I use fresh mint quite often in cooking, for making minted vinegar for lamb chops, adding to salad dressings, throwing together a chopped herb coating for grilled or roasted chicken, fish, or meat. So I always have a pot of mint growing near my herb garden. I say near not in because mint is so rapacious, it will gobble up any herb garden it’s planted in.
Last summer, however, when we went to Europe for three weeks in the middle of the summer (not my favorite time to travel to Europe, but to sing in fabulous places, I’ll make an exception) I moved my large mint pot over into my kitchen herb garden to insure that it would be regularly watered while we were gone.
And then I forgot about it.
Within a few short months, the sneaky herb had escaped from its terra cotta prison and sent runners out in every direction. I have pulled them back, pruned them off, and it seems only to make the mint more determined. It’s like the minty version of the invasion of the barbarians upon Rome–it just keeps swarming forth.
My intent now is to try to extract the pot from the garden soil (which may prove difficult) and pull up its progeny. I have my doubts about whether even that will arrest its advance permanently. But, before I do, I’m going to strip all those runner shoots of their beautiful minty leaves and celebrate Saturday’s running of the Kentucky Derby by making about a jillion Mint Juleps.
Gotta do something with all that mint, right?
Now a regular Julep contains some sugar, in various recipes used to either muddle the mint leaves or to make a simple syrup to sweeten the bourbon. Most recipes call for a tablespoon of simple syrup, which would be equivalent to about a teaspoon and a half of sugar or 7 grams of carb. For a single alcoholic treat, that’s not too bad, but who wants a single Julep on a hot summer day? Loving the taste of a Julep, but not wanting the sugar load, about a year or two ago, I came up with low carb mint julep about which I blogged about previously.
That method makes a single handcrafted drink. Lovely to be sure, but with all this mint at hand, I may need to speed up the process. I figure my best option is to make a Sugar-Free Minted Simple Syrup to keep in the refrigerator. Much faster for making Juleps in batches for a large crowd or serial Juleps in rapid succession. It’s the method they use at the Kentucky Derby, so I’m given to understand, so it ought to be plenty Kentucky-kosher for me.
Sugar-Free Minted Simple Syrup
2 cups granular Splenda
2 cups water (try to use bottled water, so you don’t get a chlorine-y taste)
1 teaspoon ThickenThin not/Sugar
6 springs fresh mint, clean and dry
1. In a saucepan, combine the Splenda and water over medium low heat, stirring to dissolve.
2. Whisk in the ThickenThin not/Sugar and raise the heat to bring to a boil.
3. Remove from the heat and pour into a container with a tightly fitting lid. Add the mint sprigs, seal, and allow to steep at room temperature until cool enough to refrigerate.
4. Chill overnight and (if there’s any left) store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
To make a Julep with simple syrup:
1. Fill a Julep cup or old fashioned glass with crushed ice.
2. Add 1 tablespoon Sugar-Free Minted Simple Syrup, 2 ounces good bourbon and stir until condensation appears on the outside of the Julep cup to be sure the drink is icy cold. Add a splash of soda (if desired) and a garnish of fresh mint.
As to which bourbon to use, tastes vary. The Derby, I’m told, uses Early Times. Some people prefer Jack Daniels, Gentleman Jack, or one of the expensive single barrel varieties, such as Knob Creek or Blanton’s. In my youth, I’d always been partial to Southern Comfort, simply because it’s already sweet, but since my brain transplant happened 20-odd years ago vis a vis consuming quantities of sugar, I have tended toward the Wild Turkey (the 80 proof, not the 101, which I find just too raw.)
Recently, however, Mike stumbled upon an article by Eric Felton in his regular Saturday romp through the Wall Street Journal Weekend edition that made a fine case for the attributes of the relatively inexpensive Evan Williams black label aged sour mash for Juleps. Based on Mr. Felton’s review, we decided to give the Evan black a whirl. I have to agree that it makes a dandy Julep, just the right combination of flavors and it doesn’t break the bank to buy it in the quantities I’ll need to purge my garden of all this mint!