Mint simple syrup

Chocolate mint simple syrup…more on that in a bit…

It seems quite contrary to start a food/gardening/renovation blog when two of those activities are winding down, but less work around the house and in the garden just means more time for everything else.  I was out and about in New York City last weekend (hopefully more on that in a post soon to come), but in the two or three weeks before that, much time was spent cleaning up the garden and using up what was left behind.  The veggie garden, which looked like this just a few short months ago now looks like this:

Fall garden    

Neat and tidy, but a bit too bare, don’t you think?

During the clean-up, I came across the biggest earthworm I have ever seen.  Funny to think back to high school biology, when I was somewhat squeamish around these.  Now I’m just so happy to know they’re munching away on my soil and compost, making it rich and healthy.

Big daddy/momma earthworm

Max, my partner in crime, has been busy with intern year of his medical residency, so most of these early projects will be one woman shows.  When Dr. Max isn’t around, I seem to get crazy urges to can things.  We started canning about a year ago, but this summer I went all out:  tomatoes, jams, relishes, fruit butters–whatever I could do in a boiling water canner.  Oddly enough, I own a pressure canner, but a furry little thief made off with one of my valves.  So until we get that replaced, no low acid canning for me.

My most recent and probably easiest canning project was a few jars of mint infused simple syrup.  I found this summer that I love making a Tom Collins with fresh mint and wanted to keep that flavor available even when fresh mint is not.

So I collected some chocolate mint from our garden (yes, it does have a subtle chocolate flavor!) and got to work.  I looked at a lot of different recipes, but this description from Marisa at Food in Jars captures well what I ended up doing. Equal parts sugar and water (10 cups each in my case) plus several handfuls of mint equals mint simple syrup. I ended up with about five pint jars, which I processed for 5 minutes.

Feeling I was on a roll here, I also went ahead and made some chocolate mint syrup.  I was originally planning to can this too but was saved from that potentially fatal error by my trusty Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which warned against canning chocolate in a boiling water canner. No worries here. I think it will store nicely in the fridge.

Chocolate mint syrup

Mint Chocolate Syrup adapted from

1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
a handful of mint leaves

Combine cocoa, water, and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk until smooth.

Add mint and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  After the mixture comes to a boil, turn it down and simmer for a few minutes, until it looks thick and glossy.

Remove pan from the heat and allow to cool.  Then strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve to remove the mint leaves.

Use it wherever you would use Hershey’s chocolate syrup.  Chocolate milk, sundaes, cake–you name it!