6 Ways to Use All the Mint Growing in Your Garden
Any gardener knows that mint, while a culinary powerhouse, is also a little bit opportunistic in your planting plot, and if you don't contain it in a pot it can take over your garden seemingly overnight. If you're currently prepping your garden, in fact, you might find that last year's small mint section has exploded into an abundant bush. Winnowing this back down to a rational amount of mint usually involves pulling up a bunch of it by the roots, leaving you with a pile of the fresh stuff, full of tender refreshing flavor, in need of use.
While mint is great muddled into cocktails, sprinkled in salads, and blended into sauces, those recipes don't require much of the fresh stuff. Here, now, are 6 genius way to the make the most of a LOT of mint, embracing its freshness while also preserving that springtime flavor for fall and winter to come.
1. Mint Tea
The easiest thing to do with large handfuls of fresh mint is to make mint tea. Literally just mint steeped in boiling water, it is delicious hot or iced, plain or sweetened, enhanced with lemon or orange or made grown-up with vodka or gin. I drink this refresher all season, from a hot cup in the morning to help wake me up, to large pitchers in the fridge for all-day hydration.
RELATED: 14 Refreshing Iced Teas
2. Mint Syrup/Candied Mint
This twofer is a great way to preserve mint. For starters, make a mint simple syrup for use in cocktails and homemade mint soda, or to sweeten lemonade. Use a 1:1:1 ratio of granulated sugar, water, and packed chopped fresh mint or whole mint leaves. I usually do a cup of each. Dissolve the sugar in the water over medium heat then add the mint and boil for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool to room temp, then strain out the mint and reserve. The syrup will have a light mint flavor and will last in the fridge for up to three months.
To make candied mint from the leaves, toss them in granulated sugar and spread them best you can in an even layer on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Bake at 150-200° for an hour, then let cool completely in the turned off oven. They should be dry and crunchy. Store at room temp in an airtight container. Chopped leaves will make nice crispy bits to use as a sprinkle on everything from yogurt to ice cream; whole leaves will be pretty on cakes or fancy desserts. If you want to level up, coat them in dark chocolate.
3. Mint Sugar
Mint sugar is a great thing to sweeten your tea, rim your cocktail glass, and use in sugar cookies or other baking. Simply blitz a 2:1 ratio of granulated sugar and packed fresh mint leaves in your food processor until the sugar is green and there are no large pieces of mint visible. Store the mint sugar in the fridge for up to a month. If you want to store it in the pantry, spread on a parchment-lined sheet pan in a shallow layer and bake at 150-200° for 1 hour to 90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the sugar feels dry. Let cool in the turned-off oven and store in an airtight container.
4. Mint Salt
Flavoring salt with fresh mint is a great way to season everything from salad dressing to steaks and lamb, or even as a great sprinkle on fresh fruit. Simply blitz a 2:1 ratio of flaky sea salt and packed fresh mint leaves in your food processor until the salt is green and there are no large pieces of mint visible. Spread on a parchment-lined sheet pan in a shallow layer and bake at 150-200° for 1 hour to 90 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until the salt feels dry. Let cool in the turned-off oven and store in an airtight container.
5. Mint Extract
Homemade mint extract is a two-ingredient wonder that will help keep your mint needs covered all year long. Pack as many mint leaves as you can cram into a small glass jar and top with vodka. Close the lid and store in a cool, dry place for 1-2 months, giving it a shake every day or so when you think of it. Test the flavor after a month, and then test once a week to see how intense it is (every mint plant is different). When it gets to the intensity you want, strain and store pretty much indefinitely.
6. Mint No-Churn Ice Cream
If you love mint chocolate chip ice cream, and have a lot of fresh mint? Get ready to DIY. Heat 2 cups of heavy cream with a cup of packed fresh mint leaves to a simmer, then turn off heat and let cool to room temp. Refrigerate overnight with the mint in it, then strain. Whip the mint cream to soft peaks, then fold in a can of sweetened condensed milk and a pinch of fine salt, and whip again to get back to soft peaks. Fold in chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips and freeze to scoopable.