Sat, Nov 16 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Peña
I, from time to time, have written about “tamaladas.” Tamaladas, you might recall, is a culinary effort, a gathering of a group of ladies, usually of the Latin persuasion, who crank out tamales by the gross. This is a planned meeting, sometime during the Christmas season and generally at the house that has the largest kitchen. The ingredients for the tamale makers has been amassed, the stations have been assigned, and all that is left is action and, of course, the friendly banter and socializing of the gathering.
We have sometimes wondered if there is some other type of food preparation that might be put together by a family, or a group of folks gathered for just such a venture. And lo and behold I find it right here in my own neighborhood.
Charles and Diana Gailband had converted a portion of their Anderson Street front yard to a Pomegranate juicer and with the help of a well rehearsed crew was cranking out the bright red nectar like a machine, a well-oiled one at that.
We, like the Gailbands and about 80 some odd other families are fortunate to live in Sweetwater Manor.
The first settlers to this hill came around about 1926 and after they erected a structure that would shelter their weary bones they opted to plant trees. And since they were planting trees why not make them the type that will yield something other than shade and shelter for the birds? As a result the area has a collection of fruit trees not found in other areas of the valley.
We have written of pomegranates before. They have a long and storied history. Writers have described it as the truly esoteric fruit that brightens up the valley in the late summer and early fall. The fruits heyday is right about now in our area and those who dote on fresh growth are quick to capitalize on the abundance found in back yards and even in some front yards.
Our half acre of land was blessed from the very beginning of our tenure with a wide array of fruit. We had mostly citrus, lemons and grapefruit which are still around and quite a bit of avocados that, unfortunately, have lived out their life and given in to old age and disease. What has survived, and it looks like they have no reason to give up are the three hardy and healthy pomegranates near the edge of the property. Those three trees along with one healthy persimmon tree supplied us with many a dish in our early days on the hill.
My late wife, Zula, was a champion of the fruit. She, like many others searched her vast collection of cook books for reasonable recipes that would satisfy our clan. She, most of the time, would salvage the seeds and insert them in some of the many recipes that the books would suggest. I recall that there were many salads that were colorfully adorned with the bright redness of the seed. It was almost sinful to hear the crunch of tooth to seed something akin to what the gods of ancient lands used to refer to as nectar to the being.
The Gailband operation the other day was simply to extract as many seeds as they could and these in turn would be crushed to give them the juice. What fascinated me was the innovative method they had of getting seed from the white membrane that holds them under the reddish leathery skin. Each pomegranate can hold anywhere between 200 and 1200 seeds hence extraction is no easy task. The Gailband method is rather simple. They cut the fruit in half and then lay the cut part over an open jar. They then beat on the other side with the back of a wooden kitchen spoon and miraculously out come the seeds.
Outside of the adult Gailbands the working clan consisted of the youngsters Carter and Sean and out of town friends Lynn and Carol Hinds. By the way, the following day the juice was converted to jam or jelly. At Christmas time we will report on how many jars were realized.
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