Several of you have been kind enough to donate your Etrogim for jam making and I have also been requested to share my recipe for Etrog jam.
On Rosh Hashannah, the Rabbi shared a very profound story about a lady who only revealed the complete details of her famous chocolate cake recipe at her funeral.
I found this story tremendously poignant and meaningful as I fully recognize the impulse that makes one withhold key information in order to maintain one’s status as the sole authority on a particular subject! It is an all-too-human frailty to ensure that one stays relevant, consulted, respected and included. There could also be an economic incentive to create a monopoly that enables one to enjoy the capital of one’s creativity, learning and experience. The pros and cons of information sharing is a discourse all its own. Here I want to share the entire process of developing the recipe and making of Etrog jam with all the nuances.
Making superb Etrog jam is a complicated procedure that takes place over a couple of days so accurate documentation of the process will necessitate several postings.
Part I Respecting the Etrog
The etrog is a powerful fruit – one of the four species, ארבעת המינים.
Our teachers explain that each of the four species symbolizes a type of Jew; we need to unite all types for the continued health of the community.
The Etrog is considered to be the symbol of those who have knowledge of Torah with its taste, and also good deeds with its aroma. It is the taste and aroma of the Etrog that we want to respect in developing our jam recipe.
But . . . does an Etrog taste good?
Have you ever tasted a slice of fresh Etrog? The aroma draws you in but actually the taste is unpalatably bitter.
The key to Etrog jam is not disguising the bitterness with extra sugar or sweetners. The secret to making good tasting Etrog jam is to remove the bitterness. This is accomplished simply with soaking in water and some patience.
It is of course very interesting how such a fragrant fruit harbors such bitter flavors but the appropriate procedure can eliminate the bitterness while retaining the perfume. My own interpretation is that the good taste, aka Torah study, can only be achieved with hard work. One is not automatically born a Torah scholar, one must acquire this status through hard work, discipline and sacrifice.
OK, so we need to remove the bitterness from the Etrog. What else?
Cutting open the Etrog reveals the inner character.
The Etrog is mostly peel and pith (the white part). There is only a miniscule amount of fruit and a bazillion seeds.
A successful jam needs fruit so we must find a partner fruit for the Etrog. In this recipe, I decided to use ordinary supermarket lemons as the partner fruit.
Partnering the Etrog with another fruit may have an additional advantage. It might be advisable to not eat too much Etrog in one sitting as it is possible these trees are subject to heavy usage of agricultural chemicals.
To honor the nature of the Etrog, which is primarily peel and pith, we want to cut up the Etrog in a uniform and attractive fashion so each piece contains a thin slice of peel with attached pith. The sole function of the lemons are as a partner fruit to serve Etrog. We will reduce this fruit to its mere essence, making a clear, flavorful jelly in which our Etrog slices can be displayed.
Part II Getting started
Preparing the Etrog slices:
To prepare the Etrog slices, each Etrog is cut in half around the midsection (halfway between the pitom and the stem).
Each half is then cut in half again, perpendicular to the first cut. Each quarter Etrog is now cut into 2 or 3 wedges (depending on the size of the etrog). Here is a picture of a wedge before slicing. You can truly appreciate the relative amount of pith and fruit.
The wedges are thinly sliced, each slice being about 1/8th inch (3 mm) thick.
In between each stage of cutting, remove as many seeds as possible. It is handy to use a small fork to pry out the seeds.
When this was all done I had ~1 lb 12 oz of Etrog slices, the yield from 5 Etrogim. Place the slices in a plastic container and cover with cold water.
Preparing the ordinary lemons:
I used a 2 lb bag of ordinary lemons from the grocery store.
These were cut into eighths, placed in a container and covered with enough water for the fruit pieces to bob freely. I like to use the restaurant grade containers with airtight lids which I obtain from B&W supply near the Farmers’ Market.
So this is where we take temporary leave of our jam making.
Our Etrog slices are soaking in water and our ordinary lemons are at the first stage of preparation to yield the clear jelly that will showcase the Etrog slices.
Refrigerate the containers and we will resume tomorrow.
Next posts in the making Etrog jam series:
Part III Next steps in preparation
Part IV Cooking
If you would like a share in the Etrog jam and are willing to donate your Etrog it is not too late as it will be included in another recipe that I am planning to prepare later this week. Please contact me to arrange Etrog transfer.
This post is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother, Lily z”l. There were two special recipes that stand out in my mind that my grandmother would produce every year. These were Pesach treats, one was a preserve made with beets and the other we simply called “cinnamon balls”. I never thought to ask for the recipe and I have never tasted or seen anything similar. I always imagined she would be there at my side and teach me these recipes when the time was right; the “right time” being some nebulous unspecified date in the future which, of course, never arrived. As a kid, I never imagined the upheavals that would take me so far from her and cause these delicious treats to be in memory only.