Remembered in the Will

by Brenda Athanus
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grapefruit_white.jpgMany, many years ago there was an older man who came to our store pretty much weekly for about nine or ten years. He wasn't all that talkative, he came with a plan and left with all the things on his list and always 12 small white grapefruit. Not much conversation, not even any dialoge about the weather, even if it had rained every day in June. Things never changed. He always smelled of mothballs and pipe tobacco. Monk wore old Hathaway wool shirts, real cotton khaki trousers, leather and rubber L.L. Bean boots half laced up and we never saw him without a pipe in his mouth filled with unburned tobacco.  He drove a large old pale yellow Ford Squire station wagon that looked retired from his other home in Connecticut. He came on the same day every week at roughly the same time.

We never saw him with anyone, but some weeks his grocery basket was heavier than other weeks and he would be downright grouchy, usually around the beginning of August. We could tell by his cantankerous attitude that he had family coming to visit.  There is no stopping anyone from visiting friends or family in Maine the first couple weeks of August even if they aren't that fond of each other. My sister and I were sure to have the freshest grapefruit awaiting him because he wasn't shy about telling you the following week that "they were getting a little dry" and his tone could be quite unpleasant.

oldmanfishing.jpgIn those days, I'm talking about the late 70's, pink grapefruit were never shipped to Maine never mind Ruby ones. It was all white grapefruit and they shipped only two sizes, large (27 count) and small (48 count). Monk drank fresh squeezed grapefruit juice every morning before he went fishing along with toast with homemade grapefruit marmalade. That much he told us. This was what he always ate when he was "up at the cabin" and it brought him really good luck because he held an unchallenged record for catching the largest landlocked salmon for almost 20 years, which is saying something for around here!

Each Spring when we open our seasonal food store we look for our regular returning customers, but one year there was no Monk. Spring passed and then summer and still there was no sign of him. Just a few days before Labor day that same year a middle-aged couple came in looking for the owners. They both had a serious look on their faces and smelled like moth balls just like Monk and a few other old-time customers that we have. It was obvious that they had never been to our store before and were there on a specific mission.  They handed me a cardboard tube. It was a gift from Monk. Monk they explained had died that Winter and they were his live-in caregivers at his Connecticut home and he requested that they drive to Maine to give us this tube. I opened it and unrolled a poster-size, hand-written and illustrated recipe for Monk's Grapefruit Marmalade made with white grapefruit. 

I make this Marmalade each year and always imagine Monk cutting the peel with great precision on his screened front porch overlooking the massive lake out front, paying no mind to how long it took to julienne all that grapefruit peel because it was "free time" between salmon fishing in the early morning and perch fishing just before sunset.....Here's to you, Monk with much love!

Monk's White Grapefruit Marmalade

4lbs. white grapefruit, well scrubbed (I source organic grapefruit)
6 to 9 cups of sugar

Cut the grapefruit into quarters, remove the seeds and pithy centers. Put the seeds and pith into a large square piece of cheesecloth, tie into a bag. Peel the grapefruit, cut the peel into julienne strips. Slice peeled fruit into thin slices. Place fruit and bag in a large bowl and cover with water. Soak for 12 hours. Remove bag, In a large preserve pot simmer the fruit and soaking water fro one hour. For every cup of fruit and water add 3/4 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil-boil for about 20 minutes or until the finished consistency.

Test the marmalade for correct consistency immediately after boiling. That is 220°F. Or, test by placing a small amount onto a chilled plate and let stand until cool. If the marmalade forms a skin and wrinkles when you pull your finger through it is ready. Remove from the heat for 10 minutes. Stir gently to mix skin though the marmalade. Pour into sterilized jars to within a 1/2 inch of the top. Seal and process. Makes about 5 pints


Brenda Athanus runs a small gourmet food shop in Belgrade Lakes, Maine with her sister Tanya called the Green Spot.

The Green Spot
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#1 Ann Stephens 2010-04-22 11:58
Wow. You never really know how you affect people around you.

I've never heard of grapefruit marmalade, but grew up drinking grapefruit juice. It's a great thirst-quencher on a hot day!

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