Pomegranate, Tangerine, and Champagne Jellies

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Happy autumnal equinox! Miraculously, both the calendar and the thermometer agree that it’s fall in Savannah. Usually we wait until mid-October before it’s safe to shut off the air conditioning, but having not worn my favorite sweatshirt since April, I’m thrilled for an excuse to zip it up and happily hover over the stove making soup. Two weeks ago, that was unthinkable, but this week I’m bidding summer farewell. To hell with popsicles and tomatoes and trips to the beach–fall cooking is where it’s at.

Autumn’s arrival means it’s time to think about holiday plans for those of us who will be traveling. (If talk of the holidays freaks you out, I’m sorry, but it’s true: they’re coming.) I long for the day when we get to host at our place, or at least live in the same time zone as our nearest and dearest. However, that’s not in the cards for at least two more years, so after a few harrowing hours comparing airline prices, flight times, layover durations, and frequent flyer eligibility, I’m happy to say we have tickets home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Now that the travel arrangements are taken care of, I’m faced with a bigger question: what to cook?

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Now, I don’t pose this line of thought to freak you out. To me, planning a holiday meal is like booking a vacation to Tahiti–deciding which adventures to choose from is almost as fun as embarking on them once the big day arrives. This may sound insane (nod vigorously, I know that’s what you’re thinking), but if you love to cook, Thanksgiving is the best day of the whole year: a day devoted to food, to using the good china, to spending hours both in the kitchen and at the table with the people you like best.

Over the next few months, I’m looking forward to letting all the crazy ideas keeping me up at night take a test drive in this space, beginning with these pomegranate, tangerine, and champagne jellies.

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While not traditional by any means, these are a smashing fall dessert. I’ve been thinking about this recipe since I first laid eyes on Helene Dujardin’s Grapefruit, Pomegranate, and White Tea Jellies in Plate to Pixel. Gorgeous, right?

My version suspends pomegranate seeds and tangerine segments in a gelatin made from fragrant rose and hibiscus tea and champers. (Use ginger ale if you’re cooking for kids! It’s just as nice.) If gelatin makes you say “ewww,”  I’m giving you the skeptical eyebrow right now. This is not remotely the same as boxed jello that tastes like “red” or “green,” or that celery and mayonnaise-laced retro mold your midwestern grandma made for potlucks. If it helps, think of gelatin as a decidedly French thing. David Lebovitz uses it enough to merit a tutorial on the subject, after all.

And if even David Lebovitz can’t talk you into gelatin, just look at these: fall colors in a glass. Get after it, friends.

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Pomegranate, Tangerine, & Champagne Jellies
Yields 12
Use 2 oranges in place of the tangerines, or raspberries in place of the pomegranate. You'll notice that I tossed in a few raspberries but don't call for them in the recipe--they're certainly not essential, but nice if you have some on hand. If you can't find dried hibiscus flowers or rose petals/buds, use an herbal tea like Tazo's Passion tea.
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Total Time
5 hr 30 min
Total Time
5 hr 30 min
  1. 2 medium pomegranates
  2. 6 tangerines or 3 oranges
  3. 1 Tablespoon dried rosebuds or petals
  4. 1 Tablespoon dried hibiscus flowers
  5. 1 1/2 cup boiling water
  6. 1/2-1 cup sugar, depending on desired sweetness
  7. 2 packets (5 teaspoons) gelatin
  8. 2 cups ginger ale or champagne
Prepare the fruit
  1. Segment citrus by chopping off a 1 1/2" circle of peel at the top and bottom of a tangerine with a serrated knife. Slice the peel off in vertical strips, removing as little of the actual fruit as possible. Slice each segment free of its membrane and place in a bowl. Squeeze the juice out of the remaining membrane into a small bowl. You should end up with a heaping cup of tangerine segments and about 1/4 cup of juice.
  2. To peel the pomegranates without making a huge mess, get a large bowl of cool water ready. Slice an X through the pomegranate's skin and peel off in segments. Submerge in the water and break apart with your hands. Gently remove the seeds from the pith over the bowl of water, dropping them in as you go. The pith and membranes should float and the seeds will sink. Drain off water and debris and set the pomegranate seeds aside.
Prepare tea
  1. Pour boiling water over hibiscus and roses and allow to steep 10 minutes. Strain out solids and reserve tea.
Prepare gelatin
  1. Pour 1 cup of ginger ale or champagne and reserved tangerine juice into a large bowl. Sprinkle gelatin over the top and set aside for 10 minutes to hydrate. Pour remaining champagne or ginger ale into a saucepan with the sugar and tea, and heat until almost boiling. Pour over hydrated gelatin and whisk to combine, ensuring that all gelatin and sugar has dissolved.
  1. Pour gelatin into chilled glasses or molds and refrigerate about 45 minutes until it begins to set. Evenly distribute pomegranate seeds and tangerine segments into the 12 cups, submerging with a chopstick if necessary. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.
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