As you have probably noticed, I talk a lot about my family and my grandmothers and how they helped me develop a love for cooking. And I think there was something in the genes they gave me that just “clicked” when I got involved in the world of local food. It all made sense to me.
I recall one day that I was processing tomatoes (obviously something I don’t love to do!) when I was standing at the sink coring and peeling. The air outside was hot, a breeze was blowing through my kitchen windows, and the smell of parboiled tomatoes was taking over. And I’m not saying I had a vision or saw a ghost — but I felt the presence of my deceased grandmother in a way I couldn’t explain. Now granted, these kinds of feelings are surely tied to the deep emotions and memories that we have long since stored away. But, all I could hear in my brain was “I’m proud of you.” And no matter where the feelings and words came from (more likely from my brain than from the heavens), they have stuck with me. Because Harriet would be proud of me for taking the extra time to use and preserve quality, local food in the middle of a society that does little to provide for or value those things.
And I think I can be sure of this because my other grandmother, Grace, is still in my life and I know she is proud of what I am doing and very interested in the local food movement that is occurring all over our country. You have to imagine how foreign our society feels for people who grew up with gardens and neighborhood butchers and chickens in the backyard.
Nana Grace’s (as my kids call her) parents and ancestors were from England and Ireland, so to her a roast leg of lamb was a big treat. And it wasn’t a roast lamb without mint jelly — and artificially colored green apple jelly with mint flavoring doesn’t count. Her mint patch was always visible in each of her houses and the taste of this transports me to her dining room table with all of my cousins (after a round of intense Barbie playing). She made up this recipe after much experimentation and I think it is perfect.
I have been accused many times of being “evangelical” in my opinions about connecting food and family by getting back to basics with local farms and food. And it is a true enough statement. But you almost have to be when you see the commercial forces we are up against. I see nothing wrong with a little grass-roots evangelism from little old me as opposed to astro-turfed, corporate marketing for big agriculture and corporate feedlots. They are two sides of the same coin — but the corporate side has all the buying power (and is somehow more accepted in our society than someone like me trying to get you to change your purchasing habits). So, I figure if I can sway the opinions of one or two families at a time, I am successful and both of my grandmothers will be very proud.
(Makes about four small jars)
2 full cups of mint, packed
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup water
3 3/4 cups sugar (see note)
1 package powdered pectin
3/4 cup water
1. In a good quality blender, puree mint, vinegar, 2/3 cup water, and sugar for 1-2 minutes until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is completely pureed.
2. Dissolve one package of pectin in 3/4 cup of water in a small saucepan. Boil hard for one minute until thickened.
3. Pour hot pectin mixture into mint mixture and blend at low speed for 1 minute. The blender will labor as this thickens. Pour into jars and freeze.
(Note: I have tried to cut back on the sugar, but it is just not the same. I don’t have a problem with it in this case because it is as special treat with roast lamb and not the kind of jelly you use in large quantities or on a daily basis.)