If you are a semi-lazy gardener like me, you might not be so vigilant keeping your mint in quarantine in your garden. I actually did go to the trouble of burying a terra cotta pot in the my veggie patch – but that dastardly, determined mint beat me and sent plucky runners out all over the garden.
When it came time for my mid-summer clean-up, I ripped up as much mint as I could, which left me with way more mint on my hands than I could drink in mojitios (and that’s a lot of mint, folks). So I turned to this magic mint syrup elixir. Like all my favorite preserving recipes, you smash everything up, add liquid, let it soak overnight, and then finish it the next day. It’s sort of remedial preserving, since you don’t have to fuss around with precise timing and boiling points. And all the while, your house smells like a Candyland board game come to life, with the sweet-spicy smell of mint forests heavy in the air.
A good glug of this syrup makes everything taste like summer: add some to lemonade, cocktails, or plain seltzer water. And if you’re still hankering to keep making after the syrup is done, doodle up a couple simple labels and presto! You’ve solved a problem in the garden plus you have sweet hostess gifts to last the rest of the season. Sha-bam!
This recipe is adapted from my all-time favorite preserving book, The River Cottage Preserves Handbook by Pam Corbin, which is now available in the US, hooray!
Mint Syrup (makes about four cups)
About a cup of fresh mint leaves
Juice from 1 lemon
2 cups sugar, more or less to taste
1 teaspoon sea salt
Tear the leaves into shreds. Squeeze lemon juice into a large bowl. Add the mint and pound with the end of a wooden rolling pin. Add the sugar and the salt and continue to crush the mint leaves to release their menthol essence. Leave 8-10 hours or overnight to macerate.
Pour 2 cups boiling water over the mint mixture and leave to stand another 12 hours.
Strain the syrup through a very fine sieve into saucepan. Gently bring to simmering point and simmer for a few minutes. Pour into warm, sterilized jars or bottles and seal. The syrup will keep unopened for a couple months. Once opened, store in the fridge.