It all started with a visit from my mother in law. Now that is not as ominous as it sounds, in fact I think I won the 'mother in law' lottery. We get along like a house on fire. On this particular visit she didn't come empty handed. She came clutching a small mint plant from her garden and that mint plant originally came from her mother's garden located in South Molton in England. I don't know if you have ever had the pleasure of trying english mint, but it is different than the mint you may be used to seeing in our Canadian grocery stores. The flavour and aroma are much stronger and the leaves of the plant itself are thicker and more rigid in structure.
It was last summer and we had requested some mint to add to our own herb garden. We already had basil, sage, lavender and lemon thyme and the mint was welcomed with open arms. However, we learned the hard way that mint is perhaps better suited for container gardening. In our excitement we had planted it in a small area in the garden that we had prepared for it earlier that day. Within 4 weeks it had completely filled the previously empty space and was travelling into the lawn, the basil and had even creeped out into the lettuce area.
This summer before we expanded and planted our garden, we dug up what we thought was all of it's root structure and relocated it into 4 different containers in our yard. That was back in early May and it is now the end of September and I am still pulling up persistent mint from our garden on a weekly basis.
What does one do when their garden is bursting with mint? Mojitos are always a good first stop, but when you want a non-alcoholic option - mint jelly is always a great next step.
English Mint Jelly
Yield: Approx 6 - 250ml jars
7 cups lightly packed and finely chopped English Mint leaves (divided in 2)
4.5 cups water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, filtered
4-6 drops green food colouring
7 cups sugar
2 pouches liquid pectin (6 oz total)
You will start with approximately 16 cups of mint leaves that have been removed from the stems. You want the leaves only. Wash and rinse 8 cups and then pat dry. Leave the remaining 8 cups until you are cooking the jam and repeat the same chopping process for them. Get the leaves as dry as possible and then finely chop either by hand or using a food processor.
Place the first 3.5 cups chopped mint into a pot and cover with 4.5 cups of water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let soak for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge.
Strain the juice over a bowl using a fine mesh sieve or a cheese cloth or bag. Throw out the mint and keep the juice. Cover it in the bowl and let it sit for an hour or overnight once again. Ladle the juice into another container being sure not to stir up any of the sediment that is resting on the bottom of the bowl. Throw out the sediment. Then if you want a nice clear jelly, strain the juice 2-3 times more using a coffee filter.
You will end up with 3.5 cups of the mint juice, nicely strained and clear.
In a medium pot, pour the mint juice, add the strained lemon juice and the green food colouring. Over medium heat warm the mixture slightly. While the mixture is heating, take your remaining 8 cups of mint leaves and chop finely and set aside. Once the mint juice is warm add all 7 cups of sugar. Stirring constantly until the suar dissolves and then increase the heat slightly to bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Stir in the liquid pectin and stirring constantly once again bring to a rolling boil. Once it achieves the rolling boil status keep it at this heat for a full minute. Remove the pan from the heat and add the chopped mint leaves.
Let mixture sit for 5 minutes so not all of the mint will float and then ladle into previously sanitized jars. Leave 1/4 headspace. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth and apply lids. Water bath for 10 minutes.