It has snowed again.
Normally, I shrug off the weather. Once, standing on a small boat off the coast of Juneau, Alaska, getting beaten by the ocean water mist, a local said to me, “There is no bad weather. There are only bad clothes.” This was coming from someone who lived in one of the rainiest places in North America. She beamed, her face glowing as a light drizzle came down from the skies. I nodded my head in fervent agreement. Previously I had held vague formations of similar sentiment, and with her wise words, they became a solidified life mantra.
But now, with another blanket of snow in mid-April, my resolve is waning.
It isn’t even the snow, really. It’s an accumulation of more than ice crystals. In actuality, it is a seemingly never ending onslaught of difficulties both near and far, personal and communal, that slowly erode at my sense of capability and hope. The cracks are showing in my inner reservoir of strength, and in the lines on my face. I am tired and annoyed.
And yet, somehow there is still a little fight left in me, even if it is expressed through grumbles and grunts as I acknowledge the positive aspects of these times. A glint of relief peeks through as I bleat through my Daily List of Things To Be Grateful For: “I’m grateful that I have a home, I’m grateful for my partner, I’m grateful that there was lettuce at the store and it was *only* $4, I’m grateful that the email I wrote didn’t suck, I’m gra…”
I have the impulse to spend a lot of time alone, to quarantine my grumpiness so that I don’t infect others with it. I know that being grumpy doesn’t really help things, but I can’t help but be grumpy sometimes! When a casual acquaintance asks how I am, I’ll say I’m fine. It isn’t so much a lie, as a way to be nice: I don’t want to make them take care of my feelings, or have to explain myself.
Besides, it is a temporary entrenchment, and I know it’ll pass: soon enough there will be a small delight that I will emotionally feast on for weeks, hoarding the morsel of joy like the way people hoard potato chips when there’s a blizzard warning (ahem). Alternatively, something even worse will happen that will make the previous happenings feel less worse – an effective though morbid strategy of rationale.
And when things are going really badly, it is important to remember to make my own joy.
The endless scroll of life’s happenings can be blessing or curse, random or specific – or an unclear amalgamation of it all. This is what I think about as I make this year’s batch of grapefruit marmalade, my preferred coalescence of bitter and sweet.
In Ayurveda we’re told to include some bitter flavoured foods in our meals, to accept that it’s a part of the dietary kingdom. Alongside, we’re cautioned to find balance, as too much bitter food can, apparently, turn you bitter.
Perhaps this is also a gentle reminder to make room for life’s bitter moments, and that when we find ourselves collapsing or contracting from too much pain and sorrow, that we remember to reach for the sweet, and hold it close with the bitter, and see what alchemy lies therein.
Grapefruit marmalade, 2022
Makes 5 x 250 ml jars
Please refer to this previous grapefruit marmalade recipe for a sense of continuity and evolution. Also note that if this website is any true indication of what I eat, it would appear that I eat a lot of jam, which isn’t true, but if it were, I would take all my jam, jelly, and fruit butter cues from The Sqirl Jam Book by Jessica Koslow.).
Instead of adding the white pith as I have in the past (which would really add a lot of bitter flavour), I use powdered pectin here as a little cheat to ensure the consistency will work. To be honest, I don’t know if it actually really helps, but I’ve noticed that jam recipes online come with a lot of superstition, so I feel compelled to uphold this legacy.
6 grapefruits (works really well with oranges too, for a sweeter flavour profile)
2 c water
3 c sugar (2 c if using all oranges)
1 package pectin
First, get your jars ready: arrange your clean jars and lids on a baking sheet and slide them into a 230 F oven to sterilize as you go about making the jam.
Next, prep the fruit. Scrub and rinse the fruit thoroughly to remove as much wax as possible. Use a peeler or paring knife to remove the peel from the fruit. Slice the peel finely. Remove and discard as much white pith as possible. Peeling pith is actually extremely satisfying so enjoy this step. Evenly slice the remaining fruit.
Reserve 1/4 cup of the sugar to mix with the pectin to prevent clumping.
In a large stockpot, bring the sliced peel, 2 cups water, and 1/16 tsp baking soda to a boil. I don’t know why the baking soda is added, but I saw it on a recipe online, and I must bow to this superstition / unexplained addition to honour my jam ancestors! Turn the heat down to let this simmer for 20 minutes.
Next, add the fruit and remaining sugar, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the remaining sugar and pectin, and boil to your desired consistency, which generally takes about 40-60 minutes. When the marmalade is as you like it, and while everything is still hot, fill your sterilized jars and firmly screw the lids on. Slide the filled jars into the 230 F oven and leave them in there for 30 minutes to pasteurize. When you take them out, use oven gloves to retighten the lids and make sure to stick around to hear the lids pop as the vacuum is pulled. If the vacuum doesn’t happen, then store the jam in the fridge.
Tastes best when spread on slightly burnt sourdough toast.