This is how the conversation went. We were standing in our garden ten years ago holding a couple of small mint plants in their little plastic containers. Fresh from the green house.
“Will these survive?” Suzen asked. It had been a hard winter.
“In Oregon, mint grows like a weed,” I said. It did. One of my childhood chores was keep the mint at bay. I’d cut it, and then chew it. The start of a lifelong relationship. And when I married mint with chocolate, well, life began in earnest.
“In Portland, it does not get to 10 below,” Suzen noted. She knelt down, took the trowel and planted the mint into our rocky soil. I thought that the soil, not the winter, was the challenge confronting the teeny mint plants.
It’s ten years later and our mint has survived every Catskill winter. And the rocky soil. Not survived, thrived.
“Why did we plant this?” Suzen muttered last weekend. She has a bed of lavender that the mint has invaded. It has also spread to the herb bed beyond and in the other direction all along the side of the house. To quote from a famous movie, “It’s alive, it’s alive.”
To calm Suzen down, I made her a mojito with, what else, the freshest possible mint. And to make us both happy — and you, too, by the way — here’s a lovely way to use up lots of mint. This mint syrup can be used on meats, in a salad, to top off roasted carrots, or simply to decorate a plate. In fact, this recipe comes from Payard Desserts where the mint syrup is used to dot the outside of a dessert plate filled with buttermilk scones, buttermilk ice cream, and strawberry tomato jam. Isn’t it just like mint to appear everywhere?
Payard’s Mint Syrup
Yield: ~ ½ cup
- 1 cup loosely pack fresh mint leaves
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
Fill a medium bowl halfway with ice water and set aside.
Fill a small saucepan halfway with water and bring to a bolil. Blanc the mint leaves for 20 seconds. Remove the leaves a skimmer and immediately plunge them into the ice water.
Once the leaves are cold, pat them dry with paper towels. Coarsely chop the blanched leaves and place them in a blender with the corn syrup. Process until smooth. Transfer the syrup to a squeeze bottle and refrigerate until ready to use.
Source: Payard Desserts by Francois Payard with Tish Boyle
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/7 for 1/100th second at ISO‑100
It’s now, at long last, June and our herbs have survived a winter of deep snows and deeper cold. Our mint beckons. How to use it?
Frosting, of course. Here the mint flavor comes, not primarily from our garden, but from liquor and extract. But your spring mint leaves can still be used to adorn the top of the cake when you are frosted, smoothed, and contemplating a knife to get the first slice.
If you have a cake, chocolate or otherwise, demanding an exceptional frosting, then consider this: a deeply rich buttercream flavored with crème de menthe and peppermint extract.
This recipe, from the team at Baked, is classically tuned and scaled. Yes, the second ingredient is flour. Flour for frosting? Fear not, for it all works to generate an impeccable frosting. As the frosting comes together, the consistency will, as always, depend on the temperature and water levels in the butter that is the foundation ingredient. If your frosting texture is spot on, then you are fine to frost away. If initially the frosting is too soft or too firm, then the instructions below will guide you elegantly.
Crème de Menthe Buttercream
Yield: enough for a standard 2-layer cake
- 2 ¼ cups sugar
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 ¼ cups milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 4 ½ sticks unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons crème de menthe
- 2 ¼ teaspoons peppermint extract
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cram and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and had thickened, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Add the crème de menthe and peppermint extract and mix until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put it in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then mix again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, then mix again.