If you’re wondering what an etrog is, I’m here to answer all of your questions! The etrog is a citrus fruit used in rituals during the holiday of Succot, with a scent and color similar to a lemon. The flavor, on the other hand, is much more tart than a lemon and the pith is extremely bitter. You won’t ever find etrogs in your local grocery store but your local synagogues sells them in the Fall before Succot. So after the holiday was over this year, I collected all of the etrogs that my family used and brought them back to New York with me. Many people make etrog liquor or etrog jams and jellies with their leftover etrogs, but I thought I would try something a little (okay, a lot) different this year! Let me just put this simply. You can make each of these recipes separately or you can put them all together in to this delicious citrus cookie! And if you can’t get your hands on an etrog (or two), just use lemons or limes for an equally sweet and tart recipe.
2 Tbsp etrog zest (from 2 etrogs)
1/2 cup fine or flakey sea salt
Etrog Simple Syrup
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
Etrog Drop Candy
1 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
3 Tbsp etrog simple syrup (recipe above)
Etrog Drop Candy Cookies
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp etrog salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp etrog zest
1 1/3 cups
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1/2-1 cup etrog drop candies, crushed
Let’s start with the etrog salt. By far the easiest recipe and you can just forget about it in the oven for an hour. Before working with the etrogs, I scrubbed them extremely well to get rid of any pesticides on the peel. I then zested the etrogs and mixed together with the sea salt in a small bowl. Make sure to work the salt and zest between your fingers so there are no clumps.
I spread the salt and zest mixture on to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
I cooked the salt and zest at 225 degrees F for 1 hour. I let the mixture cool, crushed the zest between my hands for a finer salt and placed in a small jar. I can’t wait to use this etrog salt on salmon, chicken and anything else I can think of! By the way, you can make this salt with any zest or herb you can think of! I think I’m going to try thyme and rosemary salt next…
While the etrog salt was drying in the oven, I made the etrog simple syrup. Also very easy! I used the etrogs that I had already zested for the salt. I cut up the etrogs and ground them up, seeds and all, in a food processor. I thought I might get some juice out of the etrog but there was just nothing there! Just ground up peel, pith, pits and pulp.
I placed the ground etrog in a medium pot with the sugar and water. I know it seems like a lot of sugar but etrogs are very bitter so you need the extra sweetness. I brought the mixture to a boil over medium heat then turned off the stove and let the etrog steep. After 30 minutes, I strained the mixture and ended up with a little over 1 cup of beautiful etrog simple syrup. I poured most of the syrup in ice cube trays to save for later (or maybe use in a margarita) and kept 3 tablespoons for the etrog drop candy.
Now on to the etrog drop candy! I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper then sprinkled the paper with a thin layer of sugar. I mixed the sugar and simple syrup in a bowl and mixed together until the sugar was dissolved. I poured the mixture in to a small pot, attached a candy thermometer and brought to a boil.
I boiled the mixture until it reached 300 degrees F, which is known as the ‘hard crack’ or ‘brittle’ stage. This took around 5 minutes so stay near the stove! If you don’t have a candy thermometer (but as always, I suggest you do), after 5 minutes, drop a bit of the syrup in a cup of cold water. If it hardens right away and becomes brittle, your syrup is ready. I removed the syrup from the heat and carefully dolloped small drops on the sugared parchment paper using a small spoon. As I dropped the candy on to the sugar, I also sprinkled the tops with sugar. If you have a second person hanging around the kitchen, let them sprinkle the sugar while you drop the syrup since it hardens pretty quickly.
I set the candies aside to set and cool, which only took 10 more minutes! On their own, these candies are very mild because I used a citrus simple syrup instead of pure citrus juice. The traditional lemon drop candy that I grew up eating is very tart because it’s made with fresh lemon juice!
Next came the final step…the cookies! Sure, you can snack on the etrog drop candies, sprinkle the etrog salt on fish and make sorbet with the etrog simple syrup, but I wanted cookies!!! I whisked together the flour, baking soda and etrog salt and set aside. I mixed together the sugar and etrog zest in the bowl of my electric mixer with the paddle attachment. I added the shortening and mixed on medium-high for 1 minute, until pale and fluffy. I mixed in one egg at a time then added the vanilla and lemon extract. I gradually added the flour mixture then stirred in the crushed etrog drop candies. I dropped tablespoons of the cookie dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and flattened the tops slightly. I baked for 12-14 minutes at 350 degrees F until the edges started to brown. After they cooled slightly for 2 minutes, I transferred to cooling racks to cool completely. And then I ate 4 etrog drop candy cookies in one night! I just couldn’t help myself.
The cookies were sweet, tart and full of citrus flavor. The etrog drop candies melted in the cookies and added a surprisingly chewy and mild texture. And I was really happy to actually taste the etrog salt in the cookies! Sometimes sweet needs a little salt, right?!? I think I’m going to try this method with other candies…maybe red hots or peppermint. Totally worth spending the day making these cookies!