Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quick Butter Mints

Fall is, by far, my favorite season.  The colors, the temperature, the decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving, the colors, the sweaters, the fresh produce, the colors, the smells of canning.  Did I mention the colors?  

This has been an abnormally mild summer where I live.  This means that Fall is coming early.  One of the canyons we drive through on our way to our family getaway already has leaves turning.  In August!  I'm loving it.  

Another thing that means it's fall is the smell of canning.  Like I've said before, my parents grow a veggie garden.  Most we eat as it comes, but they grow a ton of tomatoes, in anticipation of canning season.  My Mom makes and cans salsa and spaghetti sauce.  Her spaghetti sauce is amazing, better than any other I've ever had.  No joke.  The smell that fills the house when she cans the tomatoes is one of my favorite smells.  And that is coming up in a few days.  I am so excited.

This week we are canning peaches.  Our tree is weird, it has a 3-year cycle, one year with a lot of great peaches, one with horribly low peach counts, and one with so-so results.  This year is a great year.  We even had to thin out as much as half the peaches, there were so many!  

My family has a tradition with canning.  Butter mints.  We normally buy the Western Family bags at a nearby grocery store.  Yesterday, while doing the first day's worth of peaches, we went through the bag.  Sad but true.  I remembered seeing a recipe for butter mints on pinterest, so I looked through some recipes, and decided to try them out.  I found 2 types of recipes; candied buttermints, and quick buttermints.  The candied ones require you to candy sugar and butter, add flavorings and milk, and pull it like taffy.  I'm saving the taffy pulling for the winter.  Quick buttermints require no cooking, just a few on-hand ingredients and a mixer.  Easy peasy.

The first step requires you to cream the salt into the butter, so that it is smooth.

Next, you add the rest of the ingredients.  The order does not matter, although I do recommend adding the extract and color with the milk.

Third, you blend together.  It should look powdery like this next picture.  You know it is good to go if, when you pinch the powder together, it clumps together and stays put.

Four, make sure your hands are clean (or put on some latex gloves) and knead the powder together.  Keep kneading until all ingredients are evenly distributed, and the dough feels very similar to Play-Do.

Divide the dough in half, then in half again, and once more in half again, until you have 8 balls of dough, like so:

For this part I got out a cutting mat, for step 6.  Using one small dough ball at a time, roll them out until they are about a half-inch thick, like so.  I did 4 balls each time, for faster cutting in step 6.  If any dough hangs over the side, just cut or pinch it off, and return it to the bowl.  Waste not, my friends.

Step 6: Using a pizza cutter, cut across each "rope" of dough, about as thick as your rope.

Step 7: For this step, I got out a jelly roll pan, and lined it with wax paper.  Carefully pick up your mints, and lay them on the wax paper.  You can see in the next picture that I have 2 colors.  My family was snitching the dough as I worked, so I made another batch so it would last.

Step 8: Put the pan in the fridge, and let them sit overnight.  No need to cover them; you'll want them to dry a bit.  When they are dry, or manage to hold their shape when you squeeze them a little between your fingers, you can transfer them to a smaller container for storage.  You might want to continue refrigerating them, in case they melt.

Recipe: (Yields about 300 butter mints)

1/4 c butter
1/4 t salt
1/3 c sweetened condensed milk (About one quarter of a regular-sized can)
3 1/4 c powdered sugar
1 1/8 t mint extract
4-5 drops food coloring

Cream together the butter and salt with a mixer until smooth.  Add the milk, extract, coloring, and powdered sugar.  Mix well.  Using your hands, knead the mixture until it resembles smooth Play-Do.  Divide into 8 balls.  Roll each ball into half-inch thick ropes.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the ropes into half-inch pieces.  Line a jelly roll pan with wax paper.  Gently move each mint onto the wax paper, and refrigerate overnight.  When they harden and hold their shape, transfer mints to a storage container, and keep refrigerated.


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