Mint is really quite the plant. It grows with such absolute vigor and abandon - it's kind of inspiring.
It was just a few months ago that I planted the patch of mint this basketful was harvested from. Already, I've cut it short twice, and it just keeps growing back more robustly than ever.
I dried the mint from those first two harvests, and now we'll have more than enough tea to last us the next couple of years. So it was time to do something else with this round of the mint harvest.
For some reason, Christmas has been on my mind already, and I've been on the prowl for new treat recipes to add to my Christmas cookie repertoire. These peppermint patties from Jessica over at Jay's Baking Me Crazy are right at the top of the list. And I figured if I'm going to be making something that calls for mint extract, it's a great excuse to make our own!
How to make mint extract
The kids loved getting in on this project! Izzy carefully used the kitchen shears to help harvest that basketful of mint stems, and was pretty proud of it.
To make a pint of mint extract, you'll need more mint than you might imagine. I find that a heaping half-peck basket (or about a gallon) of stems is perfect. Give them a rinse to get off any dirt, and pat the leaves dry.
Then it's time to strip the leaves from those heavy stems. Duncan thought this was the best. job. ever.
Tightly pack the leaves into a pint jar, or bottle. I particularly love these grolsch-style jars that I get from Amazon. They seal tightly, which makes them perfect for extracts, and also wonderful for fermented drinks like water kefir or kombucha.
The handle of a wooden spoon makes a perfect utensil for packing the leaves down inside. Be sure to leave a bit of head room - about an inch if you're using a pint jar, about 2 inches if you're using a narrow-necked bottle like these.
Once the leaves are packed down, fill the jar or bottle with vodka, pouring it in right over the leaves. It doesn't need to be great vodka. My feeling is that the quality of the mint has more to do with the caliber of the final product, than the vodka you choose.
Once the vodka is poured in, make sure the mint leaves are all well submerged. You might need to pack them down again to make sure they're all settled below the surface of the vodka.
Seal the jar or bottle tightly, and set it somewhere cool and dark. Over the first day or two, it's worth peeking in on it, to make sure the leaves have all stayed submerged. If you need to, go ahead and pack them down again. Very soon, they'll stay put, and you can just leave it to sit.
Let it sit for at least 3 weeks before using - it will just get better with time!
As with any infusion, your homemade mint extract will fare best if kept in a cool, dark place.
What wonderful recipes would you make with a batch of homemade mint extract? Because I now have way more than I know what to do with, and I need some great ideas for using it!
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