Mint and chocolate. Hmmm, what a pairing right? So…why not grow your own?
I don’t mean grow your own cocoa plant- ( which we all know is almost impossible, unless you reside twenty degrees north or south of the equator) alongside some fresh herbal mint. Grow your own beautiful, and decently fragrant chocolate mint herb variety. Pastry chefs have covet this plant for decades. As a young chef, I was first introduced to my first delicate sprig working at the Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. Some 25 years ago. Since then, this variety has been my go-to mint baby ever since and that why I want to share how to consume it the best way: Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.
This delicate, deep greenish toned herb will captivate you. The mint is not over powering, and at the same time –the fragrance of chocolate gently wafts under your nose. It’s is almost mystifying if you are not familiar with this plant. The stems are strong, yet the leaves are so perfectly delicate. The jewel tone- brown and deep greenish coloring will capture your line of sight.
Lucky for us– we are seeing a resurgence of this amazing variety. If you haven’t grown chocolate mint, it’s time to add this one to your herbal repertoire. You will soon wonder why you would ever grow any other variety.
Chocolate mint is very versatile. Not only can you use it for baking, you will want to add these beautiful sprigs to your summer mojitos, or draw the best herbal infused bath you ever had. Chocolate mint is great for homemade body scrubs and welcomed for any spa-like experience.
My favorite thing to do with : Organic Homemade Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream that is free from artificial flavors or colorants. It’s fun to see my family and friends take their first bite. You can almost see it in their faces– usually a first time taster will have a deep perplexed look on their face, followed by a satisfying relaxing ah-ha moment. All because the coloring. Most people are not expecting the flavor of chocolate or mint because the ice cream is not a strange off shade green color. I love the surprise!
Some might say chocolate mint is temperamental to grow. I completely disagree. This plant prefers cool temperatures; however, it needs warm morning sun. Such as myself, Chocolate mint prefers to stay away from extreme heat– and thrives best in a location that receives a gentle blanket of afternoon shade.
A word of caution: This mint variety will grow and spread out like your most difficult weed. Container real estate is best, because roots will wander. Chocolate mint pops up fast, spreads wide and holds hearty. Before you know it, the plant will take over. It survives well in any soil. Although forgiving you should note it really likes to stay moist. Chocolate mint will grow from cuttings from your original plant. Just snip off a stem and set the cutting in a pot of soil to regrow trust me, you will share this perennial. keep in mind it runs dormant in the winter, so keep your baby warm with your favorite mulch.
2 1/2 cups organic whole milk
6 cups ( or, 1 large bunch ) fresh organic chocolate mint, cleaned leaves and stem intact
6 large organic fresh pastured egg yolks
2/3 cup organic sugar
1 cup organic heavy unsweetened cream
1/2 vanilla bean pod, open and scraped
1/2 cup good quality mini-chocolate chips ( optional )
1) In a medium heavy bottomed saucepan over medium low heat, combine the whole milk, vanilla bean and the mint. Stir consistently, while bringing the mixture to a gentle boil. ( Watch closely to prevent a boil over or scaled milk solids on the bottom of the pan.)
2) Once the milk and mint and vanilla bean have come to a boil immediately reduce the heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Remove pan from the heat. Allow the mint and the vanilla to infuse into the warm milk for about 60 minutes. 2 hours if you have the time. Strain, reserve milk and discard solids.
3) In the bowl of your stand mixer combine egg yolks and sugar. Fitted with a paddle attachment beat the yolks on medium-high speed until very thick and pale yellow, for about 3-5 minutes. Ribbon stage. ( If you drizzle the mixture and spell the first letter in your name and it holds fairly well before disappearing— you have reached this stage.)
4) While yolks are beating, return milk to a simmer.
5) While yolks are beating and infused milk is returning to a simmer, prepare a large bowl with a 2:1 ratio of ice and water, to create a chilled ice bath. Set aside.
6) Once eggs are at ribbon stage, and infused milk is at a slow simmer, temper the egg yolks. ( bringing up to the milks temperature ) Using a whisk— slowly add half of the warm milk mixture to the egg yolk mixture while quickly stirring the heated milk in. This will prevent the yolks from curdling if heat is introduced a little at a time. Add the remaining warm milk to the egg mixture and stir to combine well. Once all the warm milk mixture has been whisked into the egg mixture— add new combined milk and egg mixture back into the original sauce pan.
7) Heat the custard mixture on low heat while stirring consistently until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. About 3-5 minutes, add special attention at this stage to make sure the bottom does not burn.
8) While thickening the custard mixture, place a large bowl over the ice bath. and place a fine mesh strainer over the empty bowl.
9) Once the custard has thickened – pour the mixture through the fine mesh strainer into the bowl that is sitting in the ice bath. Discard and solids. Stir to release heat and cool for about an hour in the cooler. Cover with parchment or plastic wrap directly onto the custard to prevent a skin from forming.
10) When custard is cooled, begin to freeze in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Once partially frozen, fold in mini chlorate chips and place in an air tight container. Store in freezer until ready to eat.
Scoop, and garnish with a sprig of…. fresh chocolate mint. Serve with my no-fail cut out sugar cookies. The recipe can be found here. Makes approximately 1 quart.
I believe this is the way all gardeners can enjoy growing and make their own Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream.
Photo Credits: EviFarms and @fly_withme
Chef Gigi is recognized nationally as an expert in culinary education. She specializes in families and adults to help increase nutritional awareness and help take some of the stress out of being a busy-aware adult. Chef has coached thousands of children and adults how to shop, prep, cook and eat better. She has developed signature techniques while teaching two decades of hands on classes, private events, public speaking, writing, professional culinary demonstrations, television and radio engagements.Gigi, also was the former Academic Director who wrote and implemented the famed French Culinary School- Le Cordon Bleu’s, Hospitality Management Program. Currently, Gigi works as a freelance food writer, learning and development coach– while continuing as an instructional designer. Chef co-authored, “Learning with Little Lulu Lemon” and has appeared in a variety of media outlets including, Radio Disney and Bay Area local television broadcast with Spencer Christian, on NBC’s “View from the Bay” and CBS, “Eye on the Bay”. Regularly contributed to a monthly column, ” The Family Kitchen” for Bay Area Parent Magazine; a subsidiary of Dominion Parenting Media is the nation’s largest publisher of regional parenting magazines.In 2015 Chef Gigi went on to study at the National Association of Sports Medicine to further understand the impact of movement and nutrition on our bodies.Chef Gigi keeps bees, chickens and grows her own food. Chef contributes monthly to Urban Gardeners Republic with amazing recipes for the garden. Be sure to follow her here.
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