Nothing reminds me more of early summer than the smell of fresh mint. For a short window, before the bugs perforate it and the rust sets in, mint is at its verdant, rampant best. At this time of year, especially in a wet year like this one, the mint stalks are soft and the new tips are greener than green.
There are a hundred and one types of mint you can grow but for maximum mintyness I prefer the stiff pointy leaves of a good true spearmint. One sniff of these crushed leaves and you’d swear you were eating snifter lollies or spearmint gum. This particular mint is my Grandad’s mint that he used to grow in a concrete laundry tub by the back door. My Dad still grows it the same way and so do I. I’m using it to make my Gran’s mint sauce recipe which makes me a third generation grower and maker of this little garden to table combo!
My Gran was a “bit of this and handful of that” kind of cook, so getting any sort of quantities and method from her was a challenge. “Add just enough and stir till it’s done”, was her usual response. But this little recipe is a good one. She made it as a concentrate and watered it down to serve in a cut glass with the Sunday roast of lamb or mutton. I’ve expanded on her instructions a bit for you!
Gran’s Mint Sauce
- 1-quart (1 liter) bottle of vinegar – I use wine or cider vinegar
- 1 lb (450g) of brown sugar – I use raw sugar and you can use less quite safely
- 1/2 cup plain salt (that’s un-iodised – I use sea salt)
- 3 cups of chopped mint
- Sterilize small glass jars or bottles to take the volume of sauce you’re making – you want ones with non-reactive screw top lids and wide mouths so you can get the chopped mint in. I put the bottles in an oven on 140°F, 60°C to sterilize them. This also means they’re less likely to crack than cold bottles when you pour the hot sauce in.
- In a non-reactive pan, boil the vinegar, sugar, and salt and keep it boiling gently
- Wash and finely chop the mint – really fine – the finer the better.
- Sit the bottles on a wooden chopping board and pack the mint evenly into each bottle
- Pour the boiling vinegar mix on top and fasten with sterilized non-reactive lids. Gran used cellophane and rubber bands.
- To serve, shake the bottle to mix, pour a little sauce into a jug and dilute to taste with cold water.
I like to use this mint sauce in marinades and dressings even more than I love it on roast meat. Uncut it makes a mean addition to mayonnaise for a minty new potato salad. It will keep quite happily on your pantry shelf for a whole year.
How do you like to use mint?
Couple of Tips:
- A wooden chopping board lessens the risk of bottles breaking when they’re full of hot sauce and being put down on a hard or cold work surface.
- Mint is a perennial plant that dies down in some parts of the country over winter – so don’t think you’ve killed it if it disappears from your garden.
- Screw your pantry shelving unit to the wall if it is freestanding and fit little guards across the shelves to stop jars falling off in an earthquake and smashing. I’ve taken mine down for the photo but my shelves have that plastic coated curtain wire across each one.