Thursday, July 19, 2012

come-and-get-it mint tea

The following article first appeared in the Daily News Record on July 18, 2012.


Earlier this summer, I made a batch of tea concentrate, decimating the patch of mint growing out by the water pump. Thanks to the record temps, we guzzled most of our stash faster than I expected.

Where to get more mint? I wondered. Probably, there were lots of people with rampant mint patches who would be delighted to let me have some if they only knew I needed it, but I didn’t know who those people were. So I did the only logical thing. I turned to Facebook.

I am a reluctant Facebook user. Back in the beginning, I used it sporadically—on several different occasions Facebook sent me messages checking to see if I was still alive—but gradually, I got hooked.

While I find the commentary and pictures entertaining (though sometimes overwhelming), I especially appreciate Facebook’s power to yield tangible results. Once I whined in my status update that I couldn’t find a brown shirt anywhere, and the next Sunday, a woman from church handed me a new one. Also, I’ve asked for and received movie recommendations, advice on recipes and Broadway shows, and empty laundry detergent bottles for my homemade laundry soap.

So while I might not be the biggest Facebook enthusiast, I’m not stupid. A shortage of mint meant it was time for a new status update.

“Anybody have a boatload of mint they want to get rid of?” I wrote. “I'd take a half bushel, loosely packed.”

Almost immediately, I got a “Come and get it!” response. I barely knew this person but that didn’t stop her from graciously giving me directions to her house. The next evening, my husband and I stopped by.

“Are you sure you don’t want this?” I asked, worried that I was taking advantage of her hospitality.

“No, no! Take it all! It will grow back.”

Maybe she truly wanted to get rid of the mint, but a part of me wondered if she was hesitant to tell a scissors-brandishing strange woman to lay off the aggressive snipping. In any case, I decided to take her words at face value. I filled my brown grocery bag and said thank you.

Back home, as I poured the boiling sugar-water syrup over the sprigs, the heady smell of fresh mint filled the sultry, summer-night air. The next morning, I would strain the tea, add the lemon juice, and ladle the concentrate into pint jars. We would have enough mint tea to last us at least another month or so.

And all because of Facebook.

Mint Tea Concentrate

There are many types of mint—apple, lemon, chocolate, peppermint, and spearmint, and smooth-leafed or fuzzy—all of which can be used for the tea. Keep in mind that mint harvested later in the summer is more potent than the early mint.

enough mint (roughly 2½ pounds) to fill a 12-16 quart kettle
2½ to 3 pounds sugar
1 gallon water
the juice of 3 or 4 lemons

Gently wash the mint and cut off the brown leaves and any flowering tops. Pack the mint—both the stems and the leaves—into a 16-quart kettle.

Combine the water and sugar in a large kettle and bring to a gentle boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the syrup over the mint, weigh the mint down with a glass pie plate, and lid the kettle. Let steep overnight, about 12 hours.

Strain the tea. I first pour it through a sieve and then, to get out any little remaining bits, through a cheesecloth. Stir in the lemon juice. Freeze in 1½ cup portions.

To serve, thaw one jar of concentrate and add enough water to make a half gallon. Pour the tea into frosty, ice-filled glasses and garnish with a sprig of mint and several frozen red raspberries.

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