Monthly Archives: December 2013




My comfort food is toast, specifically, toast with butter and marmalade. Not just any old butter—rich, creamy, Irish butter, and not just any old marmalade—Seville orange marmalade, preferably homemade.

When I first came to live in America, not surprisingly, I left this comfort food far behind. Your basic loaf of supermarket bread had the consistency of a piece of sponge and was cloyingly sweet. The butter was pale and anemic. And marmalade—what marmalade?

It didn’t take me long to figure out the bread thing. In New York there are any number of great bakeries. Butter, well I could always splurge on those very expensive imports of Kerrygold, and then ration the bejaysus out of it. Or resort to stashing it in my luggage on trips home, hoping airport sniffer dogs didn’t have a taste for butter. But the marmalade proved elusive. Grape jelly was not an option. The only solution was to make my own.

Though a decent marmalade was as rare as hen’s teeth, finding a bitter Seville orange (preInternet-ordering days) in New York was nigh impossible. I was going to have to improvise. Move over Seville oranges. Cue the pink (or red) grapefruit.

All that was many moons ago. Now, each year around December, I keep my eyes open for the fresh crop of Florida grapefruit to hit the stores. Luckily this coincides with the holidays, because I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who likes pink grapefruit marmalade. I always make two or three batches, knowing I’ll give much away as gifts. The rest sit in my pantry to sustain me year long.

Yes, it’s an afternoon’s work, but shockingly simple to make (oops, let the cat out of the bag on that one). So if you’re in the mood to try something new, here’s my recipe. Warning, it can become addictive.


Pink Grapefruit, preferably organic


¼ cup of water

 *Most jam recipes call for a 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar.

I use 2:1, but this is a personal taste thing.

Equipment: Sharp knife, it helps if you have a food processor with a grating attachment, but not essential. Scissors. Two large pots. Several glass jars (I use recycled, but you can go buy fancy canning jars if it tickles your fancy). Tongs.

This can get messy, so roll up your sleeves and put on your apron.

  1. Put your jars and lids on to boil in one of the pots.
  2. Scrub the mother out of those grapefruit in warm, soapy water.
  3. Slice them around the middle and pop out any large seeds.
  4. By hand, squeeze some of the juice out of the fruit into cooking pot.
  5. Snip the pith core out of each grapefruit half.
  6. Grate at least half the squeezed halves with the food processor.
  7. Hand cut the other half. Everyone has their own preference for rind thickness.
  8. Plop everything into the cooking pot & add your sugar & water.
  9. Bring to a rolling boil, then let simmer for at least ½ an hour, stirring occasionally. Then it’s up to you. I prefer my marmalade slightly runny and a golden amber color. If you prefer a stickier consistency cook a little longer, but don’t overdue it or you’ll get scorched, grapefruit flavored glue.
  10. While hot, ladle into glass jars & put full jars back into canning pot and bring back up to a boil for about ten minutes. This will seal the lids. Take out and let cool. Often you’ll hear the lids popping as they cool, letting you know the seal is good.

Serve on toast—where else.

Also delicious on crackers with cheese, good for glazing hams, and surprisingly tasty as a chutney-like side with sausages.


If you try this, I’d love to know how you get on, and I’m happy to answer any questions.





IMG_3230It’s that time of year again; my halls are decked with dripping snow boots, pants, hats, and mittens. We’ve been frolicking in the fluffy stuff, building forts, packing snowballs, snapping snow scenes for holiday cards.

First out the door on a snow day is Dahlia, our resident snow cat. Ever since she was a kitten she’s loved the snow. Her mother, on the other hand, is happy to sit on the doorstep, soaking up the rays, but not setting paw anywhere near that disgusting cold, wet, white stuff. IMG_7319

Love it or hate it, we all fall somewhere on the snow spectrum. As a child I was way over to the left, under radically obsessed. The fact that we rarely ever got more than a mushy millimeter of snow in Ireland may have had something to do with it. Even a good frost classified as a “snowy” day. And then one year we got the mother of all snowfalls. It snowed for twenty-four hours straight, and by the end of it, the country was in total lock down, which lasted for weeks. I remember walking along snow banks with the tops of hedges poking out, and coming across cars buried in snow caves at the side of the road. My toddler brother owes his continued existence to his red snow suit. But for that, we’d have lost him, sunk up to his little uxters in a snowdrift. Needless to say, I was in heaven. IMG_2134

Now, living in the Northeast US, we get at least one good footer of a storm a year, and sometimes more. When the local forecasters go into hyperbolic mode about the massive storm barreling our way, I still feel that tingle of excitement. And even if I don’t always want to run out and make snow angels, I delight in the transformed landscape, and drink in the sharp tang of snowy air. IMG_0999

I believe I inherited my love of snow from my father. He never failed to get excited about a flake of snow, and often, when I call him up and tell him of our latest snowfall, he’ll express deep envy. My mother—not so much. She falls on the other end of the spectrum. Happy to look at a pristine landscape through a window, while snuggled up with a good book and a cup of tea, don’t ask her to step outside.

Where do you fall on the snow spectrum? Love it, hate it, or somewhere in between?

IMG_0296 IMG_3282


DSCF1812The moon is a blank-faced clock
Its ripe orb the only thing
That pagan man in pre-historic times
Could hang his hat on.
The deep chill of winter began the slow
Rumble of the seasons
The waxing and waning
Of the moon
Etching itself into the everyday.
The tug that set the hens to laying
And the shrimp to drift in on a high spring tide.
The high, sharp-edged disk
That lit up the eyes of a fox on the prowl,
Pups nipping at her heels, pouncing on frogs.
The May moon, anticipated by farmer and poet alike—
The moon to wipe the slate clean,
To slap the palm, sealing the deal of a new year’s agreement.
The warm, lazy moon that enticed lovers into the woods,
And small children into achingly cold mountain streams to catch minnows.
The harvest moon
Slipping silently up through half-naked tree branches
Sealing the coffers for another year.
This is the moon to be beguiled by sweet music, honey wine, and blood.
The powerful moon that holds the thread of life.
If she is not fawned over and appeased
She will slowly, with one eye on the clouds,
Unravel the thread.

I wrote this thinking of the early inhabitants of the island of Ireland, but the moon has resonance for every culture. I would love to hear about yours.