Jewish Food

Etrog Confit And The End Of The Minimalist

It’s sad to see The Minimalist column end. The last minutes before shabbas are particularly special for Jews. The Minimalist always helped me make the most of them. Read More

By / February 4, 2011
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What to do with the Etrog after Sukkot is a yearly problem.  Some people make barely-passable jam, some use it to wanly flavor vodka.  I usually just let it harden and then throw it away. (Who wants to eat something that has been handled for a whole week, anyway?)

But in October 2007, Mark Bittman –who this week announced the end to his Minimalist cooking column in the Times–  gave me an idea.  It turned out to be a bad idea (or more likely badly executed) but one that had promise and certainly adventure, which makes it worth sharing: Bittman created a video for his recipe:  “Orange Confit:  An alchemical recipe that turns fruit to candy.”   The recipe took all the bitterness out of the fruit, replacing it with sugar water.  You ate the whole thing, including the peel.  I thought I’d try it with the etrog.

As usual, he claimed “it’s really easy” although it would take at least 16 hours of cooking.   All you had to do is blanch the oranges twice, then boil them in sugar water (“a couple of cups and water to cover”) at the lowest heat possible.  You cook them for 8 hours, adding water to keep it above the oranges.   Then drain the water and repeat the process.  Seemed ambitious, but easy.

And it looked pretty delicious (shown here with whipped cream):

I prepared my etrogs  and the ingredients just as he said in the video and then boiled them on the lowest heat possible.  Mine came out like this:

I had to throw away the pot.

I wrote to Mr. Bittman thanking him for all the times that he rescued me with a walnut tort or a clever soup, or an innovative salad when I had twelve people coming over and it was two hours before shabbas.  (Extra panic set in when I found that the week’s recipe frequently was based around bacon, prosciutto, or pig shoulder; the Jew likes his pork)  And I asked him what happened here and how to prevent my Etrog confit from turning into Pompeii, but he never responded, Vae.

It’s sad to see the column end.  The last minutes before shabbas are particularly special for Jews.  The Minimalist always helped me make the most of them.

Check out the Bittman video here.