• Fri. Sep 30th, 2022

The pomegranate fruit: from Persephone’s curse to a Christmas liqueur

ByChiara Casagrande

Nov 19, 2021

Have you ever heard of the ‘butterfly effect’? This is a very special phenomenon: science claims that the beating of a butterfly’s wings can cause a hurricane from the other side of the world.

Now, this statement might sound a bit exaggerated, but if you think about it, it hides a great truth: it is from small things that great changes come. Like when you change your route to work: every morning it’s always the same, then one day you take the right turn and meet the love of your life. Or when you drop something on the ground and miss your bus, so you have to catch the next one and discover a part of the city you had never seen before. Or when you are kidnapped by the god of the underworld and eat a pomegranate seed, being trapped for eternity in the world of the dead.

Let us discover together the story of Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest. Her story has something to do with the pomegranate fruit, the same ingredient that forms the basis of our recipe for today: Christmas pomegranate liqueur.

Demeter and Persephone: a mother’s love

The myth of Proserpine and Demeter is one of my favourites: maternal love always moves me. This is the story of two inseparable women, mother and daughter, who spend their days in the most serene peace. They take long walks, laugh, dance and sing. If the myth were not Greek, but set in, say, the 18-19th century, they would probably have a cottage in the English countryside, read novels by lesser-known women writers and always have a bunch of fresh flowers on the dusty kitchen table.

Demeter, however, between one turn and another, has a great task: she is the goddess of harvests, of ripe fruit. She is mother and women, linked to fertility. That is why her season is summer, while that of her daughter, still a rosebud, is spring.

One day, during one of their usual walks, Persephone goes further away than she should without returning: Hades, the god of the underworld, who has fallen in love with the girl, emerges from a chasm in the ground with his chariot as black as death and kidnaps the girl.

Demeter, in despair, wanders for months in search of her daughter, forgetting her duties: the flowers do not bloom, the fruit does not ripen and the fields are no longer yielding crops. Men suffer famine, animals die because they have no more food. The world falls into an eternal winter and the gods no longer receive their offerings.

The pomegranate grain: a one-way ticket to hell

Olympus is in a panic: something must be done. Zeus sends Hermes, his messenger, the only one able to travel between the two worlds, thanks to his magical staff, to convince Hades to let Persephone go. The god, madly in love with the girl, does not accept, but compromises. Proserpine can only leave the underworld on one condition: she must not eat anything.
Here there are two versions of the myth: the first states that the girl, in order not to die of hunger, ate a grain of pomegranate, remaining forever trapped in the world of shadows.
The other says that Hades, out of love for the girl, made a pact with her: Proserpine must eat 6 pomegranate grains. One for every month she spends with him. The other 6 months she will be free to return to the surface and spend the spring and summer with her mother.

More modern interpretations have fantasised a lot about the relationship between Hades and Persephone. Many believe that the girl ate the fruit of the pomegranate spontaneously, to have an excuse to return to visit the god. It sounds a bit like the story of Beauty and the Beast, a kind of Stockholm syndrome. The girl begins to see her abductor in a different light, not as the monster who dragged her into the darkest shadows, but as the man who cared for her, who treated her for months as an equal, making her his beloved queen.

We do not know what the truth is, what is certain is that that tiny pomegranate grain is what links life and death, what distinguishes winter and summer, youth and old age. In that red grain is the essence of existence itself.

Pomegranate liqueur: a Christmas recipe

Speaking of family and red fruits, it is impossible not to think of the approaching holidays, the one that is loved and celebrated almost all over the world: Christmas. The following is a recipe for an excellent homemade pomegranate liqueur, perfect for warming up in the cold winter and for spending a few magical nights with your loved ones.

Ingredients:

  • Pomegranate (shelled 690 g) 1 kg
  • Pure alcohol 96° 500 ml
  • Sugar 500 g
  • Water 800 g

Proceeding:

Start shelling the pomegranate, taking care to remove the thin white skin that surrounds the seeds. Pour the seeds into an airtight jar and add the alcohol.

Close the jar tightly and leave for 12 days to macerate in a dark, dry place. Shake the jar every day. When the 12 days are up, collect the mixture and pour it through a sieve to collect the juice. Prepare the syrup: start with pouring the water into a small saucepan.

Add the sugar and heat the syrup without boiling it, so that the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup cool down. When it is cold, pour in the macerated alcohol. Stir to mix and pour the pomegranate liqueur into a bottle. Leave at room temperature for 20 days before serving.

Your liquor is finally ready to be enjoyed with your loved ones! We are sure you will steal their hearts! Moreover, if you like some Greek mythology and its recipe, you do not wan to miss this article: Flowers on the table: from Odyssey to a cookies’ recipe“.