Question: Is there any Segulah (auspicious practice) in eating Etrog jam? What is the proper blessing on such jam?
Answer: There are women who customarily eat part of the Etrog (which was used for the Mitzvah) after the Sukkot holiday claiming that it is a Segulah to deliver one’s babies easily. Similarly, women who have difficulty conceiving customarily eat from such Etrogim as a Segulah to bear children. However, we have not found an early source for this custom. Indeed, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yaakov Loberbaum of Lisa zt”l writes in his Sefer Mekor Chaim (Chapter 669) that this custom is quoted in Sefer “Tzenah Ur’enah” (a book written in Yiddish meant for women) but adds, “Fortunate are we that such customs have been uprooted from among us.”
On the other hand, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yaakov Chaim Sofer zt”l writes in his Kaf Ha’Chaim (ibid, Subsection 60) that it is customary to make a jam out of the Etrog and serve it on the night of Tu Bishvat, the Rosh Hashanah for trees, along with the other fruits we recite blessings upon on this night. If a pregnant woman eats from an Etrog which was blessed upon during the Sukkot holiday, this is a Segulah that she shall give birth easily and painlessly. Hagaon Rabbeinu Chaim Palagi zt”l quotes a similar custom regarding a pregnant woman biting the Pitom off an Etrog after the Sukkot holiday as a Segulah for easy childbirth in his Sefer Mo’ed Le’Kol Hai.
Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l would mention this Segulah in his lectures and he would add that it is a special Segulah to eat from an Etrog used by a G-d-fearing Torah scholar. In his Chazon Ovadia- Sukkot (page 450), which was published in his later years, Maran zt”l adds his own personal recollections:
“I, the servant, know that the Etrog I recited a blessing upon and used for the Mitzvah during the Sukkot holiday was divided into pieces by members of my household and distributed to several women who were childless after eight to twelve years of marriage and they were blessed with beautiful boys and girls that same year. The merit of this Mitzvah is very great and can bring about great protection.”
Thus, we see that there is reason behind this custom. Although nowadays we do not have many Torah giants on the caliber of Maran zt”l, there is nevertheless a Segulah to eat from an Etrog which was used to fulfill the Mitzvah of the Four Species, especially when this Etrog was known to belong to a G-d-fearing Torah scholar.
Regarding the blessing on Etrog jam, this topic is subject to a great debate among the Poskim. Halachically speaking, Maran zt”l rules (in his Halichot Olam, Volume 2, page 97) that if only the outer yellow peel of the Etrog was used to make the jam, the proper blessing is “Shehakol” since this peel is basically inedible making the sugar and other ingredients in the jam primary relative to the Etrog. However, if the jam was made in the usual manner by using the inner fleshy portion of the Etrog as well and especially if the outer yellow peel is completely removed (as many people do), the jam will then require the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing since the primary part of the Etrog is white fleshy pulp on the inside.
Similarly, when partaking of Etrog jam for the first time that season on Tu Bishvat or any other time, one should not recite the “Shehecheyanu” blessing before eating it, for one has already exempted this blessing when reciting the “Shehecheyanu” blessing on the Mitzvah of the Four Species during the Sukkot holiday (Chazon Ovadia, ibid.).
Summary: On jam made from the white, fleshy pulp on the inside of the Etrog, one should recite the “Boreh Peri Ha’etz” blessing. Upon eating only the outer yellow peel of the Etrog, one will recite the “Shehakol” blessing.