Before I left for my trip abroad in early July, the few houseplants I owned were flourishing. Well, at least for me. My little balcony faces Northeast, so is not in an ideal location for gardening.
Last summer I had one cherry tomato plant that only bore 2-3 tomatoes, so I thought it was a dud. But I didn't give up on it. Come wintertime, I brought it inside and managed to keep it alive until late spring by giving it a bit of water and what little light filtered through our blinds.
It not only survived, but gave me quite a bit of fruit this summer. Until the birds and squirrels ate them all! At least something enjoyed them...
My apple mint plant also enjoyed a comeback this year. Before my trip to Europe, mint tendrils were flowing out of the container every which way. After my vacation...not so much. Yet, somehow it survived nearly two weeks without any water.
Peppermint is very resilient.
I picked away the dead leaves, tended it with daily waterings, and it started to come back within the next month. It has still not reached its former glory, but it's producing mint. That's all I ask.
Because I like having fresh mint on hand.
So much so that I even pick the leaves and chew on them. It makes your breath smell nice and is an instant pick-me-up.
Seriously, try it some time. Just don't do it in the grocery store by all the other herbs. You'll look like a weirdo. ;)
Having your own mint plant has other perks: namely mojitos.
If you haven't tried a mojito (even a mocktail version), please, please, please remedy that.
And at the end of the season when your plant is still overflowing, you have an easy way to preserve the bright, minty flavors for the wintertime: make peppermint extract.
I've been meaning to make my own peppermint extract for, gosh, the last five years at least.
Obviously, I am a very motivated, Type-A person
It all started when I used to make homemade cocktails back in Kansas City from the fresh herbs on my deck. I made martinis with blueberry vodka and lemonade, strawberry basil cocktails, and even mojitos.
These days I don't drink as much (hardly at all, really), but I still love tinkering with DIY projects like homemade vanilla extract.
Naturally, I reached a point where the mint needed using up, and I wanted to plan ahead for homemade holiday gifts.
Hence this peppermint extract recipe.
Perhaps the best thing about DIY mint extract is the prep time.
There is none. Well, hardly any. It's mostly a set it and forget it DIY project.
As in, "oh gosh it's already the end of November and I don't know what I'm going to do for holiday gifts. Oh, yeah...I have this huge bottle of homemade peppermint extract. I can pour this into little bottles and give it away!"
Make this now and you will thank me later!
How to Make Mint ExtractLearn how to make a mint extract with fresh peppermint and your favorite clear liquor. Homemade extracts are great for holiday gifts and cost less than store-bought extracts! It's also a good way to use up the summer harvest of mint leaves.
Inspired by The Prairie Homestead's DIY Mint Extract
Fresh mint leaves (I used apple mint in one jar, regular mint in the other)
Vodka or another clear liquor of your choice
clean mason jar, swing top bottles, or a recycled glass jar
wooden spoon or muddling tool
Remove the mint leaves from the stems. Wash and dry them thoroughly, if need be. I took mine straight from my own plant, so didn't worry about it. Choose the glass container you'll be soaking the extract in and fill it all the way up with fresh mint leaves.
Use the handle of a wooden spoon or a muddling tool to bruise the mint leaves. This will smoosh the leaves down to half their size in the container and release the peppermint fragrance so it infuses better in the vodka. You don't need to pulverize the mint leaves, just press down and twist them several times. From here add more mint leaves to the container, then pulverize again. Keep doing this until at least 3/4 of the jar is packed with leaves.
Now pour in enough vodka so that all the mint leaves are completely submerged (covered) in the vodka. If there are any floaters at the top, remove them. Seal the container tightly with a lid and place in a cool, dark place.
Soak for a minimum of one month, preferably 2 months or longer, then strain the leaves out and place the peppermint extract in a clean container with a tight-fitting lid, like these amber jars.
If the mint leaves look discolored after the steeping and the extract isn't as strong as you'd like it, strain the leaves and add fresh ones using the same process as before.
I'd like to hear from YOU!
What's your favorite recipe that incorporates peppermint extract?
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