Ask Eric: How to turn fresh mint into a sauce worth preserving

Dear Eric: I have been looking for a recipe for making mint sauce in large amounts with no luck. My family loves lamb and our mint is lovely right now, but we’ve not found a recipe that allows me to make a large batch and then bottle for use during the year. Your help would be much appreciated.

Carol Futcher

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Dear Carol: I tinkered around in the kitchen and came up with a mint-sauce recipe for you. It can be sealed in canning jars, to be at the ready in your pantry when you need some of this classic condiment to serve with lamb.

It’s not complicated, but does have quite a beguiling sweet-and-sour flavour. The sweet taste comes from plain old sugar; the sour edge from two types of vinegar — malt and cider.

Making it mint sauce, of course, is the addition of chopped fresh mint, whose taste gets infused into the sugar/vinegar mixture through simmering.

Lemon juice, salt and pepper also contribute to the overall flavour.

The recipe yields six, one-cup (250 mL) jars of mint sauce and requires two cups of loosely packed fresh mint leaves. If desired, you could also can the mint sauce in 12 smaller, half-cup (125 mL) jars. And, if you’re really crazy for mint sauce, the recipe could easily be doubled.

Carol, it sounds as if you have a bounty of mint available, so below the mint-sauce recipe you’ll find another recipe for mint and walnut pesto. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days and can also be frozen for later use. For suggestions on how to use this vibrant-tasting and -looking pesto, see the introduction to the recipe.

 

Canned Mint Sauce

This minty sweet-and-sour condiment goes beautifully with lamb.

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: About 6 minutes

Processing time: 15 minutes

Makes: 6 (1 cup/250 mL) jars

2 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups malt vinegar

1 cup cider vinegar

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves, washed, dried and finely chopped (about 1 cup once chopped)

Sterilize 6, 1 cup (250 mL) canning jars in boiling water 10 minutes. Sterilize 6 canning jars lids in boiling water 5 minutes.

While that is happening, place sugar, vinegars, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a medium, non-reactive (not aluminum) pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer 1 minute, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in the mint and gently simmer 5 minutes more.

Place drained, sterilized jars on a work surface. Pour in the mint sauce, leaving a 1Ú2-inch headspace at the top of each jar. Wipe rims and centre and set a sterilized lid on each jar. Set on the jars’ screwbands and turn just until fingertip-tight.

Heat-process the jars in boiling water for 15 minutes. Set them on a rack to cool at room temperature for 24 hours. Check the seal. A properly sealed lid will be concave (curve downward). Label and date the mint sauce and store in a cool, dark place until needed. Refrigerate after opening.

Mint-Walnut Pesto

This stunning green, walnut-rich pesto can be slathered on lamb leg or rack before roasting, or tossed into hot, boiled miniature potatoes to flavour them after boiling.

The pesto could also be used as a sandwich spread, or to flavour soups, such as carrot, asparagus or barley.

You could also mix the pesto into mayonnaise to create a fine-tasting dip for raw vegetable sticks.

In fact, use it in any other way you see fit.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: About 1 1/4 cups

4 cups loosely packed fresh mint

3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (not the dried powdered stuff)

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients, except oil, in a food processor and pulse until chopped.

Add the oil and process until well blended. Add a bit more oil if you find the pesto too thick.

Refrigerate the pesto in a tightly sealed jar with a skim of olive oil on top. It will keep about 10 days.

The pesto could be frozen in ice cubes trays or small tubs.

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