A new use for mint
During our recent visit to Cuba I discovered the ultimate use for the mint that has taken over my garden…mojitos! To be honest, I was planning to dig up my mint plant this year because it is out of control. The CSU Master Gardeners recommended that I plant mint in a pot to constrain its growth. That was 5 years ago and now the clay pot containing my mint that I buried in the garden has disintegrated and the mint is poking up several feet from where it was planted…I’ve got to reign this in! Then I tasted a Cuban mojito – tart, fresh, light and endlessly refreshing – the perfect use for a bumper crop of mint. The recipe for a mojito is fairly basic…
For each mojito you’ll need 12 fresh mint leaves, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 1 lime, 1 ounce high quality white rum (in Cuba it was Santiago de Cuba), ice and club soda.
Put the mint leaves and sugar in the bottom of a tumbler. Using a muddler, or in my case – the blunt end of a kitchen utensil- to crush the mint and sugar to release the citrus oils. Into the mint-lined tumbler, squeeze the juice of one lime, add a handful of crushed ice, rum and top with a splash of club soda.
There are plenty of variations for mojitos, but the ingredients are similar. Some people swear that the secret is using super fine sugar because it dissolves easier. Other recipes substitute Sprite for the club soda or add Angostura bitters (whatever that is). All the recipes that I found were meant for making small batches of mojitos, but what about serving them for a crowd? The bartenders in Cuba made hundreds of mojitos each night but they had a short cut. Their mojitos were made with lime juice that they squeezed from a bottle –they swore that it was fresh juice but I never saw a lime. So I decided to find a similar shortcut for making mojitos for a crowd. I found my citrus timesaver by using Nellie and Joe’s Key West Lime Juice, an ingredient that I keep on hand for making my favorite Light Key Lime Pie.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup water
- 3 cups mint leaves loosely packed
- 1 1/2 cup Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime Juice
- 6 ounces white rum
- 12 ounces club soda
Make a mint-infused simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the mixture comes to a boil, add half of the mint leaves, stir and remove from heat. Stir occasionally as it cools. Strain out mint leaves. This step can be done several days in advance.
In a large pitcher, stir together the mint syrup, lime juice and rum. To serve, muddle a few of the remaining mint leaves (about 6-8) in the bottom of a tumbler, add ice, mojito mixture and top with club soda.
I keep Nellie and Joe's (Famous) Key West Lime Juice in my refrigerator for making Light Key Lime Pie. It is used in this recipe as a shortcut for squeezing a half-dozen limes while preparing mojitos for a crowd. Fresh lime juice can be substituted, but I have received wonderful reviews on this version.
Make a show out of the process of smashing the mint in the bottom of each glass and your guests will love your mojitos!