Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pointless Experiments: Homemade Mint Extract

You know what I miss? Shamrock Shakes. PEOPLE. That was like the highlight of my youth, when St. Patrick's Day rolled around and McDonalds started serving Shamrock Shakes again. It was a short, yet delicious, month.


Due to lifestyle choices (aka my progressively worsening food sensitivities... and because we would rather support local farmers than a corporation), we don't eat at McDonalds anymore. Well, Johanna does when she's with my parents, but Abby refuses, and Eric and I aren't exactly clamoring for a Big Mac. (Don't sue me, McDonalds, please. I'm not saying other people shouldn't eat Big Macs, I'm just saying I personally do not, okay?)

And anyway, since I have an intolerance to artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, it's not like that bright green Shamrock Shake is even a possibility. Unnatural colors are a tip off in my world.

All of this is just to say, do you know what's in a Shamrock Shake? Wait, strike that, I don't want to know. I mean: Do you know how to recreate a Shamrock Shake? Thanks to the internet, I do.

Vanilla ice cream. Milk. Mint extract. Green food coloring? Good lord, people, why? THERE'S NO POINT.

Ahem. Sorry. I'm possibly a little bitter.

My attempts at finding a nice organic natural mint extract failed (I spent all of like two minutes looking at the grocery store, give me SOME credit), I turned to my best friend Google. There are a lot of homemade mint extract recipes online. And here's the gist of it: Take mint leaves, crush or chop them, then soak them in vodka for like a month. Actually, here's the exact link I used just in case you need that kind of precise information.

I already had some good cheap vodka from my homemade vanilla extract extravaganza of last year (I just keep filling up my main bottle every time I decant any liquid to my smaller jar, it works like a champ, I am a genius), and mint leaves are readily available at my favorite farmers' market, and this? Is not rocket science.

I didn't take any pictures of my efforts because it was really boring. But thanks to online free images, I've put together this little tutorial for you.

Take a jar like this:
And add chopped mint leaves (wash in salad spinner and take a pair of scissors to the leaves):

And then pour vodka all over that:

Also: There are no stock photos of vodka being poured over mint leaves in a canning jar.
And then put it in your dark, cool pantry for a month. Maybe shake it up a bit every time you open the door or something.

It's one month later! Strain the leaves from the liquid and put it into another clean jar:

(Okay, this photo is mine. And no Instagram. I know, I'm shocked too.)

Wow, that's dark. And smells potent. And is kind of awesome.

Fast forward to one of Eric's racquetball nights late last month, when the girls and I are left lawless in the house: Tillamook Old Fashioned Vanilla ice cream. Milk. Four teaspoons of mint extract. In a blender. For dinner, what, don't judge me, I also made a sandwich, it was fine. (Johanna could not get over the fact that we were having "dessert" for "dinner." That was kind of awesome and totally worth it right there.)

OH EM GEE, as Johanna would say. This is EXACTLY the taste I remember. It's not very often I can recreate something so completely the same. Abby said it's not like the shakes she's used to--so I don't know if that means that McD's has changed their recipe or that mine wasn't bright green--but it was still good. Good? It was like heaven in a glass. I need to teach that kid to use more exact language, I guess.

Other mint extract experiments have included iced mint mochas for Abby (ironically, you have to put in some of the vanilla syrup with the mint extract for the mint flavor to come through.  Maybe I need to find a mint syrup for the kid?) and mint brownies. So far I haven't figured out how much extract it takes to actually taste mint in the brownies--I'm using my standard recipe I got on the back of a cocoa can in 1995 and just throwing in a few teaspoons willy nilly--so we'll call that a work in progress, but the mochas are lovely.

In conclusion, my scant 1 1/2 cups of mint extract should last another month at the rate we're going. I'm thinking this would be a pretty cool Christmas gift, too. Time to pick up more good cheap vodka.

I love it when my experiments actually work out...

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