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!
Sounds great. I’d recommend using two splenda quick packs in place of the granulated splenda. The quick packs don’t have maltodextrin. The result is even lower carbs and dissolve better.
These are not the same as splenda packets. One quick pack = 1 cup of sugar. They are usually found at the grocery store next to the koolaide.
COMMENT from MD EADES: Unfortunately, Quick Packs are only sold in certain regions of the country, none of which are where I live. I have looked for them diligently and never been able to find them in any of the stores I shop in. But you’re right; they’d be perfect to use in this recipe if your store carries them.
Is yr Michel alive and in good fettle ?
COMMENT from MD EADES: He is all that, but he’s duct taped to his computer chair trying to finish his chapters for our new book, the manuscript of which is due in 12 days. He’ll be released to blog again soon!
By the way, happy derby day from Kentucky…
COMMENT from MDEADES: Thanks. I’m waiting, Julep in hand, for post time.
The best way to remove the mint from the herb garden is via digging out the roots.
Pry the pot up by lifting and snipping attaching roots as you go. Then dig the roots out of the area.
Each time you see a tiny sprout…dig around that baby and get all the roots you can identify. This is, of course, more difficult when they are entwined with other herbs.
You can kill the mint by carefully painting the leaves with vinegar, however, EVERYTHING the vinegar touches will be killed.
Remember that nature always bats last. If you decide to keep the mint in a place where the sprinkler will keep it watered while you are away, place a saucer under the pot.
Love from your favorite Master Gardner.
Dear FMG–thanks for the tips. I’m not sure this mint wouldn’t have escaped even a terra cotta saucer. You saw what the celery did there! Love back from Your favorite Low Carb Author
What a great excuse to get sloshed! “the mint is taking over my garden!” LOL
Sounds yummy. How about oligifructose (brand SweetPerfection) for the sugar? It looks and acts like powdered sugar, except a tad stickier.
COMMENT from MD EADES: I actually have some in the cupboard; I’ll have to try it. Thanks for the tip!
I AM GOING TO PLANT SOME MINT TOMORROW. THE JULEPS SOUND WONDERFUL AND I WILL TRY YOUR RECEIPE. YOU DID HOWEVER BRING BACK SOME FOND MEMORIES OF OUR FAV ‘SOUTHERN COMFORT’ SO I MAY HAVE A DASH OR TWO OF SC. HOPE ALL IS WELL IN SUNNY SB.
LOVE FROM YOUR BFF IN HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
Oh, my! As one who had to take up a whole brick patio to get rid of the mint, I can sympathize. (Wish I’d known about the vinegar trick.)
I’ve become a big fan of erythritol for sweetening. It works best in combination with other artificial sweeteners, and together they seem to cancel out any aftertastes. I haven’t read that it has any negative effects–on blood sugar or weight loss–but admittedly my research has been limited. It’s also safe for pets, which xylitol is not.
Mint Juleps are yummy but you really gotta have the right recipe for a drink like this. A few months ago I went to the races and I thought oh well they have Juleps here ill try it out and see what theirs is like.. it was horrid. There was SO much alcohol in it and barely any mint. How sad. I personally would think in a place like that, especially with a private bar tender in a private party room that was $$$ they would at least know how to make an easy Julep. Guess not lol.
For those of you talking about splenda and such, try this out. I use this sugar every single day. Its not bad for you like splenda or any of those other artificial sweeteners and it actually tastes good. Its sugar that comes from a plant. All natural. No fat, no carbs, no bad stuff in it whatsoever. Anyway its called Stevia. Read more about it online. I get mine from Whole Foods.
Another sugar alternative is something called “100% Pure Agave Nectar”. Really yummy.
COMMENT from MD EADES: Yummy though agave nectar may be, it’s not carb free even if sugar free. The main carb in agave nectar, so I understand, is fructose, which though it doesn’t raise insulin or blood sugar does lead to insulin resistance and visceral fat storage, so it’s not our choice. Stevia, on the other hand, if you don’t use too much of it (to the point it shows its bitter character) is fine.