In my garden I have some mint. My mum gave it to me as a cutting from the mint in her garden, which came from the mint at our old family home. Subsequently, cuttings and root clumps have been given to various friends and relatives. Last year, mum’s plant went into a decline, so this year a clump will be returned to her garden. Also last year my sister moved house and so another clump went to her for her new garden. I love the fact that this particular plant has a family history and that it has been valued by so many of us.
It’s not the usual peppermint that folks use in cooking, but a variety of apple mint, although one that has a stronger flavour than many I have encountered. It makes a very good herbal infusion (I refuse to call it tea) when fresh and is our mint of choice for making mint sauce to serve with lamb and mutton. In addition, I like to grow it amongst my soft fruit to suppress dock and nettle growth and attract insects when it flowers. There are also suggestions that growing aromatic herbs with fruit can repel insect pests – I’m not sure that we really suffer from pests on the raspberry, but perhaps it helps keep sawfly off the gooseberries. Anyway, I don’t think this sort of companion planting does any harm and I like the visual effect.
I ran out of mint sauce not long ago, so yesterday morning I made three more jars. It’s very easy, just chopped mint leaves in vinegar. The choice of vinegar has an effect on the flavour. When I was a child, we made it using malt vinegar and we “chopped” the leaves by passing them through a herb mill, which pulverises the leaves, squeezing some of the juice out. I do own a herb mill, but these days I prefer to chop my mint by hand using a mezzaluna – it’s a bit more time-consuming, but I like the texture and the blade is much easier to wash than the fiddly herb mill! Neither do I use malt vinegar, but instead prefer the more subtle flavour of cider vinegar. Because of the vinegar fumes, you shouldn’t store mint sauce in jars with metal lids, so I have put mine in little preserving jars with glass lids this year.
This is my first foray into preserving this year, but I know that there will be much more to come.