When we moved to Miami 20 years ago, our neighbors popped by amid the turmoil of unpacking. They came over to welcome us with probably the nicest housewarming gift I can remember. Great neighbors we had in Bonnie and John Massey! Everyone should be so fortunate … and have neighborly neighbors!
Bonnie’s housewarming ‘welcome’ was something I’d never seen or tasted… never even heard of before moving to Miami. The marmalade she gave us, she made from a tiny bitter fruit, typical of South Florida. Calamondins grow throughout Florida, but few people eat it or use the fruit for anything other than decorative. Calamondins grow to be about the size of a quarter-dollar, and are sour … actually more bitter than a lemon or lime… and make a phenomenal marmalade… not all that different from the English Marmalade I knew as a teenager that was sold at Fortnum & Mason’s in London.
Homemade housewarming gifts have become somewhat of a rarity I think. It’s a nice way to meet your neighbors though. Because of the Massey’s housewarming gift, we planted our own calamondine tree in our Coral Gables yard, and then did the same when we relocated a few miles south, to Pinecrest, years later.
Before citrus cancer hit South Florida a few years ago, John Massey pedaled through the streets of Coral Gables on his bicycle, with a plastic Publix Supermarket bag in hand … collecting calamondins. John’ s wife, Bonnie, would cook up half a dozen jars at a time, and John would hand deliver a ‘thank you’ jar to whichever neighbor contributed fruit from their yard for that particular batch. They gave a jar to anyone moving into the neighborhood … And they’d sell the marmalade through their church, donating the proceeds. Everyone should be fortunate enough to have good neighbors. Bonnie and John shared their tradition … and Bonnie passed down the tradition, teaching me how to make her jam.
I fell in love with them as neighbors … and with Bonnie’s marmalade. I would have gladly bought every jar she made – if she’d have sold it to me. She preferred giving the jars away… Bonnie eventually decided it was time to teach me how to make it, myself. She dedicated two days to teaching me. (Making that marmalade later became, and still is, OUR family’s tradition … and we just made 24 jars).
What started as a housewarming gift has literally traveled the world. We’ve schlepped jars of calamondin marmalade to Europe when we visited friends and family there on vacation. We’ve shipped it across country to family in Southern California. We’ve made it for neighbors… home buyers… our friends.
Our trees were among the few not to be stricken with/or lost to citrus canker. Bonnie occasionally stops by our house, having moved to a retirement community not too far away now. She hand picks fruit from our tree, and she still makes marmalade to welcome people moving into her community.
Bonnie and John… the epitome of good neighbors… Good neighbors are ‘supposed’ to ‘be there’ when we need a cup of sugar or an egg or two. Bonnie andJohn were those kindof neighbors … the kind that made the whole neighborhood a great place to live and raise our kids. They were there when a fuse blew, or the doornob wouldn’t turn, or the water heater leaked, or the eletrical power line got torn from the house altogether. Great neighbors. Great people. Great friends.
Calamondin Marmalade … Sentimental and Special… for so many reasons. John… we miss you. Bonnie, we cherish you. By the way, Bonnie, the tree is full … Hoping you’ll stop by!
Housewarming at it’s BEST – Bonnie’s Calamondin Marmalade Recipe:
1st Day: Wash fruit, remove blemishes, cut fruit in half & remove seeds. Cover seeds with water and let stand overnight (in a cereal sized bowl). * The water for this part is “extra”.*
Grind peel & pulp (seeds removed) in Cuisinart or blender (pulsing on & off). Measure & add 1 – 1/2 measures of water to each measure of calamondin. Let stand overnight. (Example: 4 cups calamondin + 6 cups water.)
2nd Day: Next morning, add water strained from seeds to the calamondin mixture & cook it lall until the peel is tender (about 20 minutes) simmering/ boiling. Always use large, open pan & hot fire to make cooking rapid and ensure a light color. (By cooking it up in larger quantities the marmalade will darken to almost an amber color, like English Marmalade)
Take cup for cup of pulp mixture and sugar and boil until it reaches jelly point of 222 degrees Fahrenheit (full boil … about 20 minutes until jelly sticks to spoon & the last drop on spoon holds on). Don’t cook over 4 cups of pulp at a time if you want it to be a light, clear orange hue). Sterilize jars in microwave (7 minutes) with 1 inch of water in the bottom of each. Boil lids. Dry thoroughly, then fill with hot marmalade. Here’s hoping that wherever you go, you’ll have great neighbors !
Whenever you’re ready to buy or sell your next home, it would be our pleasure to help! Looking forward to working with you, and making your next move special. The Restivo Team 305- 793-1365 or 305-632-0164.