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!



Etrog jam recipe (next steps)

For Parts I & II click here.

Part III Preparation

When we left off, our Etrog slices were soaking in water in the fridge:

etrog first soak

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.

ready to drain etrog slices

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.

etrog slices soaking

The lemons are prepared separately.

The lemons, together with their soaking liquid are simmered for 3 hours.

cooked lemon juice

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”.

draining lemons

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.

plastic wrap

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:

ready for final cook

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