For Parts I & II click here.
Part III Preparation
When we left off, our Etrog slices were soaking in water in the fridge:
Today we will blanch the Etrog slices further and partially tenderize them.
Drain the slices and discard the soaking liquid. It’s interesting to taste the drained liquid before discarding to get a sense of just how strong the bitter taste is, tremendously powerful and faintly medicinal. One time I tried mixing the soaking liquid with sugar just to see if I could make it palatable but quickly discovered that there was no amount of sugar that could make the bitterness tolerable.
Rinse the Etrog slices with cold water, then add them to a stainless steel pan with fresh cold water. When the water reaches a boil, let it simmer for 20 mins. Drain, discarding the liquid and quickly cool the slices in cold water. I use a regular metal colander over a stainless steel bowl to catch the boiling liquid.
This is a good opportunity to spot and remove remaining seeds but handle the slices tenderly as they begin to soften up with the cooking process. Repeat the blanching process, timing the boiling stage for 5 mins. Drain, discarding the liquid and again rinse the slices in fresh cold water. Return the slices to the airtight plastic container and let them steep in cold water overnight in the fridge. At this stage the slices begin to take on a pale yellow translucent color.
The lemons are prepared separately.
The lemons, together with their soaking liquid are simmered for 3 hours.
The entire gemish is then drained in a fine mesh strainer*. I have a special conical steel sieve for this purpose (jam making). This sieve is the same equipment that is used to make stocks in French cuisine, basically here, we are making a fruit “stock”.
Do not press on the mixture to aid the draining process as this will force cloudy material through the sieve (not a big deal, just an aesthetic consideration for the jam). Wrap the sieve and collecting receptacle in plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight to drain.
If you don’t have a sieve like this it is no big deal, I would use a regular colander to remove the larger solids and then pass the collected liquid through a paper coffee filter to remove fine solids.
The next morning, I combined the filtered cooked lemon juice with the drained Etrog slices and 2 lb of sugar. The mixture has a gorgeous golden hue:
With a bit of tweaking, our Etrog jam mixture is now ready for the final stage of cooking.
Ideally I would proceed right ahead but I had to get to work so I left it in the fridge.
*I have just been informed that the correct term for the fine mesh sieve used here is a chinois.
Next: Part IV Cooking