To me, having a vegetable garden and eating fresh produce is only part of the equation. The real joy comes in the winter when you can head down to the cellar, pick up a bottle or jar, and then cook something wonderful that tastes fresh – as if you picked it that day.
I love preserving as much as I love growing things, so it’s only natural that two weeks ago I bulk ordered a load of jars and bottles so that I can save a good portion of the harvest for the winter. I’ve got plans for herb syrups, herb teas, herb alcohols, tomato pasta sauce, herb jellies, gherkins and all manner of frozen vegetables and herbs.
A few weeks ago I started by cutting back the mint plant and hanging it up to dry. It was an experiment really – was it better to freeze mint or dry it for tea? When I freeze herbs I stick them in an ice cube tray and then I can just pop one into the filter of my tea pot and pour hot water over it. These dried herbs I did by hanging them upside down in mesh bags in our exercise room upstairs.
It worked! The mint is beautiful – and you can keep the leaves as whole as possible. Not like those horrid tea bags (even the expensive ones) that just have dusty old bits of mint plant that have probably been in storage for a few years.
And then yesterday I noticed that the mint plant had started to get a bit enthusiastic again, so it cut it all down and made the Mint Syrup from Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No.2.
For future reference I’m leaving these pictures here. This is the mint plant before and after I’d harvested just about enough to make one 500ml bottle of syrup: