From the Magazine

Forage to Ferment with Preserved Mint

By: Erin Byers Murray

Springtime delivers an abundance of preserved mint in Eastern Tennessee

When chef Trevor Stockton first tasted mountain mint, he was immediately struck by its sharp-yet-floral flavor. For the menu he changes regularly at the East Tennessee resort RT Lodge, he relies on Adam Cottrill of SugarTree Farm to supply several foraged and cultivated products, including bunches of wild mountain mint each spring—it grows at the edges of Cottrill’s farm, likely a rogue planting from years back that returns robustly year after year. “There are a millTrevor Stocktonion different kinds of mint—spearmint, apple mint, chocolate mint. But this wild plant has a thinner, almost shinier leaf and a sharp spearmint flavor but way more floral than you get from other varieties,” Stockton says. With piles of it landing in his kitchen every spring, Stockton quickly conjured up new uses for it, including fermenting it. “It’s a quick fermentation but after a few days, it gets this great depth of flavor,” he says. Once preserved the mint goes into anything from vinaigrettes to ice cream. “We used to struggle to know what to do with it all,” Stockton adds. “Now we’re ordering all we can.”

Preserve and Protect

Stockton creates a salty brine that uses about 6 percent salinity (for 100 grams of mint, that’s six grams of salt). After massaging the mint a bit, he places it into the brine and weighs it down, letting it sit at room temperature for about seven days (any more than that and the mint gets a little funky). Once fermented, the mint goes into the fridge, stored in its brine.

Into the Vin

To make RT Lodge’s signature preserved mint vinaigrette, Stockton takes a small amount of the fermented mint, squeezes out the excess liquid, and blends it along with honey, champagne vinegar, and grapeseed oil. “The honey gives it a nice little bounce and sweetness,” he says. The champagne vinegar, he adds, “is a nice, clean, crisp vinegar. I use it a lot when I want the flavor of whatever else is going into it to shine through.”

Sweet Finish

Despite the salinity, preserved mint also works in desserts. “We did an ice cream with it, which worked really well—with fresh mint ice cream, all you end up tasting is the mint, but instead we infused the preserved mint into the milk and cream before making the base,” Stockton says. “It’s a really nice subtle flavor.”

Moutain Mint Kara Amoruso

Preserved Mint Vinaigrette

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