WHAT IS IT?
Peppermint is a hybrid. A cross between a watermint, and a spearmint. It is assertive enough to stand up to bold flavors. It’s fab with tea. It tames the game of lamb. Its strong flavor is suitable for all kinds of dishes, when used sparingly.
The dried mint is not as strong, or concentrated, as the essential oils used in peppermint extract, but it is far stronger than other species of mint, and some of its properties limit its culinary usefulness, relative to other members of the mint family.
Quite similar in flavor to spearmint, peppermint differs in that it has menthol, a naturally-occurring cocktail of flavonoids, phenolic acids, and triterpenes that give peppermint its uniquely intense, piercing taste, the “pepper,” which is followed by a cooling sensation on the palate, finishing with a subtle sweetness.
If using in foods made with beneficial bacteria, like yeast, or yogurt cultures, use another mint varietal, or serve prepared dishes that have no storage, or marination time. Peppermint’s strong essential oils are a natural antibacterial, and can inhibit culinary processes that rely on bacterial interaction with foodstuffs, like bread, yogurt, pickles, etc.
Peppermint is a hybrid, cultivated in England, from mints whose natural range extends from Europe to Asia, and Africa. Today, it is one of the most common herbs in the world.
- Peppermint tea;
- Dried mint labneh cheesecake;
- Spicy lamb stew with butternut squash;
- Pork chops Salmuera.
A FEW IMPROVISATIONAL RIFFS:
- French vanilla ice cream with a basil-mint pistachio ‘pesto,’ ( without garlic), on a minted shortbread;
- Roasted chicken with mint, salt-preserved lemon, and summer savory;
- Stir-fried mint-peas in thick savory yogurt;
- Ground lamb meatballs with dried peppermint, garlic, and peanut flour in spicy chile oil.
There are wildly inconsistent stories about the origins, and history, of peppermint. It was cross-bred in the 17th century, in England, from spearmint, and watermint, or it dates back to ancient civilizations as some wildly-hybridized herb dating back to 1,500 BC, or more. Writers making the claim likely mistake it for spearmint, which grows wild in the ranges where these civilizations sprung up.
Peppermint’s essential oils were primarily first used as a folk remedy, but, by the 18th century, its popularity as a spice spread as both English, and German confectioners, experimenting with hard sugar treats, developed candies that took advantage of its strong flavor, and cooling properties as an after-dinner treat: The “mint.”
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