MINT – Mentha
HERB OF THE YEAR 1998
The Mints (Mentha) are a large family with the ability to overtake your garden. The most popular varieties are peppermint, spearmint, orange mint, applemint and pineapple mint (my favorite is chocolate mint). When choosing a mint plant always “pinch and sniff” the leaves (rub the leaves with your fingers and then smell them). If it doesn’t have the fragrance you want or it smells bad, it will not improve once you plant it in your garden, so choose wisely. Mints cross-pollinate very easily so a mint plant started from seed may not give the flavor and fragrance you want. Plants grow best when started from an established plant. If you rub the leaves and it smells good, ask the plant’s owner for some. Because of its prolific nature it shouldn’t be hard to find someone who will share. Mints like moist but well drained soil and will tolerate full sun to partial shade.
One of the most difficult things about mint is to keep it under control. There are several tips that will control it. One easy method is to plant mint in a pot. The container will keep the roots confined, which prevents the underground runners from taking over. I have my chocolate mint in a half-barrel. It winters very well and thrives in the summer. You can also plant mint in a pot and sink the pot in the ground. I suggest you use a plastic pot and leave the upper 2 inches of the pot above ground. If you use a clay pot you have to sink it all the way and the runners can grow over the pot and “jump ship”, and if the clay pot is above ground it will work like a wick, dry the soil out and your plant will die. If you plant directly in the garden, your mint will thrive if given enough water. In the Spring I pull up the runners of my peppermint that have grown beyond where I want them. It is a fairly easy job and smells very good.
Traditionally mint has been used for jellies, sauces and teas but they have a wider range of uses than just a garnish in iced tea and fruit salad. Mint can be used in a wide variety of meat, fish, and vegetable dishes (eggplant, peas, carrots, potatoes, and cabbage) white beans, lentils, black beans, creamy vegetable soups, cream cheese and cottage cheese. Lamb and mint go hand in hand, both as a rub and in the mint jelly condiment. I use chocolate mint in brownies (recipe below), peppermint in pork roast along with sage and marjoram and in mint butter (nice with sweet bread, muffins or scones), applemint in beverages, spearmint in Tabbouleh (a Lebanese salad) and candied, any mint in sugar cookies, lemonade, iced tea, fresh fruit or in herbal bouquets which smell great.
MINT BROWNIES (Use your favorite brownie recipe: scratch or box, I use this one.)
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh minced mint
1 cup chopped nuts
Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 9 x 13” baking pan. Melt chocolate and shortening in large saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Mix in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in mint, then remaining ingredients. Spread in pan.
Bake 30 minutes or until brownies start to pull away from sides of pan. Do not overbake. Cool slightly. Cut into bars, about 2 x 1 1/2”. Spread with chocolate frosting if desired.
Molten Chocolate Cakes with Raspberries and Cream
1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, plus 1/4 pound (1 stick)
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt 1/2 cup cold heavy cream 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar 1 tablespoon nut-flavored liqueur
1/2 pint fresh raspberries1/2 pint fresh raspberries
4 sprigs mint
Sweetened cocoa, as garnish
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Grease and flour 4 (6-ounce) ramekins or baking dishes with the 1 1/2 teaspoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of flour in each, tapping out the excess flour. Set on a baking sheet. In a double boiler, or a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the remaining 1/4 pound of butter with the chocolate, cream, and powdered sugar, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt until thick ribbons form, about 3 minutes. Sift 2 tablespoons flour into the egg mixture and fold together. Fold the chocolate into the egg mixture. Divide among the prepared dishes and bake until the sides of the cake are set and the tops are puffed but still soft, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in the ramekins for 2 minutes, then unmold onto dessert plates. Meanwhile, in a bowl whip the cream until beginning to form soft peaks. Add the sugar and nut liqueur and beat until stiff peaks start to form. Spoon a dollop of the whipped cream on each unmolded cake, and garnish each plate with raspberries and a sprig of mint. Sprinkle cocoa over the cakes, and serve.
MINT SUGAR COOKIES
1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons milk
4 Tablespoons fresh chopped mint or 2 Tablespoons dry mint
Sift the first 3 ingredients together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar, then mix in egg and milk. Add
dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add mint and mix well. Refrigerate overnight in bowl for drop cookies or make a 2″ diameter roll for “slice and bake” and cover with saranwrap. Next day (mint needs time to penetrate dough) put dough on slightly greased cookie sheets and bake at 350 F for 10 to 12 minutes.
GRILLED MARINATED FRUIT KABOBS
Choose fruit. Apples, bananas, pears, cherries and pineapple work well. Preparation: Cut apples, bananas and pears in chunks. Soak in Fruit Fresh for 15 minutes. Cut pineapple and put in bowl with cherries to marinate. Drain other fruit and put in bowl.
Marinade: 1/4 cup Raspberry vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoon mint
Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and reduce down until thick. Pour over fruit and let set for at least 1/2 hour. Sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar on apples or Lavender Sugar. Put fruit on skewers & grill.
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cups bulgar wheat
2 pickling cucumbers, chopped
1 sweet onion (medium), chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
2 – 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup Extra Virgin olive oil
1 – 2 cloves garlic
1 cup Italian parsley (loose pack) or ½ cup chopped
1/2 cup mint, chopped
1/2 cup currents
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1 can chick peas
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon – ground
1/2 teaspoon allspice – ground
1/16 – 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
Pour water into pan and boil. Stir in wheat, remove from heat and let set for 45 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir well. Let set at least 1/2 hour. Serve cool at room temperature.
PORK ROAST WITH CURRANT JELLY AND FRESH HERBS
1 rolled pork roast or a 3 to 5 pound center cut pork roast
1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/3 cup fresh sage, chopped
1/3 cup fresh marjoram, chopped
1 cup currant jelly (use apple jelly if you can’t find currant jelly)
small red potatoes, if desired
Untie string that holds the rolled roast together. Open roast carefully. Mix the three kinds of fresh herbs together in a bowl. Put herbs in the middle of the roast, reserving 1/3 cup of herbs for the sauce. Retie the strings. If a center cut pork roast is used, cut 3 slits down length of roast about 1 inch deep. Stuff fresh herbs into the slits, again reserving 1/3 cup of the fresh herbs for the sauce. Set roast into an oven pan and roast at 325 F for 30 to 35 minutes per pound. In a small saucepan melt currant jelly and add reserved fresh herbs. When 1 hour is left of roasting time pour the melted jelly and herb mixture over the roast. Put any potatoes that are desired in the roaster at this time, also. Every 15 minutes baste the roast with the jelly mixture.
LEG of LAMB with HERBS
1 – 5 to 7 pound leg of lamb
1 – 2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons snipped parsley
1 teaspoon dried mint, crushed
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Trim fat from meat. Lightly brush meat with olive oil. Spread garlic over roast. Mix herbs together and sprinkle over meat, pressing them onto roast as much as possible. Lay onion slices over herbs. Sprinkle pepper over meat. Place meat, fat side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Roast in a 325 F oven until meat thermometer registers 140 F for medium rare (2 to 2 3/4 hours) or 155 F for medium (2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours). Cover meat with foil and let set for 15 minutes. Carve and serve with mint jelly.
6 to 8 young, tender carrots or 2 – 3 cups cooked
1 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon dried mint or 1/2 Tablespoon fresh chopped mint
Peel carrots and cut in pieces 2” long. Cook rapidly in a little boiling water until tender or cook in the microwave; drain. Meanwhile, melt butter in a saucepan, add honey and mint and heat to boiling. Add carrots, toss to glaze and heat through. Serves 4.