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
That picture is the incredible residue from making Black Pepper Syrup. The syrup is for beverages. There is a beverage idea just below and a full blown beverage recipe coming tomorrow.
I investigate several black peppery syrup recipes but this is the one I like because it uses far more pepper — a full ½ cup of peppercorns for only about 3 ounces of syrup. Cooked in water and sugar, the leftover peppercorns are soft and little sweet. Do NOT throw them away. Go buy a great steak, and enjoy a Steak au Poive with a sweet bite. These peppercorns are meant to adorn meat and they contribute mightily to the steak sauce you’ll be making.
Now, how to use this syrup. One suggestion, from Food and Wine Cocktails 2013, is double down. Pour a glass of Drambuie, which is already rocket fuel class, and then add shots of both this Black Pepper Syrup and the Habanero Honey Syrup that has been blogged here. What you will have there is confluence of flavors sure to astonish your sensory system. By “shot” I mean you should experiment to get just the layering and lingering of flavors that you enjoy. It’s quite personal and definitely hot.
The shot of flavorless vodka suggested in the recipe is to give longer life to your syrup. Without the alcohol, the syrup will refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. With the vodka, you’ll surely have another 2 weeks of safe usage. And with this small a volume and the wonderful flavor, I expect this syrup will quickly be absorbed into your beverage history long before a month has passed.
Black Pepper Syrup
Yield: 3+ ounces
- 4 ounces of water
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup black peppercorns
- ½ ounce flavorless vodka
In a small saucepan, combine the water sugar and peppercorns. Bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Once at a boil, reduce the heat to a moderately low and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the syrup into a jar. Let cool. Add the vodka. Tightly seal and refrigerate for up to one month.
Source: Food & Wine Cocktails 2013
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 60MM Macro Lens, F/2.8, 1/100th second, ISO-1600