Dealing with the June Drop – How to Make Mint Sauce

One of the most frustrating things about growing any crop is when, for the sake of improving the quality of yield, you have to remove fruits or seedlings. To me this seems to be wrong. I know thinning seedlings means that the plants that remain have more space to develop and grow healthily, but the very fact that I’ve nurtured them to that point means I feel a sense of attachment and of lost potential. That’s why, whenever I can, I use the thinnings in meals. When it comes to apples, nature, as if to ensure I don’t get lazy and just let things go, steps in with the ‘June Drop’. The annual time of year when the apple tree chooses to drop a few of the extra fruits, self regulating to give those fruit that remain the best chance of forming properly and going on to ripen to their potential.

I know its July, but the drop has only just happened in earnest and the apple trees at the plot have a scattering of undersized, under ripe, apples in the grass below. Unripe apples are not a culinary highlight of the year, but they do have one great asset. Pectin. Like the super-sour crab apple, these dropped fruits are full of pectin and when tempered with sugar they are also light on flavour. As such they can be used in preserves to produce a beautiful herb jelly. This month has also seen a mint infused takeover of the allotment. The ever invasive herb has spread its refreshing leaves between and beneath almost al of the top half of the plot. So in effort to capture the mintiness for later in the season when mint suffers in the baking heat, I made mint jelly. The perfect accompaniment to roast lamb, and infinitely better than the supermarket fluorescent green version.

mint jelly

You will need (makes  jars)
500g unripe apples (cooking apples would do the job if apples are actually in season)
1 bunch of mint
Granulated sugar
30ml white wine vinegar

Chop the apples roughly; if they are small, then just chop them in half. Add to a pan with the bunch of mint and enough water to barely cover the apples. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or so, until the fruit is very soft. Pour the contents into a scolded jelly bag and leave to drip overnight. Don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag, or poke it, as this will effect the clarity of your jelly.

straining the pulp

Measure the strained juice, before adding the sugar. For every 200ml of liquid you will need 150g of sugar. Return the liquid to the cleaned out pan, with the addition of the vinegar. Heat to boiling point, stirring to ensure the sugar is dissolved properly. Continue to boil for 10 minutes or so, until the setting point is reached. For this I use a jam thermometer and wait until the bubbling liquid gets to 104°C, before removing from the heat, skimming off the scum, and then pouring into warm, sterilised jars. Once sealed with a lid, the mint jelly will last up to a year. Not that it will last that time, as it’s an irresistible accompaniment to lamb.

mint jelly

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The Macro Allotment

May is the month when plants spring into life and a trip the allotment always brings something new emerging from the ground. It’s the month when fruit forms and crops start to swell.

I’m dead chuffed to be shortlisted in the FOOD category for the BIBS (Brilliance in Blogging Award). If you think I deserve to be in the final then please vote for me by clicking on the picture below. Thank you for all your support!

BiB Food 2014

 

Time for (Mint) Tea

In out house we are not aversed to a cup of tea. In fact we drink a load of it throughout a typical day. Whilst I really enjoy a fine cup of Earl Grey (never with milk mind you), I like the idea of growing my own tea. Not blessed with a Himalayan climate here on the south coast, I’m not sure if it’s even possible (I know that there is a commercial tea plantation in Cornwall). So, I’ve decided to embrace the herbal tea and have turned excess spring mint growth into a warm, yet refreshing brew. It turns out that mint tea made with mint leaves (not from a bag) is not only easily made, but also infinitely more refreshing and clean tasting. It tastes so healthy that I had to find out what benefits it could be bringing me and it transpires it has some real health benefiting properties. As well as the obvious plus of being caffeine free, mint tea has long been recognised as aiding digestion, relieving stress and even helping with nausea. What’s more it’s the perfect drink to make at the allotment on a spring day.
mint tea
You will need
A cups worth of just boiled water
4 or 5 sprigs of mint (take the new growth as it’s the freshest)
Kettle or teapot

Once your water is boiled, place the mint leaves into your teapot and pour the water over the mint. Leave it to steep for 5 minutes or so before pouring into your cup to drink. I used a natty camping kettle with a strainer built in, but anything which allows you to filter the liquid would be fine. Pop a couple of mint leaves in your cup and sit back and enjoy a refreshing cuppa.

Mint tea and kettle