Making and using mint jelly.

One of my daughters asked to have her own little garden plot this year, and one of the things she grew in it was peppermint:

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I asked her to harvest some mint for me today so I could make some Mint Jelly, and she obligingly brought me a basketful:

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I pulled off the leaves, washed them in a colander, chopped up 1 1/2 cups of them and put them in a pot with 2 1/4 cups water:

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I brought the leaves and water to a boil, then removed the pot from the heat and let the leaves steep for ten minutes, after which I poured it through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. I then poured 1 3/4 cup of the strained mint juice into a pan, added 3 1/2 cups sugar, 2 drops of green food coloring (optional) and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and brought the mixture to a hard boil, stirring constantly.

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I added one pouch (3 ounces) of liquid fruit pectin and returned the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly and allowing it to boil hard for one minute.

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After one minute, I turned off the heat and skimmed off the foam on the surface.

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I poured the liquid into four half-pint canning jars and put on the lids and rings.

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I then processed the jars in a water bath canner for five minutes.

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The bright green color is so pretty, but I normally don’t add food coloring.  If you don’t add the coloring, the jelly will be a nice golden honey color.  However, I added the coloring this time because I want to use this jelly to fill thumbprint cookies at Christmas.  I’ll also make thumbprints filled with raspberry jam, and the green and red filled cookies will look festive together on plates for the holidays.

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I got this recipe from the website of the National Center for Home Food Preservation.  Frankly, though I’m not a big fan of the federal government, if we must have one then I think researching food preservation techniques and teaching food safety and home canning to people is a very good use of government funds. They have access to food safety laboratories to conduct research that we home canners can use to safely preserve homegrown food for our families.

Here is the recipe:

  • 1-¾ cups mint juice (1½ cups firmly packed fresh mint and 2¼ cups water)
  • 3-½ cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin (3 oz.)

Yield: About 3 or 4 half-pint jars

Procedure:

  1. Sterilize canning jars and prepare two-piece canning lids according to manufacturer’s directions.
  2. Wash mint, crush leaves and stems or finely chop. Place in saucepan, add water and bring quickly to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes. (A few drops of green food coloring can be added if desired.) Strain to remove mint. Discard mint.
  3. Measure 1-¾ cups mint juice into a large saucepot. Stir in the sugar and lemon juice. Place on high heat, stir constantly and bring to a full boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the liquid pectin and heat again to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat; quickly skim off foam.
  4. Pour hot jelly immediately into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; adjust two-piece metal canning lids.
  5. Process in a Boiling Water Canner for five minutes.

So, what can you do with mint jelly?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Use it as a glaze for rack of lamb or leg of lamb (this is especially nice for Easter)
  • Stir a teaspoonful into a cup of hot tea to sweeten it and add a minty flavor
  • put a smear of cream cheese on a water cracker and top with a dollop of mint jelly (I’ve never done this, but I’ve heard tell that they do down south)
  • spread Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread) on a graham cracker and add a thin layer of mint jelly
  • fill jam thumbprint cookies

If you have any other suggestions for using mint jelly, I’d love to hear about it!

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Christmas cookie recipe: Buckeyes

One time when it is particularly nice to live within walking distance of a working farm is when you run out of eggs midway through a Christmas-cookie baking marathon.  Mrs. L. just keeps the eggs on the porch, no need to knock dear, just drop your cash in the box and take however many you need…

My mother and grandmother, and who knows, probably even many of my great grandmothers before them, were avid Christmas cookie bakers. My mother and grandmother always made candy cane cookies, Russian tea cakes, gingerbread men, press cookies, goodie bars, and some Polish cookie whose name I can’t remember made with nuts and a honey syrup.

Of course, nearly everyone else’s mother and grandmother made lots of Christmas cookies too back when I was a young girl, and one of my favorite things about Christmas was exchanging plates of homemade treats with friends and neighbors and seeing what other kids’ moms made for Christmas. Our neighbors from the time we moved to Caledonia when I was 13 were the Prices, and Mrs. Price introduced us to a new Christmas cookie, Church Windows, which are made with colored mini marshmallows that are supposed to resemble church stained glass windows. I made these for the first time last year, but my family didn’t much like them.

A few years ago, one of my co-workers gave me a plate of cookies that included a heavenly little cookie she called “buckeyes” because they look like the nuts dropped from the Buckeye tree. I’d never heard of them or tried them, but it turns out they are not uncommon at Christmas. I tried making them the next year, and my family loved them, so they’ve become a staple at our house at the holidays. Here is my recipe to make the ones you see below beside the mini pumpkin-cranberry loaves, but if you don’t like mine, there are lots of other versions of this same recipe available online:

Buckeyes and Pumpkin Bread

My buckeyes and pumpkin-cranberry bread.

Sunshine’s Christmas Buckeyes

  • 3 c crunchy peanut butter (I use the natural kind without hydrogenated oils but any kind will work)
  • 2 c unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 12 c powdered sugar
  • 8 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

1. In a very large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and peanut butter. Beat in the vanilla, then the powdered sugar one cup at a time.

2. Roll into one-inch balls and place on waxed paper to chill. This recipe makes a LOT of cookies, so what I do is use a plastic storage bin and layer the cookie balls in it between layers of waxed paper, snap the lid on tight, then put it in our unheated garage to chill overnight. If you cut this recipe in half, you could probably just layer the cookies on waxed paper on a cookie sheet and put them in the refrigerator. But trust me, you’re going to want the full recipe.

3. When chilled, melt 2-4 cups of the chocolate chips in a class bowl on medium power in 45 second intervals, stirring in between, until melted. You’ll melt more as you need it.

4. Stick a toothpick into each chilled cookie ball and dip into melted chocolate, coating the bottom and sides. Place on waxed paper on cookie sheets to cool. When the chocolate has hardened, layer the buckeyes between sheets of waxed paper in a container with a lid and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

While you are busy in the kitchen, have a listen to one of my favorite versions of “What Child is This?”