The etrog—also known as citron—is a fruit in the citrus family that is an integral part of the ceremony for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. It is one of the original citrus fruits from which all other citruses we have today developed, in this case specifically the lemon. 

Sukkot occurs each fall and is a time of year for Jews to celebrate the (hopefully) bountiful harvest that year. It is also to commemorate the sheltering of the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years after their escape from Egypt. Sukkot is one of the three main pilgrimage festivals of the Jewish year and is a time to celebrate food, family, the bounty in our lives, and our ancestors.

The most recognizable part of this holiday are the sukkot themselves—small booths or huts with roofs of thatch or branches that many Jews set up in their yards. It is traditional to decorate each sukkah (singular of sukkot) and spend as much time in it as possible, which means eating meals and sometimes sleeping there—if you’re committed enough.

The etrog comes into play each morning of the holiday, where you hold an etrog and the lulav (date palm, myrtle, and willow branches bound together) in your hands and shake it in all six directions, symbolizing that God is all around us.

I have never heard of an etrog being used anywhere in American cooking—although it is often used in Asian cuisine in desserts or pickling. For a fruit that can cost upwards of $30, it is a shame that they often get thrown away after the holiday. Instead, try out one of these recipes to get even more bang for your buck. If you haven’t already gotten an etrog for Sukkot, you should seek one out because any recipe made with such a creative ingredient is sure to impress your guests (and yourself).

1. Etrog Marmalade

Breakfast photo by Peter Lewicki (@peterlewicki) on Unsplash

Unsplash on unsplash

Marmalade seems like one of those fancy English foods meant only for the Queen at high tea, but it’s surprisingly simple to make. Plus, an etrog marmalade would be a fantastic excuse to make some delicious scones to pair it with. You can find almost any marmalade recipe online and sub-in etrog peel and pith—the white stuff under the peel—instead of the traditional fruit they use (typically Seville oranges). There are even a few etrog marmalade recipes already floating around if you prefer to follow the instructions of a tried and true etrog enthusiast.

Although the natural fruit is quite bitter, etrog marmalade is a must because the process of soaking in water removes the bitterness and allows the natural strong fragrance to shine. You could eat etrog marmalade on toast, mixed into yoghurt, or slathered on a scone.

#SpoonTip: Many recipes will involve canning equipment, but if you don’t need to store your marmalade for a long time, then using an air-tight container is sufficient.

2. Etrog Limoncello

Treat yourself to a chilled glass of etrog limoncello—an etrogcello if you will—this weekend. Limoncello is an Italian liqueur that is easily made at home and well worth the effort. All you really need is vodka, water, sugar, and, of course, an etrog. You can follow any limoncello recipe online but make sure to sub-in etrog peel for the traditional lemon peel for a unique twist.

3. Etrog Pomander Ball

Pomander balls are perfumers made from citrus fruits and cloves that have been used as an all-natural home aromatic since the Medieval Age. Traditionally, Americans use them as sweet-smelling decorations around the holidays, but there’s no reason you have to wait until December to make this clove-covered ornament.

Simply take an etrog, pierce it with a pointy stick-like object (i.e. pencil, crochet needle, etc.), then stick a clove into each hole you create. You can either cover the whole etrog in cloves or design a unique pattern. Once you are satisfied with your clove-studding skills, let the etrog dry in a warm area—don’t be surprised if it shrinks and tightens up—and you'll have your homemade scented bauble. 

With these three creative ideas in your pocket, there's nothing stopping you from running out to buy an etrog immediately. Whether you want to change up your breakfast, add a spin to a classy cocktail, or create a unique and aromatic decoration for your home, the etrog wants to be involved. If you see anyone about to throw out their etrog after Sukkot, you can instead very kindly take it off of their hands and have your own mini-celebration of the bounty you just acquired.