Preserved: Classic Mint Jelly


If you're planning to serve grilled or roasted lamb for Easter dinner, skip the neon green, store-bought mint jelly and whip up this simple homemade version. Mildly sweet and pleasingly tart, it bursts with fresh mint flavor.

When I was growing up, every year on Easter Sunday my mother would dig the same jar of mint jelly out of the back of the refrigerator. I can still remember its florescent lime color, and the way it congealed and crusted around the lid. Yuck. Who would want to smear that on a perfectly seared spring lamb chop?

But there is no denying that the fresh, verdant flavor of mint is a natural compliment to rich, succulent lamb. This year I got to thinking, could I improve upon the artificial tasting, store-bought version?

First things first: I knew the green food coloring had to go. I also knew I wanted to cut back a bit on the amount of sugar. Mint jelly should be sweet, but not so sweet that it infringes upon the inherently savory nature of a lamb dinner.

Some recipes I researched called for extracting pectin from granny smith apples. While I liked this all-natural approach, the process took several hours. I was looking for something quick and simple. Other recipes called for copious amounts of green food coloring, or as many as 7 cups of sugar. Eugenia Bone published a terrific-sounding recipe for Jalapeño-Mint Jelly in Food & Wine, but I wanted to make a classic, traditional version. Finally, I found a recipe from the book Putting Food By by Ruth Hertzberg, Janet Greene, and Beatrice Vaughan. It called for 2 cups of mint (more than most other recipes) and only 2 cups of sugar (less than most). Best of all, it could be prepared from start to finish in about an hour.

This mint jelly has a muted, golden hue not unlike that of chamomile tea. If you must, add a single drop of green food coloring, which will impart a natural-looking pale green color. After the Easter feast, use the jelly to pump up cold lamb sandwiches, or combine it with fresh lime juice to make a mojito-inspired glaze for grilled shrimp.

About the Author: Lucy Baker is a food writer and the author of The Boozy Baker: 75 Recipes for Spirited Sweets. She is currently at work on a second book about homemade food gifts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dachshund.