Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival (Feast of Booths or Tabernacles) has begun! Sukkot is traditionally an agricultural festival held in part to celebrate the harvest season.
During this time, many Jews around the world build a sukkah, a temporary, hut-like structure with a roof of fronds. It is symbolic of the homes that Jews lived while wandering in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt. Like the wedding chuppah, the temporary structure of the sukkah reminds us that life is fragile. After some serious atoning on Yom Kippur, Sukkot is a time for us to be with family and community, in thanksgiving for all that we have. Some Jews share meals and even sleep under the chuppah during this eight day festival!
While we have yet to construct our own sukkah (fortunately, we have access to a few), this year I wanted to create a celebratory Sukkot cocktail. Etrog (citron) is the fruit most associated with this holiday, and serendipitously we happen to have an etrog tree in our backyard! A single, kosher (blessed) etrog from Israel typically can run from anywhere between $30-$100. Since they are grown for ceremonial use, they look perfect but are laden with pesticides so it's not recommended to cook with them.
If you don't happen to have access to fresh, "organic" etrogs like us, I recommend using organic Meyer lemons for this simple jam cocktail. Or, if you don't have time to make jam there's nothing wrong with purchasing a beautiful jar of organic citrus marmalade!
If used strictly in the cocktails, the recipe below can serve up to 75. However, it can also be used with a dollop of ricotta on toast. The sparkling wine can be swapped out for soda water for mocktails.
1 etrog or two Meyer lemons
Rinse the fruit and cut it lengthwise, then in half again lengthwise. Remove any seeds. Slice fruit thinly and weigh it. Write down the weight in a safe place. Soak the fruit overnight in water and make sure to fully cover it.
Strain the water from the fruit the next day. Place it in a medium heavy-bottomed pan with equal amounts sugar (written down the day before) and 3/4 the amount of water. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low for one hour. Check on it regularly during this time until it takes on a jam-like appearance.
To check if it's ready, place a small plate in the freezer for a few minutes. Drop a tiny spoonful of the mixture onto the cold plate, then place it back in the freezer for five minutes. This will zap the heat from the jam. Using your finger, move the jam- it should wrinkle a bit and appear thickened. If not, simmer for a bit longer until ready.
SPARKLING ETROG JAM COCKTAIL
*Makes one cocktail
1 teaspoon etrog or other citrus jam
2 sprigs of thyme
1 glass of chilled sparkling wine
Place jam in the base of a Champagne flute, add thyme sprigs fill to the top with sparkling wine. Stir well with a cocktail stirrer.
Enjoy and Chag Sameach!
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