clementine rosemary marmalade {day 175}

Week 24 kicked my ass. There’s no way to put it nicely. It’s as though a storm cloud settled over my emotions when the first snowfall came a week ago, and it took the better part of the week to dig myself free. I’ve undoubtedly had many moments the last 175 days that have tested my resiliency, but I’m generally good about shaking them off, rolling up my sleeves and tending to the work at hand.

Not this week.

Mikey’s birthday is weighing heavily on my mind. On February 7th, he should be turning 52.

Should, but now his ashes are ageless. No wrinkles to be seen. No more flecks of silverish-grey to slowly weave their way through his dark brown hair.

I thought my birthday would be the tough one, but the thought of his passing is more crushing. At least I was alive for my birthday. I’ve thought about making a cake for him, as I always did, but I feel like it’s silly. I also know it would be tough for the kids to see me doing that. I figured plan B could be I make a cake, take a bite, cry profusely, then toss it in the garbage before they come home from school.

But, that’s borderline irrational, and a waste of good ingredients. I’ll have to face his birthday head-on, and we already have plans to spend the evening surrounded with friends who loved him too.

The cake still confounds me, though.

As I felt the blues tip toe into my soul last Sunday, I decided to make something he loved so much—marmalade. He loved eating it anytime, but especially when he wasn’t feeling well. Toast with marmalade and tea. I was always amazed at how he could down a cup of blazing hot tea in minutes. By time it was cool enough for my first sip, he was putting the kettle on for his second cup.

I needed to find a way to be close to him last Sunday, and all I had around was a bag of clementines. I’d picked up fresh rosemary at the farmers’ market the day before, and thought the two would be a good pairing. When I was done I realized I’d gone a little overboard for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of marmalade. I’m more of a berry girl when it comes to things of a jammy nature. So the jars sat on my counter, almost laughing at me, reminding me he was gone.

As the week went by, I found new homes for the marmalade—one of my best friends, my sitter, my other sitter, and finally one of my other best friends. Now, just one lone jar sits atop my counter, like me, wondering what exactly its fate will be.


Clementine Rosemary Marmalade

makes about three pints

I used my recipe for meyer lemon, ginger & mint marmalade as a base for the ratios. As with that one, I’m going to try stirring a spoonful into some boiling water for a homemade herbal tea. A nice way to use up all this bounty, unless you decide to share a few jars with friends too.

Testing note: when I made this I added the rosemary needles whole, but after eating it for a week now, I realize I’d rather have chopped bits of rosemary in it, rather than whole needles, so I’ve tweaked that part of the recipe for you.

8 clementines (725 grams)

6-inch sprig fresh rosemary, needles removed and chopped

3 cups (600 grams) natural cane sugar

3 cups water

To prepare the clementine, cut off each of the ends. Slice the clementines in half lengthwise, then cut the halves into very thin slices—you should have about 5 cups worth.

Add the clementines, rosemary and water to a deep pot. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and cook for 30 minutes until the rinds are very tender. Add a few splashes of water to the pot if the level falls too low and starts to dry up too much.

Stir in the sugar and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until it thickens, 60-70 minutes.

Spoon the marmalade into clean, sterilzed jars and store in the refrigerator or process in a hot water bath for long term storage.

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  • Cindy Rescigno

    Jennie, Your strength and willingness to be so open with your vulnerability inspire me. You make that cake if that’s what feels right to you…maybe celebrating the great man that he sounds like…prayers for you and your girls…Cindy Rescigno

  • Brooke @ Exercise For Fries

    My heart goes out to you. I know what it’s like to lose someone close. It doesn’t get easier, but you still find a way to go forward and find your “new normal”. I hate when people say “you’re so strong”, it’s like, what am I SUPPOSED to be doing? Laying on the floor? I’m just moving forward (not to be confused with moving on). But really, you ARE being so strong. What else can you do or say?

  • Adriana

    I am also more of a berry girl, but I am really writing to say that I think it is completely normal for you to want to make him a cake. I think it is the opposite of silly, it is a way to honor his memory. Maybe it is a good idea to make the cake and share it during the evening with all those who also loved him. Love and peace.

  • Becca H

    I don’t see anything silly about making a cake in his honor on his birthday. If it give you some peace, go for it! Hugs across the internet.

  • Svasti

    Could you perhaps consider making a cake in his honour and sharing it with others? Friends? A local homeless shelter? Something like that?
    You’re doing so well. Sending you strength for the coming weeks! xo

  • Allie

    My Nana’s birthday is February 7th as well. She passed in 2002 after several years of battling cancer. Every year my sister and I and my cousin call my mom to talk about her, to remember everything she taught us. And every year I go get donuts, because she loved them.
    My sadness in no way compares to your grief, which is now so fresh and debilitating, but I wanted you to know I’m going to get extra donuts on the 7th.

  • Janne

    Maybe you could use his birthday as a way of celebrating his life from now on – maybe better to do that on his birthday rather then on other anniversaries. Eat his favourite cake each year and remember.

  • Tracey

    Tuck the jar away… like some of your past memories. Find a way to use it in a recipe, in due time, when you are stronger. Drink a cup of tea, quietly reflecting, then pray for the strength to make it back to the top again. Ah, yes, back to the land of the living, the place where we often wish we weren’t. Just one more stage of grief. The rise and fall of the tides. It will come back in again, carry you to safety, to a place of warmth with the girls. I AM praying for you and the girls, STILL.
    XXX Tracey

  • Tracey

    I always look forward to your posts. Tom made it to 52, but only by 6 weeks.May God bless and bring you a ray of sunshine.
    XX ooTracey

  • Tara

    I don’t think baking a cake and smashing it up is irrational at all. I think its the sort of thing I would want to do. I think we all do irrational things – we have a car that is frankly knackered and falling to pieces, but I can’t bring myself to buy another as my Dad always “approved” my new cars (I’m nearly 40 btw not a daft teenager!) I lost him 4½ years ago and I’m still not ready to get rid of the car as I still can’t face that one last hurdle of doing something I always did with him that I’ll have to do alone. So if you need to bake a cake and trash it, do it! Here’s hoping you find the strength to get through the day. My thoughts are with you.

  • shopgirl

    Make the cake because cake is a good thing!
    Cry and feel the love and hugs of your friends . . . and tell wonderful stories of your Mikey!
    Sending a hug right now!

  • Susan Raider

    Jenny, his birthday is always breathtaking. “he would have been.”. The past tense v the present. “I am…”. It never ceases to jolt me really. And it is 12.5 years later, and I am very happily remarried. The first year his friend George threw a birthday party for him, and showed a slideshow of his life. It was lovely and agonizing. But I was surrounded by people who loved him, too. That helped. Sometimes it is easy to move ahead. Sometimes I feel paralyzed. But when I am happy I know that is how he would want me, and I know that is how Mikey wants you.

  • Jody

    Dear Jennie, I have been reading here since your PB pie post was posted on Tasty Home. I’ve never commented but began subscribing to your posts that day. I live in upstate NY and will turn 50 on Feb. 7 so will keep you in my thoughts and prayers as you plod through that day. Have a Happy Monday.

  • Holly

    My daughter died 17 years ago this March. January 19 was her 40th birthday. For a few years after her passing I made her favorite chocolate cake to celebrate her being and bringing her light to us. It soothed me, but it was hard for her children and sisters, so I stopped. This year I made one again. It made me happy, though there is still grief for all of us. I remembered how she ate with such exuberance she always got chocolate somewhere on her face, clothes, in her hair ~ and it made me laugh. I could hear her laugh. I’m not going to miss another year of celebrating what she brought into my world. Thanks for sharing your journey. It is brave and kind and encouraging to the rest of us. I hope it helps you. You and your family and your food and your sharing are an ongoing gift. Though I know you only through your posts I have a poignant love for you and I am grateful for it.

  • Lisa McNamara

    Oh, Jenny…i am at day 28 of widowhood and had a similar jam dilemma. My husband loved peaches, and the mountain peaches in Colorado are some of the best in the world. Last summer, i bought him a box of peaches each week; on the final week of the season, i bought two boxes and made jam. When Scott was alive, he’d eat the jam on yogurt, or toast, or ice cream. Now that he’s gone, i can’t bring myself to eat it without him. Like you, i have found homes for it elsewhere. I have months before i am faced with the birthday dilemma, but it will be painful, cake or no. I empathize with you and hope being surrounded by friends will help…as much as anything can.

  • Sarah

    I was so moved by your post. Thank you for sharing such an intimate gesture– that marmalade is the most beautiful I have ever seen.

  • lynn

    Your blog is beautiful, and so is your love for your Mikey. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your writing here is such a beautiful tribute to him and what he meant to you and your girls.

  • Nicholle Montalvo

    Sweet Jennie… As always, sending you love and wishing it could help. A friend of mine lost her father very suddenly at a very young age, and each year they have a birthday dinner for him with a birthday cake and send loving wishes to him when they blow out the candles for him. Each person has to decide for themselves which is most healing, and it may be different from day to day, week to week, etc. I hope that somewhere in all of this there will be a ray of peace or a special moment just to yourself when you can feel connected to Mikey again. And I hope that comments from complete strangers are even the tiniest bit comforting. So much love to you all <3

  • Kara

    Every year on my deceased daughter’s birthday, I make something with peaches. Peaches were by far her favorite thing to eat. And I kind of keep it to myself – I serve something with peaches that day. My husband always gives me a knowing look but the rest of the family (including her siblings) simply enjoy the peaches since no one recognizes the connection. Seeing everyone enjoy those peaches, in whatever form I have served them, brings me some joy on what is usually my worst day of the year.

  • Kim in MD

    My Mom’s birthday is tomorrow, January 31st. She passes away suddenly almost 12 years ago, and I still think of her every single day, but especially on her birthday, my birthday, my children’s birthdays and holidays. She will forever be in my heart, but it does get easier with time. You are amazing, Jennie. Stay strong…

  • Megan

    Make the cake and celebrate the Birthdays you had together. Nothing wrong with your girls remembering their Dad on his birthday, blowing out a candle and sending a kiss.
    Just as you made & ate the marmalade, we all remember certain people through the food they loved. I for one will be remembered for how much I love coffee ice cream. I sincerely hope when I’m gone it will be eaten and enjoyed and if a little prayer and special thought are sent my way, all the better.
    For the rest of your lives you will remember Mikey’s Birthday. Make a cake he would love & think of what a great day his actual birth day was.
    God Bless you & your girls.

  • Michelle W.

    Jennie, if you were taking a poll, I’d vote for you to make the cake. It’s been 8 years since my husband passed, and I’m 6 years into my second marriage, but every March 8 (Barry’s birthday), I try to stop by a bar and have a Perfect Margarita in his memory. Right or wrong, having a couple of drinks every evening was something he enjoyed doing. My new husband is a tee-totaler, but having known my husband (briefly years ago), he thinks the annual margarita is a suitable tribute.
    You’ve got some time, Jennie, you’ll find the right tribute for Mikey, and it will blend right in with the rest of your life, every year on his birthday, something special just for (you and) him that will give you a reason and an opportunity to remember, while still allowing your life to keep moving forward.
    On March 8 this year, I’m going to a nice bar to have that Perfect Margurita, and remember Barry. Then I’m going to go home with a smile on my face and kiss my husband. Without Barry, I wouldn’t have found John. Life loves to pull little tricks like that on us.
    Love you Jennie.
    Michelle W.

  • Dana

    I think making a cake is totally appropriate. I have a dear friend who was born on March 17th and died on March 17th. He was also Irish. I am not Irish, but a few weeks before I corn my own brisket and make a dinner in his honor. I live in a different town now, but always invite a few friends over to share the meal. These new friends do not know my old friend, but he always had an open door and I know if they had ever met they would have shared a meal together. It is my way of honoring his memory.

  • Carolyn S.

    My best friend’s birthday was Saturday, January, 21st. She would have been 29. However she passed away last August. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to make a cake, to do something. Funny thing, she never really even cared about cake; I did. I love making treats for my friends. So I made it; I even blew out a candle. Then like you – I shared all the leftovers with people I love xo

  • cj

    I’ve been reading since Peanut Butter Pie and I made one for you and Mikey. My first pie ever. It was rich and decadent like the words you put to pen here. I pray you find peace and hope. I am thankful to have come across your blog. You inspire me to embrace life.

  • Ann S.

    Have the cake … talk about one memory that you loved about a past birthday with your kids and a few close friends… Next year you can make a plan as to how you want to face future birthdays…. There are no answers that are the right answers… slogging through the muck of uncertainty is challenging and daunting. Have a cup of tea and honor him….
    You are not alone!!

  • online propecia

    I don’t think baking a cake and smashing it up is irrational at all. I think its the sort of thing I would want to do. I think we all do irrational things – we have a car that is frankly knackered and falling to pieces, but I can’t bring myself to buy another as my Dad always “approved” my new cars (I’m nearly 40 btw not a daft teenager!) I lost him 4½ years ago and I’m still not ready to get rid of the car as I still can’t face that one last hurdle of doing something I always did with him that I’ll have to do alone. So if you need to bake a cake and trash it, do it! Here’s hoping you find the strength to get through the day. My thoughts are with you.

  • Elizabeth A. Summers

    Another vote for tributes…whatever and whenever. My own experience is that they might start with tears and overwhelming pain and sadness, but over time they have melded into times of happy memories and joyful remembrances of loved ones that are always part of my life…now matter how long gone from this earthly existence.
    And thank you for the marmalade recipe. I LOVE marmalade and it has only been in the last year that I’ve starting making my own. AND I have fallen in love with both rosemary syrup and fruit as well as basil and fruit (cherries!). I have plans this weekend for a clementine/meyer lemon/rosemary marmalade using your ratios.

  • KaraHadley

    You probably don’t need another person telling you that it’s a good idea to make a cake for Mikey’s birthday, but I’m doing it anyway. It will probably hurt. And you’ll probably cry. But from someone who lost a stepdad this year (at the age of 53), I know how important and healing it can be to put grief aside to celebrate his life. And that’s exactly what Mikey’s birthday should be — a celebration. Celebrate the amazing man he was. Celebrate how lucky all of you were to have him in your life for as long as you did. Celebrate everything he taught you and gave you and all the laughs you shared. You can grieve any day. Make that day about celebrating.

  • Kay

    I lost my mom a few years ago. My brother, sister, and I don’t live anywhere near each other anymore – college, jobs, etc. but every year, we each make a cake for my mom on her birthday (something chocolaty, very chocolaty!). Even though we are not together, I know they are thinking of her too. I plan on making my mom a cake every year and someday, when I have children, I will continue to make that cake and tell my children all about what an amazing person she was.
    I hope you find something that works for you and your family.

  • Emily

    I hope you’re able to get through the day with more laughter than tears…but if not, who cares? I’m sorry for your pain! Thanks again for sharing such amazing recipes, even while you’re hurting.

  • Roz@weightingfor50

    Hi Jennie, If you are up to it, I hope you make a cake for Mikey next Tuesday. Maybe not the kind of cake you’d always make, something brand new….and that can become a wonderful new tradition every Feb 7th that you and your girls can enjoy! You continue to dazzle and inspire me with your posts and your strength!!! You also inspire me with your recipes. Clementines and Rosemary??? BRILLIANT!!!! I would love to make some myself, and if I do, I will think of you and Mikey every time we have it!!! Thank you!!!

  • Debbie W.

    After my husband died,(he was also a Mike) I was unsure of how I felt when his birthday came around. What to do? I asked my girls who were 8 & 4 at the time what they wanted to do. They wanted a cake and to go to his favorite place to eat. It was not easy the first year (or the 2nd to be honest) but on the 27th of this month, will be the 4th year we celebrate his birthday without him. He would be turning 44 this year. We miss him so much, but we still celebrate for him.
    Good luck to you. xoxo

  • Steph

    Thank you for inventing and sharing this. I made this last night with some satsumas that were lingering in the corner of my counter and it blew my mind. I cut it in half b/c my satsumas weighed about half as much as your clementines but it smells and tastes amazing. Wow. (Am I the only one that thinks it smells like butter while it cooks?)
    Thank you!

  • Lauren from Baklust

    I say make the cake and share it with your friends and family! Celebrate Mikey! There’s absolutely nothing weird or wrong about making a cake in honor of the man you love even though he isn’t here to enjoy it.

  • Laura

    Making Mikey’s favorite things and passing them on is a wonderful way to keep his memory alive. And by all means – make the cake!!

  • Diane

    My heart goes out to you…
    Please make the cake and celebrate a wonderful day full of loving memories of Mikey and how much he loved life his family and how much you all loved him!
    Nothing wrong with you and the girls even close friends celebrating Mikey on his special day!

  • Elizabeth A. Summers

    I believe I commented above that I was making this marmalade immediately…but it was today. And I didn’t use rosemary OR clementines but I did follow your ratios using lemon, pixie mandarins and blood oranges. The result is a beautiful marmalade in both color and taste and the perfect amount for my one person household – exactly 4 1/2 pint jars!
    I just wanted to say thank you so much for this and the lemon/ginger/mint marmalade recipe ratio guidelines. I looked at a lot of recipes online and yours – THE best!!!