Whether you are making a mint julep for Oaks Day or Derby Week, a mojito for a cocktail party or herbes de Provence for your pantry, fresh and dried crushed mint are kitchen and bar essentials. Fresh-picked mint leaves less than 1 1/2-inch long have the best flavour. Older, larger leaves can sometimes taste bitter. Crushing fresh mint for drinks is known as muddling, using a pestle-like object 9 to 10 inches long.
Cut fresh mint sprigs with leaves 1 1/2 inches long from your herb garden just before you want to use them. Rinse each sprig under a gentle stream of cold running water and shake or pat dry.
Dig a fingernail into the stem of each sprig to break the stem just above the second set of leaves from the top. Reserve the top leaves to use as a garnish.
Add your sugar, simple syrup or fruit juice to a Tom Collins glass, if making a mojito, or to a silver or steel mint julep cup.
Pluck five to seven mint leaves from the stem and drop them into the bottom of the glass, giving a gentle stir with a cocktail wand to ensure that the mint and any liquid are well-mixed but the mint is not yet bruised.
Place your muddler in the glass, rounded end down. A muddler is a bat-shaped wooden or plastic kitchen and bar tool resembling a pestle. Use gentle pressure to bruise the mint, moving the round end of the muddler around the bottom of the glass. Press 10 to 20 times and stop, to avoid bruising the mint so much that it becomes bitter.
Continue making your cocktail, following the appropriate recipe.
Select fresh-picked, rinsed mint leaves 1 1/2-inch long. Pat each leaf dry on a paper towel.
Place mint leaves on a non-stick baking tray without allowing them to touch or overlap.
Preheat your oven to 60 degrees C. When your preheat light goes off or your oven thermometer reads 60 degrees C, turn the oven off. Arrange the baking trays on each oven rack to allow your mint leaves to oven-dry.
Remove the baking trays from your oven when it has cooled back down to room temperature.
Place a single mint leaf between your palms and rub briskly back and forth. If the leaf rolls or twists instead of pulverising, preheat your oven to 60 degrees C again and return the baking trays to the oven.
Repeat the heating and cooling cycles. Test one leaf as described, at the end of each cycle, until a leaf pulverises instead of rolling or twisting. Rub all the dried leaves between your palms once your test leaf will crush.
Mix your crushed mint with the other ingredients for herbes de Provence. Pour the mixture into spice jars and label them.