Mint Love

Mint is one of the easiest, most pleasurable herbs to grow. It’s perfect for patio gardens as it is both ornamental and functional. It’s also a perennial in most climates. Because mint is very hardy and invasive, it should only be grown in containers. Learn more about growing mint here. Mint comes in several flavors such as apple, orange and ginger. One my favorites is chocolate mint both for its flavor and appearance. Here, chocolate mint trails beside standard mint in my mint pot.

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I love to place mint stems in small vases on windowsills and in bathrooms. Paired with lavender and rosemary sprigs, they make a lovely, aromatic display. In my kitchen, herb bouquets stand ready for culinary use.

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As a little girl, my mother showed my how easy it is to root mint. Simply place a small vase of mint sprigs in a sunny window. In a week or two, your sprigs will have roots. I was always so amazed at this. I still am! If you have little ones about, they will be fascinated with the process.

IMG_0979.JPGOnce your sprigs have a nice set of roots, simply pot them, give them some water and voila! A new mint plant. I like to repurpose pots and containers by planting mint sprigs and giving them as gifts.

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I use rooted sprigs to replenish my own mint pot. As the summer wanes and my annual pots start to look a bit bedraggled, I often perk them up with mint like this patio container.

IMG_0978.JPGAugust is not the time most of us are thinking of starting new plants, but mint can be started any time. It will thrive outdoors until the first hard frost, and can be grown inside as well. Learn more about cultivating mint indoors here. There are many uses for mint. Once you have your own mint pot, look for ways to enjoy it. Some of my favorite recipes are Yogurt Mint Sauce, Strawberry, Mint and Black Pepper Jam and The Tranquillo, an absolutely delicious cocktail. Of course, we can’t forget that Cuban classic, the Mojito. You can usually find mint plants at your grocery store. I get mine at Trader Joe’s. Pick one up and, like me, you will fall in love with mint!
Bon appetit!
Tess

Confitures… The Joy Of Canning French Jam

Making jam, “confiture” in French, is a beloved tradition in France. When Americans think of canning, they often picture steaming stockpots, pressure cookers and rows and rows filled jars lining the pantry shelves. I know that’s what I thought! In France, it is quite common to can just one or two jars of confiture. Fruit is selected at the peak of ripeness and cooked with cane sugar, pectin, and a little lemon juice in a copper pot. Being high in acid, jams can be canned in a water bath which is safe, easy and doesn’t require lots of complicated equipment. Here is a great water-bath canning how-to.

I often make just a few jars of jam. Last week, I made one of my favorites… Raspberry and Rosé Jam. You can find the recipe here.

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Strawberry, Mint and Black Pepper Jam is another traditional recipe I love. Mint is one of the easiest, hardiest herbs to grow, and I’m always looking for ways to use it. Don’t be put off by the black pepper. The amount is small and you actually don’t taste it; rather, it offsets some of the sweetness of the strawberries and brings out the mint. You can find the recipe here.

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Of course, fruit tastes best when fresh and in season. When I see something fabulous I want to make into jam but don’t have the time, I vacuum seal and freeze it. Canning and vacuum sealing are my best friends when it comes to eating locally and seasonally! I just made a batch of jam using frozen, vacuum sealed strawberries.

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If, like me, you’re not putting up an entire pantry full of canned goods, you don’t need an industrial strength vacuum sealer! I have owned two Food Saver brand vacuum sealers over the past 20 years. Here is my second, current one. They are affordable and the customer service is excellent. Get one and it will soon become your best “eating seasonally and locally” friend, too!

Here is one last reason to make jam. A jar of jam makes a wonderful gift. Beyond being delicious and pretty to look at, they are personal. Recipients truly appreciate the care that goes into making them.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions.
Bon Appetit!
Tess