What is Mint Jelly?
Mint jelly is a condiment made in a canning process like other jellies. Thanks to the addition of green food coloring, this jelly transforms from its natural orange tone to a green more suited to its mint flavor. Real mint is used to make the jelly, but the leaves and stems are put through a strainer. Mint jelly is used mostly as an accompaniment to roast lamb.
Mint jelly is quite easy to find in grocery stores or online. It’s also a favorite condiment to make at home by people who do other types of canning or have mint in their garden. Homemade jellies can make great gifts when jars are presented with a green bow on top.
The first step in making mint jelly is to crush fresh, rinsed mint leaves slightly with the bottom of a cup or other utensil to help release the flavor. Then the mint leaves and stems are placed into a pot and covered with water. When the water has just reached a boil, the mint is left to sit in the water for about 10 minutes before being removed and strained through a herb strainer or cheesecloth.
The strained mint essence is measured and again boiled, this time with lemon juice, water, a few drops of green food coloring and sugar. Pectin is added to the boiling liquid to set the jelly. Foam that rises to the top of the pot is removed with a large spoon. The last step is to place the jelly into heated, sterile jars and seal the lids.
Some mint jelly makers prefer to use vinegar rather than lemon and some add chopped apples to make apple mint jelly. Green apples such as the Granny Smith variety can add a wonderful flavor to the jelly. Alcoholic versions may also be made or purchased. One brand is Aunt Bea's Mint Julep Jelly from Kentucky that contains bourbon, mint extract and fruit juices.
Real mint jelly is far from "quite easy to find", even in high-end gourmet stores. Most carry mint-flavored apple; the last store I checked had two brands of that, one English mint sauce, and one oddball mint jelly-like thing I don't remember the name of, but looked gross.
Ha! I never knew that the green came from food coloring -- though I should have suspected it -- what foods naturally come in such a bright, beautiful green. My two cents: don't just use mint jelly for lamb; it's works great with other types of meats, toast (of course), and if you really like the taste, it's a great alternative to your traditional peanut and butter jelly sandwich!
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