What is the association of mint and lamb? The past months have been a creative process of discovering how to cook lamb meat since the fall’s harvest (read From Farm to Table: The Sacrifice of Eating Meat to hear more about our experience.) In researching recipes, the reoccurring theme is lamb and mint. Is it the overlap of season, to help mask the strong flavor, or a digestive aid? The case was inconclusive, but my taste buds agree that mint and lamb simply belong together.
Mentha aquatica, water mint, grows wild behind my house. It will truly be a culinary pairing as the lambs grazed in the same field--mint infused lamb? To add sophisticated flavor, I plan on serving the savory meat with mint jelly. The following recipe is from the Ball Blue Book guide to preserving.
Yield: about 4 half-pints
• 1 cup firmly packed mint leaves
• 1 cup boiling water
• 4 cups apple juice
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 3 cups sugar
• Green food coloring (optional)
Instructions1. Put mint leaves in a bowl and add boiling water. Let stand 1 hour.
2. Strain mint leaves and press to extract juice.
3. Measure 1/2 cup of the freshly made mint extract and combine with the 4 cups of apple juice and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a large saucepot.
4. Add the 3 cups of sugar, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.
5. Cook to gelling point (when jelly drips from a spoon in one big “glob” — technically the word is sheet but glob is more descriptive). Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Stir in a few drops of food coloring, only if desired.
6. Ladle hot jelly into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.
To continue with a mint-themed meal, chop the leaves to add zest to salad greens or decorate fruit. The sprigs of the plant can be used to decorate plates or even infused into water or tea. Below is my recipe for lightly sweetened mint infused tea, a perfect companion for a hot summer day.
Sweetened Mint Tea
Yield 1/2 gallon
• 6 tea bags (Green or Black)
• 1 cup boiling water
• 1/3 cup sugar, honey or sweetener substitute
• 1/2 gallon pitcher of ice
1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil.
2. Steep 6 tea bags in the boiling water for 15 minutes to make a strong concentrate.
3. Add sugar, honey or sweetener substitute.
4. Stir to dissolve and let mixture cool.
5. Pour over ice and add water to top off.
Savory or sweet, find refreshment this summer with mint.
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