In spite of our efforts to contain the mint, it spread beyond its designated area. We planted three different varieties (spearmint, chocolate mint, Bergamot mint), one plant of each in different areas, and each is staging a takeover. The plants spread by sending out shoots along the ground as well as seeding, and they expand very quickly. We decided to experiment with containment by planting the spearmint in a large nursery bucket (with the bottom cut out to allow for drainage) and set it in the ground. The other two mints we planted directly into the soil. The spearmint had more vertical growth while the other two spread quickly along the ground. Though not a strict scientific experiment, the results made us decide to continue setting mint in containers before putting into the soil.
Two weeks ago I went out into the garden, scissors in hand, and snipped the spearmint back into submission. By the time I finished snipping, I had three grocery bags full and the heady aroma of mint on my hands, arms, and clothes. It was a shame to wash it off. I gave away two bags of the mint and used the rest to make ice cream and jelly.
Michael was not thrilled about either the ice cream or the jelly and asked me to not make too much, but I just figured that meant more for me. The ice cream recipe comes from Cooking with Shelburne Farms, one of my very favorite cookbooks. At Shelburne Farms they make the ice cream using their own mint, cream, and honey. You can't beat that for freshness!
I used our homegrown spearmint, though other mint varieties would be interesting to try, and followed the recipe pretty much exactly except I used a vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract. The ice cream is very smooth and creamy and is a joy to dish up, and I fell hard for the fresh flavor. And since mint and chocolate are a match made in heaven, I added some mini chocolate morsels towards the end of the churning.
As for Michael, was he converted?
"Wow, that doesn't look or taste anything like store-bought mint ice cream."
That was the best compliment he could have given me.
This is my contribution to this week's edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, a weekly event founded by the fabulous Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. This week's host is Valentina of Trembom English Version, so check out her blog next week for the round-up! [Update: The round-up is posted!]
Fresh Mint Ice Cream
- food processor or bowl and pestle
- medium saucepan
- medium bowl
- large bowl (for ice bath)
- fine mesh strainer
- ice cream freezer
- ⅔ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2½ cups whole milk
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean (split and scraped or ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract - If using extract, add it in Step 5.)
- 4 large egg yolks
- ¼ cup honey (light color and flavor)
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup chopped dark chocolate ( or mini chocolate chips, optional)
- Put the mint leaves and the sugar into the food processor bowl. Process until the mint is finely ground. If you do not have a food processor, put the sugar and mint leaves into a bowl and use a pestle to grind the leaves into the sugar.
- In the medium saucepan, warm the milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean (not the vanilla extract) over medium heat. Stir occasionally.
- In the medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth, then add the sugar and mint mixture and whisk until combined.
- When the milk mixture steams and is hot but not simmering, whisk ¼ cup of the hot milk into the egg mixture, then whisk in another ¼ cup of the hot milk. This helps temper the eggs so they don't scramble when you add them to the hot milk. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the tempered egg mixture.
- Return the saucepan to the cooktop over medium heat. Add the honey and salt. Cook, stirring, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes. Do not allow the mixture to boil. When you draw your finger across the spoon, it should leave a clear mark through the custard. If you choose to use vanilla extract instead of the vanilla bean, add the extract now.
- Quickly set the saucepan into the large bowl filled with ice water to cool the custard. You can also pour the custard into another heat proof pan if you prefer. Stir the custard for a few minutes. Cover and refrigerate until completely cold, at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.
- Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer to separate the mint leaves and the vanilla bean. Churn the custard in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturers directions.