Tuesday, September 15, 2009
I cranked out four jars of mint jelly this evening after work. First, I went out to the garden, where Nick and I have a huge mint patch growing. We have spearmint, peppermint, and apple mint. All our mint is grown from cuttings I got from my mom over 15 years ago. I had not intended to propagate the mint; it was sitting for a week in a glass of water in our sunny kitchen windowsill. It sprouted roots, so I planted it. Our mint patch is now five square feet in area - it's pinned between the lawn, the sidewalk, and the edging. I often wonder why the entire earth is not covered in mint, that plant spreads so prolifically. Once upon a time, I did what any thinking gardener would do. I had my mint growing inside a bottomed-out five gallon bucket. It grew nicely there - civilized and contained. Until one day, I turned my back. It jumped the sides, and now instead of a few tame mint plants, I have a mint field. So tonight, I picked .0001% of my mint field, then brought the leaves into the house, where I sorted and washed them.
I had inadvertently brought inside a pillbug who had been enjoying the mint; I found him (or her) in the sink. I transported the bug back outside, so he could live out his (it is hoped) future peaceful life. Imagine the alien abduction stories this bug could tell it's mates ..."you would not BELIEVE this..I was eating dinner. All of a sudden, I was 6 feet in the air. I ended up under blinding lights, my body sprawled out on this white thing - it was huge and hard. I lost my mouthful of mint. Huge floods of water came rushing down onto me. I almost drowned. Just when I thought I was a goner, I was lifted up, and here I am, like it never happened. Joe, I'm tellin' ya. Aliens are REAL!"
I chopped the mint, and made a strong mint infusion by steeping it in boiling water. I squeezed out the infusion, using a self-invented contraption of colander combined with an old clean t-shirt from Nick (I was supposed to use cheesecloth, but the t-shirt was cheaper.) Combined 1 3/4 cups of this infusion with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, three and a half cups of sugar, boiled it, then added the liquid pectin. Brought to a boil, for one minute, and there I had it! Well, not actually, it was not green enough for me, so I added 2 drops of green food coloring. Here is lots more info on home preserving, if you're interested.
I poured my jelly into my prepared jars, then, for good measure, treated my jars to a boiling water bath. When making jellies or jams, you can get away with just using the 'hot pack' method, but I like to be doubly sure that all the little microbes are dead as doornails, so I use the boiling water bath. The jars are cooling in the kitchen right now. This whole process took me only one hour. Nick and I tasted a bit of the extra jelly, and it is good, for sure. I think I might try this next using some of the basil in our garden. I always make lots of pesto and freeze it, but maybe some basil jelly will be welcome in the snows of January to come. I bet that would taste pretty good? Basil jelly?