Updated, originally posted 2006.
Late October, early November is the season for pomegranates, pinkish red orbs filled with crunchy, juicy seeds (known as arils), bursting with flavor. You can get them at most supermarkets, but if you live anywhere near where they are grown, it’s best to get them at a local farmer’s market. Here you are most likely to find the ripest pomegranates – the ones whose peels are beginning to crack open, their plump, ripe seeds expanding beyond the peel’s ability to contain them.
My parents have a big, beautiful pomegranate tree that fills with fruit every autumn. We wait until the last possible moment to harvest them, so their seeds have time to ripen to a deep red burgundy. Over the years we’ve experimented with pretty much every way possible to open and de-seed them.
Some people cut them in half through the middle and use a wooden spoon to whack the arils out of the pomegranate. We have never found this method particularly effective with our pomegranates. It can be rather messy, and ends up bruising a lot of the seeds, especially if they are ripe and juicy. What follows is the method that we’ve settled upon, which, if done well, results in not one broken seed, and takes hardly any time at all.
How to Cut and De-Seed a Pomegranate
1 Pomegranate juice stains. So before you begin to cut into one, make sure you are wearing something that you don't care too much about, like an old t-shirt. The juice will stain a wood cutting board (you can use vinegar or lemon juice to get the pink out) so you may want to cut on a plastic cutting board. Work close to the sink, making cuts and then moving the pomegranate over a large bowl to open.
2 With a sharp knife, slice 1/4-inch off of the stem end of the pomegranate and place the pomegranate cut side down on the cutting board to stabilize it. The pomegranate's blossom end, the one that looks like a crown, should be on top.
3 Use a paring knife to cut a circle, angling in, around the crown of the pomegranate, cutting it out.
4 Notice the gentle ridges along the outside of the pomegranate. Use your knife to cut along those ridges, just through the red part of the pomegranate skin, from blossom end to stem end. You should make about 6 cuts. If you can't feel the ridges, don't worry about it, just make several gentle cuts (not so deep as to cut any of the seeds underneath) from top to bottom around the pomegranate.
5 Use your fingers to gently pry open the pomegranate. It should open easily, exposing the seeds (more accurately called arils). Continue to open the sections, if you've made 6 cuts, you can pry open 6 sections. It helps to work near or over a large bowl, so that as you open the fruit, any loose seeds find there way to the bowl.
6 Working over a bowl, use your fingers to pry away the seeds from the peel and membranes. If you like, you can fill the bowl part way with water. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the water while pieces of membrane will float to the top, making it easier to separate the membranes from the seeds. If you are concerned about staining your counter top, you can pry open the pomegranate and remove the seeds underwater.
Once you are done stripping the pomegranate seeds from the skin and membranes, skim the membranes from the top of the water, and strain the seeds from the water.
Put the seeds into a serving bowl and munch away. Remember to be careful about where you are eating them. Seeds falling onto a light carpet and then getting squished will cause staining. Eat immediately or store chilled in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
If you want to make juice from the seeds, pulse a cup at a time in a blender, just enough to break the seeds, and then use a rubber spatula to push the juice through a fine sieve. Add sugar to desired sweetness level. 2 large pomegranates will generally yield 1 cup of juice.
Note that pomegranates are very acidic and will react with metals such as aluminum or carbon steel.
How to freeze pomegranate seeds
Once you have de-seeded your pomegranate, make sure the seeds are dry. Arrange them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with wax paper. Place in freezer for 2 hours or until frozen. Once frozen, put them into a freezer bag or container and store them in the freezer.