I love looking through old cookbooks– you never know what treasures will be lurking in their pages. And recently I found a treasure in an old cooking magazine I got at the flea market. In the magazine was a recipe for these butter mints. When I researched them, I found that these mints were a classic “wedding treat” back in the 1950s. They made appearances on many guest tables during that period, where they were always a big hit. But somewhere along the way, people kind of stopped making them and forgot how to do it. I guess the reason for that is that the mints are a little tricky to make. The process involved kneading and pulling boiling hot syrup (very tricky– trust me), to the point where one man said he remembers that his Mom would begin making these mints several months before she needed them, so that the blisters would become callouses before she made all her Christmas boxes. YIKES. But don’t worry. I modernized the procedure, a bit, so you can still enjoy these delicate beauties from a bygone era, without burning your fingers off. 😉 And they are also naturally gluten free, which is just a sweet bonus!
I wanted to mention, too, that things have been super busy here, at the “Baltimore estate” (haha) as we prepare to sell our house and move. So if you don’t see as many posts from me as normal for a few weeks, don’t worry. I’ll update the site when I can– but having my stuff stored everywhere makes it tricky to get the posts up. So, in the interest of sparing at least a few of my hairs from turning gray, I will have to post a little less until I get everything back to normal. Thanks for understanding, guys. 🙂
What are we waiting for? Let’s do this!
Old Fashioned Butter Mints
(Recipe from Taste of Home)
3 cups white sugar
1 cup water
1 cup butter
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
Green food coloring, if desired
Heat butter, water, and sugar together, in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to a boil and cover with a lid for 3 minutes, allowing steam to wash sugar crystals down the sides. Uncover and continue to heat, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 260 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract and food coloring, if desired. Immediately pour onto silpat-lined baking sheet (it helps to store sheet in the refrigerator prior to pouring the syrup onto the sheet) and use 2 silicone spatulas to bring the liquid candy to the center and kind of “pick it up,” almost as if you were serving salad. Allow the candy to drop back down to the sheet and continue using the spatulas to bring it to the center and lift it up and stretch it back down to the sheet. When the candy is cool enough to handle, use buttered hands to pull it like taffy until it is satiny and smooth and holds its shape when pulled. Cut the mints into pieces with buttered scissors and let them rest, covered, for 24 hours to cure them. Keep in an airtight container until serving.
Now, in pictures! 🙂
People back in the “good old days” were tough. They knew how to work hard, and how to make things work. And there is just something so cool about recreating what is basically a “living antique” and enjoying something exactly the way our grandmothers would have tasted it. This recipe is a little on the tricky side, but it’s worth it. So get yourself a “living history” lesson and taste this sweet recipe as a blast from the past! 🙂
Start out by heating your water, sugar, and butter together over medium heat. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon until the butter is all melted and the sugar is completely dissolved.
Now this part is kind of weird, but stay with me. Cover the pan with a lid, and just let it heat for 3 minutes. Keeping the pan covered helps any sugar crystals that might be building up on the side of the pan to steam back down into the syrup.
After 3 minutes uncover the pan, but don’t stir. Put a candy thermometer into the pan (make sure your thermometer isn’t touching the bottom of the pan so you’re not getting a false read), and watch it until your syrup reaches 260 degrees. Don’t stir during this time, and don’t be in too much of a hurry (and it’s going to take a little while– mine took about 1/2 hour to get to 260 degrees). When you reach the magic 260 temp, go ahead and stir in your food coloring and peppermint extract.
Now this next part goes quickly, so read through all the steps before you start. The first time I tried this mint making adventure, I went too slowly, and my mints turned out to be a nice little mint green disaster, so learn from my mistakes and familiarize yourself with the process before you start. 😉 That half hour of time when your sugar water is cooking is a good time to read up on the rest of the steps. Because we all know that, as Moms, finding time to read even a paragraph is an accomplishment. 😉
Start by pouring your 260 degree syrup onto a silpat-lined baking sheet. The silpat is truly an amazing invention, and I would never be without one. You can stick them under a dripping casserole or scones that you’re glazing, and the mess just wipes right off. You can use them to knead bread dough or roll out pie crust, and everything peels right off without sticking. They are just the best. Get a silpat here if you don’t have one– you deserve it.
A little tip to help the “candy making process” go a little easier is to store your cookie sheet in the fridge so that it will be nice and cold when you pour the hot candy onto it. The cold sheet just helps the candy to harden more quickly, which means you get delicious mints more quickly. Score.
The first time I made these mints, I waited until the candy was cooled enough that I could “pull it” with my hands. It is SUPER hot (be careful you don’t get burned), so I had to wait a while until it was cool enough to handle. And apparently it needs to be “pulled” immediately, because when I tried to mess with it after it cooled a little, it totally crumbled and became a little pile of mint madness. Granted, it still tasted good, but it looked horrible. So the next time I tried something new.
The second time I tried this candy-making business, I got smarter. When I poured the hot candy mixture onto my silpat, I was ready with a couple of silicone spatulas. You need to use silicone because the candy won’t stick to it, and the silicone spatulas will stand up to the heat of the liquid. Use 2 spatulas to kind of “scrape” the candy to the center of the cookie sheet. Once you have a big pile, use the 2 spatulas to “lift up” some of the candy, and then let it slither back down to the sheet. It’s almost the same motion you use when you’re dishing up spaghetti or salad onto someone’s plate– gather everything to the center and then lift it up.
And yes, it was horribly difficult to get a picture for you because you have to keep the candy moving constantly. But because I love you, I did it. You’re welcome.
Keep bringing the candy to the center and pulling it up again and again. The motion keeps the candy supple, and the longer you “pull” it, the more it will cool, and the more tough it will get.
When the candy is cool enough to handle (there will still be super hot parts in the center, so be careful you don’t get burned), cover your hands in butter and “pull” the candy using your hands. This part was really cool. It’s really awesome to see this stuff that was liquid a few minutes ago, starting to form into candy before your eyes. The candy will start to become really shiny and “satiny.” When the candy is firm enough to hold a shape, it’s time to make our mints!
Stretch the candy into a rope that is about 1/2″ thick. Use scissors that you have greased with butter to cut the rope into bite-sized pieces. The great part about this part is that you can use the same silpat-lined sheet you used to stretch the candy on. Just make sure the mints are fairly evenly spaced, and they can rest there without sticking. And then you only have the 1 pan to wash. Score!
The mints need to rest, covered, for 24 hours. Another super easy tip I did the second time through was to take another cookie sheet and turn it upside down over the other one. The little minties can rest there, happily, on their silpat, covered by the little dome made by the other cookie sheet. And voila . . . easy peasy mints that you don’t have to scramble to cover while they dry.
After 24 hours, the mints will be hardened enough that you can stack them without anything getting sticky. At this point, the magic starts to happen.
Put the pretty mints into airtight containers and give them away as one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts. Take some to your Grandma and see if their old-fashioned taste takes her on a little trip down memory lane.
And don’t forget to taste a few of them, yourself. Their taste is hard to describe– delicate, buttery mint flavor that literally melts in your mouth. They are so delicious, and after all this work that you put into making them, you deserve to savor them.
Because you did it. And I’m just so proud of you.
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