(Note to gentle readers: I’m working on getting a “skip to the recipe” button, but you’ll have to bear with me one more time as I haven’t gotten one installed yet. If you’re in a hurry for the recipe, just s c r o l l !!
I was working in my hoop house one day this week, wondering how exactly to protect the big beautiful mint plants from the encroaching, not-to-be-denied bitter weather that was coming (and did, indeed, come). My excellent mentor-cum-biz-partner Gene gave them to me, and they are gorgeous. Pinching a bit of the Kentucky Colonel mint variety and breathing in the scent startled me for just a moment, and then brought back a delicious memory. It was a memory from a few years ago, from a trip we took.
We took a trip to New Zealand, in February, the fam and me–actually, we took two. (I KNOW. I’m a lucky lady.)
In our Midwestern way, we only took it because of an Important Reason: my hubby had been asked to teach a course at a Bible college there. He was able to raise money for his (expensive) ticket, but the kids and I determined to go, too, so we started our Farmer’s Market business (which led to my penning this guide) to earn the funds to go with him. We did it, we went along, and that market gig lasted over five years.
If you reside in an area where winter can be a real trial, you can understand why
escaping planning a trek to a warm temperate area of the world in February (in particular) is such a boon to ones spirits.
For example. We just got our first snow this week. It’s October, folks (or it was when I typed this). There’s a Winter Storm Warning issued by the weather service for tomorrow. Again: October. So by February? You’ve just–about–had–it.
So . . . in October I begin to think about beaches, and trips, and getting onto a big airplane where pleasant young ladies bring me interesting sandwiches and cold beverages, and traveling far, far away. Just for a week or two. Possibly, three. Yes, three is optimal.
Please don’t misunderstand. I love my life. I am a grateful girl. I love our place, and our peoples. Especially our peoples. But the days are getting shorter and we’re facing the inevitable daylight savings time change, which throws me for a horrid, droopy loop every year. The gardens are still a big mess. I need a month of open days–rife with warm sunshine and birdsong–to get everything cleaned up and I’m not gonna get them. The weatherman annoyed me to no end to announce happily that we’ll probably have snow on the ground by the end of this week. Snow? Already?! Is he kidding?? Is the man aware of the fact that it is, in fact, only the early days of November?
So. What’s the next best thing to actually getting all the chores done that you really need to get done, before the snow flies and the ground freezes hard as granite?
Easy: Flying to New Zealand, and staying there for a few weeks. Can I get an “AMEN, SISTER?”
I can guarantee you that tearing down tomato cages and cleaning up weedy beds are the last thing on my mind in the particular scenario pictured below . . . . . *siiiiiigh*
If the family’s coffers aren’t so enthusiastically agreeable, regarding this plan (which they most certainly are not at our place, alas) there are other ways to cope with the week that winter shows up.
And that’s where the pinched sprig of mint and resultant stirring memory comes in. We were walking along the beach at Mount Maunganui one day, contemplating whether to blow our last bit of cash on surfing lessons with the tan and toned kiwi surfer dude Sean who was hawking them on a dune near us (ooh! my vote!), a round of fancy coffees and pastries at the coffee shops near the Mount (Amalia’s choice) or souvenirs from the shops (“let’s do them all!” voted Mack.)
Then we saw it. A little ice cream truck with a list of shakes as long as the surf board. “Ice cream! Let’s get ice cream!” said Mack. New Zealand ice cream is full-fat and amazingly delicious. (They don’t have to worry about calories or fat counts, because of agreeable young men like Sean who can teach them active sports like surfing). The others agreed with Mack. Bryan thought a round of ice creams would take care of our budget. He frowned and said that we probably couldn’t afford Sean (shoot). I was outvoted, and threw one last glance over my shoulder at Sean, and we turned toward the ice cream.
Since our only two actual goals when we went to New Zealand were to 1. walk on the beach every day, and to 2. eat the excellent New Zealand ice cream daily as well, it was important to go for the ice cream. We are all about goal-setting, you know. And we hadn’t had our ice cream that day. (I wrote a couple posts about that experience. Here’s one about a Nebraska treat I made while we were there.)
Bryan, reading from the list posted on the side of the truck, suddenly became very animated. “Spearmint shakes?! I love spearmint!” It’s true. The man wasn’t lying. My hubby loves the taste of spearmint. Not peppermint, not chocolate mint, not ginger mint (definitely not ginger mint), not any other mint (which is a shame, because thanks to Gene, I have ten types of mint growing in my hoop house!). Spearmint is the thing.
Now I don’t even remember what my flavor was, but I do remember that Bryan’s spearmint shake was absolutely, wondrously delicious. At his behest, I took a tiny taste, only to discover that it was far and away superior to my choice. My choice (obviously) was forgettable, especially compared to that spearmint. Suddenly I was filled with the longing to konk my hubby (gently, but hard enough to render him senseless for about three minutes) on his curly head, quickly drain his shake all the way down to the very dregs, and then run off and hide someplace. Sean would have pointed out a secluded cove, probably. It was so scrummy, as they might say in New Zealand. Sweet as.
The spearmint shake, that is. It didn’t taste artificial or over-sweetened. It tasted as if it had been conjured up by an old farm lady with a fistful of fresh spearmint leaves. There was something very captivating about the combination of fresh spearmint and vanilla ice cream. Minty. Refreshing. Sweet, and creamy. Konk-worthy, you might say. You can picture it, can’t you, gentle reader?
Back to the event of mint-tasting, a couple days ago. Winter is coming, as I mentioned about an hour ago. I am in denial about this fact, as per usual, and griping and moaning to anybody who will listen, amen and amen. I am standing in my hoop house, eyeing the big mint plants that my mentor-cum-biz partner Gene has given me, and chewing a taste of Kentucky Colonel mint, and deja-vuing alllll over the place. I’ve been pruning them one by one, as I prepare them for winter, and I always end up with a big handful of mint leaves: post-pruning rewards. Chocolate mint, ginger mint, pineapple mint, doublemint . . . and (you guessed it) Kentucky Colonel spearmint.
I AM FILLED–STRUCK, Gentle Reader–WITH AN ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS IDEA.
The delicious idea begins to spread in my mind, like creamy faint green melted ice cream, into all the creases and crevasses of brain matter, and it begins to make me just a little happy. No, I’m not thinking about Sean, but rather a Spearmint shake, made especially delicious with Nebraska-grown spearmint leaves.
Bryan and Mack were toiling away at their unpaid slave project du jour: my second hoop house, and it made me exceedingly happy to be able to march to the house with a handful of mint leaves clutched in my dirty maw, knowing that I was going to be able to make them something that would repay them . . . if just a little bit . . . for their wretched toil.
And bonus: for such a superior shake, it is very easy to make! Check out my recipe below. A monkey could make it.
(This recipe makes enough for 4 smallish-sized shakes. You can always double it if you have a houseful, which I usually do.)
You will need:
- about 2 cups of fresh mint leaves, plucked from the stems, washed, and lightly packed
- one lovely sprig, held back, per shake (beauty for beauty’s sake)
- 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 Tb sugar
- 3 1/2 cups vanilla ice cream
- cheese cloth or clean tea towel
- Add one cup of fresh mint leaves and water to a food processor. Grind until smooth.
- Place a cheese cloth or tea towel in a small bowl. Pour the ground mint leaves into the cheese cloth.
- Twist the cheese cloth with the mint into a ball and squeeze to expel as much of the liquid as possible.
- This is the clever part, and never forget it. You are an exceptional, clever human being capable of BIG THINGS. Like making homemade spearmint shakes.
Creating the Mint Base
- Add the mint liquid, milk, and sugar to a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Heat to a low boil and turn off.
- Allow mint to steep in the warm milk for about 15 minutes before transferring to a bowl and chilling for at least 1 hour before using.
- This is the hard part, always. The waaaaaaiting. *siiiiigh*
Making the Shake
- Remove the steeped mint leaves from the mint base. Toss to your chickens.
- Pour 1/2 cup of the mint base in the bottom of a blender.
- Add 5-6 fresh mint leaves and blend until leaves are finely chopped.
- Add ice cream and blend on low speed.
- Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint, because beautiful things are wonderful.
- What’s Going On at our Place, this Fall Edition
- On the day her baby girl was born . . .