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In the Esrog Spirit

Barbara Bensoussan

After an uplifting Succos holiday, what would be with those forlorn citron fruits, once used to fulfill a mitzvah and now relegated to shrivel up in a box? Some have the custom to eat the esrog from Succos on Tu B’Shevat, a day that is auspicious for davening for a beautiful and kosher esrog the following Succos. And a Los Angeles couple has discovered their own way to preserve the holy esrog essence all year long.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Marni Witkin has always loved Succos. “After the intensity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Succos comes as a relief,” she says. “It’s like Hashem says to us, ‘Let’s spend some more time where we can just enjoy being together.’ Succos is such a lovely time of year in LA — you wake up and it’s foggy, but by the afternoon it’s sunny and warm, while you sit under s’chach made of palm fronds.”

But as Yom Tov would inevitably come to an end and the Witkins would take down the succah from the deck of their home on a hillside in the Pico-Robertson area, the only vestiges of this special holiday would be the dried-out palm branches in the garbage and the esrogim, lying forlornly in their boxes like corsages after a wedding.

For Marni, a self-confessed foodie, those esrogim seemed fairly begging to be rescued from desuetude, perhaps transformed through culinary alchemy into something novel and delicious. And so, from a kitchen experiment with a bottle of vodka and a few expired esrogim, the Witkins came to launch a business offering a line of Jewish-themed, award-winning liqueurs. True to Marni’s foodie bent, the Witkins are spinning the product as an all-natural, micro-produced, artisanal liqueur for the gourmet market.


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