Etrog jam recipe (cooking)

For the previous stages of this recipe click here for Parts I & II, and here for Part III. We have arrived at the final act.

Part IV Cooking the Etrog jam

We last left off with the mixture containing our prepared Etrog slices, lemon stock and sugar. We are now going to cook the mixture creating the alchemy that is jam.

The first step is to adjust the mixture to taste with freshly squeezed lemon juice. Make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved. Drip a few drops of the liquid on a spoon and taste. Our perception of taste varies with temperature and you want to make sure that you are tasting the mixture at room temperature. This is very subjective, everybody’s palate is different. I like a taste where the citrus flavor is bright and edgy rather than tasting just the sweetness. To this particular mixture I added the juice from a whole lemon, about 2.5 fl oz.

The jam is ready for cooking.

jam cooking

Not much to say about this stage, it is pretty straightforward. The trickiest aspect is the “test for doneness”. One reads about “doneness” all the time in cooking. It’s a great concept that never really transfers to real life! The two indicators I use are the size and shape of the bubbles (small and uniform) and by dripping a few drops of the jam onto a spoon which is left on a saucer in the freezer for a couple of minutes to cool down and see if a gel is forming.

freezer gel test

A few mins before the end of cooking, I steeped some dried myrtle leaves in the cooking mixture.

dried myrtle leaves

The leaves were placed in a stainless steel mesh tea ball so they could be easily retrieved after infusion. The myrtle leaf infusion adds a beautiful aromatic note to the jam in addition to a reminder, of course, of why one acquired the Etrog in the first place.

myrtle leaf infusion

The hot jam is ladled into sterilized jars and sealed. After the jars are sealed, they rest undisturbed to cool down and allow the jam to set.

finished jam

The final touch is to add a label and the jam is now ready for consumption.

jam label Making Etrog jam is certainly complicated, there certainly are a lot of steps but the result is insanely delicious. The flavor of this jam is incredibly intense and concentrated, very distinctive. It can be taken with tea or spread between the layers of sponge cake. I like it on challah or toasted bread for a simple but sumptuous treat. Some people have the tradition of saving the jam for Tu B’Shevat.

Verdict on the recipe? This jam is delicious. Actually I think that technically this recipe is a marmalade. There is definitely room for tinkering in the recipe. Next time I would perhaps make the Etrog:partner fruit ratio at 1:2 or even greater. This would create a different look and taste to the jam, with a different ratio of slices to jelly.

jam final

Enjoy and I hope you will trust me with your Etrogim again next year!



Making Etrog jam (recipe with commentary)

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.

etrog interior

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.

etrog wedge

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.

etrog slices

Preparing the ordinary lemons:

I used a 2 lb bag of ordinary lemons from the grocery store.

lemons bag

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.

lemon eighths

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.

lemons in container

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

Special Note:

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.

PJ Library Sukkot Party

PJ Logo“Read to your kids!” we’re told–and how wonderful if those books (and music) show up in the mail once a month, for free. No need to worry about due dates, either, because the library you’re building up is yours to keep. And the books (and occasional music and videos) are age-appropriate for kids 6 months to 8 years old, all on Jewish themes.

That’s the PJ Library–a great program started by the Harold Grinspoon Foundation as a way of getting, and keeping families engaged with their Jewish heritage. The program is national, but managed locally. Here in the Ithaca area, it is managed by the Ithaca Area United Jewish Community, which administers and supports the program financially.

My daughter has been getting the books and music for almost five years–since she was 6 months old. I’m a huge supporter of the program. She loves getting a package in the mail every month, and PJ Library has managed to find books I never knew existed–and introduced me to some great material!

The IAUJC also arranges PJ Library events several times a year locally–a Purim Carnival, a Sukkot Carnival, and so on. This year, my family volunteered to host the Sukkot Carnival at our home. All one hundred or so subscribing families in the area were invited, along with anyone else in the community, to visit our sukkah, have snacks, do crafts, get some balloon art, listen to music, and generally have a great time.

About 70 people came and enjoyed the crafts and music.

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The carnival was truly a community effort: Marjorie Hoffman created a kid-sized sukkah for our guests to decorate with crafts and s’chach, Miri Birk provided snacks, Dovid Birk led parachute games, Ben Sachs, CJ Glass, and Rima Grunes provided music, the Rubineau and Saar families acted out a PJ Library book, Amazing Pete’s Balloons created what can only be called balloon sculptures for the kids (and a few adults!), and local teenagers helped with crafts and face painting. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes help from Linda Mandel, Sara Kabakov, and others.

What an amazing community!


Fun songs for Sukkot

With many many thanks to the Saars who introduced us to these wonderful songs! Click on the pictures for links.

Shlomit Bona Sukkah (Shlomit builds a Sukkah)

Old 70’s style:


Children singing the song accompanied by Naomi Shemer (who composed the song) on the piano:

Naomi Shemer

Patish, masmer (Hammer, nail) פטיש מסמר

From a children’s TV show:

Hammer nail

Sukati Hasuka (my Sukkah)

סוכתי הסוכה

From a children’s TV show:

enjoy sukkah

Mal’u Asamenu Bar (our barns are filled with grain) מָלְאוּ אֲסָמֵינוּ בַּר

A classic 70’s performance by the Gevatron choir


Sukkot: Back to Basics

Totally love this one, the tune is so evocative and dreamy.


Please come!

soup in succah color

A simple meal between friends

Joni Spielholz, the organizer, will be providing a hearty parve bean & vegetable soup, bread and butter. Attendees are asked to bring salads and side-dishes, or spreads such as hummus, fruit and desserts.

This dairy meal will be preceded by Kiddish and Hamotzi at 5:30 PM.

All Temple members are welcome.

It would be helpful to RSVP to Joni so she knows how much soup to make!