sheet measures 7 x 23 cm (3 x 9 inches) and is labelled as Gold Strength. The 4 sheets I specify below will set the jelly properly without tipping it into rubberiness.
Serves 4–6, depending on serving dish size
4 leaves gold-strength gelatine
45g (3 tablespoons) caster sugar
300ml (1¼ cups) pomegranate juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons Chambord
Stir the sugar into 125ml (½ cup) water in a small saucepan. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves, and allow it to come to the boil – once it begins boiling, don’t stir or it will crystalise. Let it simmer away until it becomes syrupy and the volume has reduced by half. Set aside to cool.
Place the gelatine leaves, one a time, into a container of cold water big enough to contain them, for 5 minutes until softened. Remove, squeezing out the water, and whisk into the tepid syrup.
Add the pomegranate juice, lemon juice and Chambord and mix until well combined. Pour into small bowls or glasses and chill for at least 6 hours, or overnight, before serving.