Tag Archives: mint

Making the Most of Mint

If you have seen mint growing in the ground then you know – give it an inch, and it will take a yard…and perhaps the sidewalk too. What to do with all that mint? After sipping a cup of fresh mint tea, you can harvest all those leaves to make delicious mint jelly and dry them for a year’s worth of refreshing mint tea. (You may also want to dig up those plants and re-plant them into containers – mint does well in pots.)

Classic Mint Jelly requires the addition of a strongly acidic ingredient in order to produce a gel-structure, as you’ll see in our recipes for Mint Jelly (with cider vinegar) and Mint Jelly (with lemon juice). These two recipes are very similar, but the quantities of mint and water vary slightly to adjust to the required proportion of a strong acid ingredient (i.e. more vinegar than lemon juice, so less water added to the version with vinegar). Green food coloring is listed in the ingredient list for the version made with cider vinegar, but it is optional, and note that it is also optional in the recipe made with lemon juice. Mint Jelly is traditionally served with roast lamb, and it can also be mixed into other sauces and gravies.

Mint is a tender-leaf herb, which means that it has high moisture content and therefore will mold if not dried quickly. To dry mint, try hanging it inside a paper bag that has holes torn in the sides for air to circulate through. Use a rubber band to secure the base of the stems to the top do the bag. The bottom of the bag will catch the dried leaves as they fall. If you live in a region with high humidity and/or don’t have a location where air currents can pass through the bag, then you may get better results from drying leaves individually. To do so, remove leaves from the stems, space them apart on a paper towel, cover with another paper towel and layer up to 5 layers. Place the layers of paper towels and leaves in a cool oven – the oven light of an electric range or pilot light of a gas range will be enough. (Higher heat could easily burn the leaves, and the paper.) The finished, crispy dry leaves can be left whole or crumpled into an airtight storage container. Dried mint is can be substituted into recipes that call for fresh mint, using 1/3-1/4 of the amount listed.

For more information about growing and using mint, read this publication from UGA Extension: Herbs in Southern Gardens.

The Heat Is On

Do you have the heat on in your house to stay warm this time of year? If you do, then make the most of that dry air and dry some herbs at home!

All it really takes to dry most herbs is to expose the leaves or flowers to warm, dry air. Gently flowing air and good ventilation will help pull moisture away from the herbs as it evaporates. If you have an accessible heat vent, then near the vent and moving air may be an excellent location to hang or place herbs to dry them — as long as the plants are not actually touching the vent, in order to prevent a fire hazard. You also want to protect the herbs from dust or contaminants coming out of the vents; see below.

There are two categories to apply to herbs for drying purposes: less tender herbs and tender-leaf herbs.

Less tender herbs include rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory and parsley. These are easy to dry by simply tying them into small bundles and hanging them.

Drying herbs

Tender-leaf herbs such as basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm, and mint contain more moisture, so they need to be dried quickly or else they could mold. Their leaves and seeds may also fall off the stems, so try hanging these herbs in paper bags to so that they are caught before falling to the ground. Tear or punch holes in the side of a bag then secure a small bunch of herbs inside the bag with a rubber band. For the herbs to dry quickly, hang the bag where an air current will pass through it.

Leaves are dry when they are crispy and crumble easily when handled. Dried leaves can be left whole or crumbled. Place the dried herbs in airtight containers and store them in a cool, dry, dark area to protect their color and fragrance.

Remember that dried herbs are about three to four times stronger in flavor than fresh herbs, so if you are substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs in a recipe then use ¼ to 1/3 of the amount listed.

Read Drying Herbs for more information about drying herbs using a dehydrator and an oven.

Illustration of herbs drying in paper bag is from “So Easy to Preserve”, 6th ed. 2014. Bulletin 989, (c) Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.