My Etrog odyssey took a sharp turn last year, when I knocked into a Hassidic Rabbi with a mobile Sukkah set on the back of a truck, and a set of lulav and etrog from blessing. All just across from the Vancouver Art Gallery and it's famous Olympic clock that is still ticking.
By this time, I was dreaming and hoping of making an Etrog perfume for quite some time. There are not too many citron orchards, not to mention citron essential oil to be found on the market (if there is any, it was certainly bought up by a larger company than mine). But I didn't know it would be possible to find enough fruit to make a tincture. It is a rare fruit and just one can cost dearly, and is only available throughout the holiday of Sukkot. And even than, one is not allowed to use the fruit at all during the holiday, but rather - guard it so that it does not get damaged.
Last year was a "Shnat Shmitah", meaning that even after the holiday, these fruit, which were grown in the land of Israel, were not to be used. A "Shnat Shmitah" is a "sabbatical year" for all the plants and trees in Israel and one is not allowed to eat any fruit from the trees or use them for their enjoyment! The Rabbi has kindly offered to look for a citron grown in Calabria, Italy. But to no avail. I were to wait another year before I could get any citron for tincturing myself.
Another year gone by, and this time I got an Etrog and Lulav for my family. I waited the whole week, and finally, yesterday afternoon, I finally started tincturing the etrog fruit from Succot with my 1st term students. I had only one fruit from my own household, and were suppose to get three others from the Rabbi and his family. But meanwhile, they were blessed with a baby girl, and so I had to wait until the baby and mother got back home. So the other three fruit were only tinctured today (I got them from the Rabbi later in the evening. So this tincturing event of today, even if for just three citrus fruit, was long anticipated!
The first etrog was not so different than a lemon in aroma. The second smelled like a perfume, almost floral. The third was again just like a lemon; and the last was so fragrant and green, it smelled like an herb, perhaps marjoram. Interesting. My hands smelled marvelous by the end of the zesting session.
Now the zests will rest covered in grain alcohol. They will give up on their aroma in about a week's time, at which point I will filter the alcohol and discard the peels. The tincture will be used along with two other citrus tinctures in my Etrog perfume (which I started working on in mid January 2009). But I will tell you more about that in about a week!
Tomorrow morning I will be cooking the remaining peels into an Etrog marmalade, based on Sherry Ansky's recipe.
Ingredients and tools: Etrog (citron) fruit, grain alcohol (about 94-97%), vegetable peeler
Peel the etrog as thinly as possible, taking care to remove only the colourful zest, and none (or just little) of the white peel. The essential oils are only in the zest.
Place the peels in the bottle
Pour alcohol into a bottle or a jar. Make sure the peels are just covered (to prevent them from drying, rotting and spoiling your tincture). At the same time, you don't want too much alcohol, or else your tincture will be too weak.
Mature for 7 days (or up to 10 days if you live in a very cool climate). Strain through paper filter and use as desired (in perfumes, colognes, etc.).
For making an Etrog liquor the process is similar, but requires the addition of sugar syrup in the end (to reduce alcohol content and sweeten the liquor). Use the peels of about 4-6 fruit (depending on their size) and mature for one week in 3 cups of pure grain alcohol OR 200 proof, aka 50% vodka (i.e.: Smirnoff Blue Label).
Now add the sugar syrup. To make the sugar syrup, cook 1 cup of sugar and 2 cups of water until the sugar dissolves. Cool down and add to the alcohol and Etrog peels. Shake well.
Mature for another 36 hours, and than filter. Citrus liquors are best served very cold - preferably frozen.
All the photos in this blog post were taken by my talented and generous brother Noam.