Mint sauce for lamb
When I grew up lamb was always served with a bright green jelly that came out of a jar and was dubiously called mint sauce. It was kind of a generational thing. For some people foregoing the mint sauce with lamb was like foregoing stuffing, gravy and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I remember hosting a lamb dinner and one of my relatives refusing to eat my lamb because there was no mint sauce. Really???
Mint sauce - an Irish and English tradition
Frankly, jarred mint sauce always looked radioactive to me. But it turns out that mint sauce was a real culinary thing long before the jarred version was invented. A sauce of fresh mint and vinegar was served with lamb in traditional Irish and British cuisines going back a very long time. Somewhere along the line, this delicious sauce was hijacked and replaced by the fluorescent green version. I suspect the jarred mint sauce may have been invented by the same people responsible for Wonder bread.
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Homemade mint sauce
So in deference to those who love and even require mint sauce, here is a traditional homemade version I can actually get behind. It doesn't come out of a jar and it is not bright green, but it is really good. It takes about 15 minutes of preparation time and is great on a leftover lamb sandwich.
Variations include adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, or a splash of olive oil. Cider, malt, sherry or even balsamic vinegar is sometimes used instead of champagne vinegar. The vinegar is not always reduced, but I like the thicker texture and intensity that is achieved by reducing the vinegar and sugar. This recipe was inspired by a recipe published in English Country Cooking At Its Best by Caroline Conran.
- 2 cups champagne vinegar
- ⅔ cup raw cane sugar
- ½ cup chopped mint leaves
- In a small pot, bring vinegar and sugar to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 10 - 12 minutes, until volume is decreased by half. Cool to room temperature and add mint. Cover and let sit for at least an hour before serving. Can be made several hours in advance.
THIS SERVES WELL WITH