"Cows are my passion. What I have ever sighed for has been to retreat to a farm and live entirely surrounded by cows–and china."

Charles Dickens

April 4, 2012

Violet Jelly: First Canning of the Year!


Violet jelly has to be the easiest jelly I've ever made: the hardest part, to be honest, is leaning down and picking the delicate flowers. After a good forty-five minutes of picking (myself, our youngest boy and his friend––ok, I paid them!)––and lots of me saying "OH, look at the Jack-in-the-Pulpit! The trillium!" (a new cache we discovered up the road from our farm) or the kids showing me great new finds like clusters of small yellow violets––we, miraculously it seemed, had 2 heaping cups of violet blossoms (the recipe for jelly called for four cups of violets, but more about that in a moment).






The purple Sweet Violet (violet odorata) is what you want for jelly.
[In the Language of Flowers, the blue violet is a symbol for faithfulness.]

I first started using violets (and Johnny-Jump Ups, which seemed to grow all over the lawns in our part of New Hampshire) in crystallized form or to decorate small cakes at the tea room I used to operate at Barrett House in New Ipswich, New Hampshire (many moons ago). They have a very delicate, subtly sweet flavor and are perfect for dainty desserts (as long as they are not sprayed), or just thrown into a salad. You can even make them into vinegar and sherbet.
As there are many varieties of violets in Kentucky that grow on roadsides and at the edges of fields before the grasses come in, and early in the spring, I wanted to find ways to "put them up," particularly the prolific sweet purple violet. [There are other more scarce varieties that grow in the woodlands.] I was not disappointed. There are violet recipes galore on the Internet and in several of the cookbooks that I, um, "collect." NOTE ~ You will want to pick in an area that is not sprayed, or, at least, has not been sprayed since the summer prior. As they are the first flowers on the roadside, you should be fine as long as you choose a less-traveled road, or better yet, your own yard or farm lane!


Violet Jelly
  • 2 cups violets (see below)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 packet of Sure-Gel
Yield - 4-5 half-pint jars of jelly

The night before: Place the violets in a glass quart jar and cover with boiling water to the top of the jar. You will see the violet petals immediately start to steep and cast off a lovely pale blue (middle photo, above). Cover and set aside to rest over night or for at least a few hours. The next morning the violets will have floated all through the "violet tea" and will be pale in color (right photo, above). Strain the "tea" through a sieve, into a quart measuring cup or bowl, and discard petals.

Here is the specific recipe I borrowed from to make this.

NOTE ~ I used two cups of violets and doubled the recipe everywhere else so I was technically using half the amount of violets and got double the amount of jelly. However, I believe I got the same intended effect. Using four cups of violets probably just intensifies the flavor a bit more. I'll let you know next year!

Add the lemon juice and watch the pale violet color transform before your eyes.

Pour the violet and lemon juice mixture into a non-reactive pan.
Mix in the powdered pectin.
Add sugar and stir until boiling. Then boil again, hard, for one minute.
Pour into half-pint glasses that have been sterilized. Boil for 10 minutes.
[I use a simple hot water bath in a favorite old vegetable steamer for quick batches.]

And now I can't wait for rose season to make rose jelly and other herbal delights using the same infusion process.

You come back when you're ready! 

Catherine

6 comments:

  1. Lovely! I want to dash out right now and look for violets.

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  2. A friend used to make this and sell at the local farmers market- never knew how she made it. Super excited to try it myself. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Love this beautiful post. It's just sweet in every way.

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  4. Oh my goodness, what a lovely blog you have. I have never heard of violet jelly . . . it sounds very special and gourmet. Your blog just pulls on my heart strings . . . some of my favorite things, Ma and Pa Kettle, vintage farm-girl posters,and the photography is outstanding. Life on your farm must be (I know living on a farm is all about work . . . those cows don't milk themselves) so refreshingly wonderful. When I'm through typing this I am going to become your newest follower. Please accept my invitation to visit my blog and hopefully you will see something there that interested you enough to follow me, too. Have a wonderful day, Connie :)

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  5. I think I might just have to go find me some violets now!
    Shannon

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  6. Alright Catherine. I'm going violet-hunting next spring. :) Thanks.

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