The weather’s still a bit persnickety here—now it’s raining, in five minutes it will be too hot, tomorrow we may need jackets—but even so, it’s spring. Flowers are blooming, from the tulips and snowdrops to the magnolia trees shedding pink petals everywhere.
And violets. My entire yard is covered in tiny purple, blue, and white flowers.
Every year, I promise myself I’ll make violet sugar. Or violet syrup. Or violet vinegar. And every year I keep promising it until sometime in mid-June, when I realize the violets have been gone for weeks.
So this year, on the first fine Saturday after I realized the yard was purple, a friend and I spent an hour or so telling stories and picking violets. We ended up with a good quart.
Pro tip: it saves some time if you pick just the heads to begin with, rather than tearing them up by the roots and plucking petals later.
For all of these recipes, I’m being pretty flexible on the proportions. There are ten thousand violet recipes online, and all of them contradict each other. But also, I don’t think we can screw this up.
Violet vinegar is as easy as can be. Rinse the violets well, then let dry on a towel. Fill ~1/4 of the jar with blossoms, then pour vinegar over the violets til the jar is full. I used apple cider vinegar because that’s what I keep in the house, but I hear champagne vinegar and white wine vinegar work well too.
Let the violets sit for a week or two, then strain. You can use it on salad, or as a hair rinse. Apparently it’s also good for sunburn!
Violet sugar is also pretty simple. Take about 1c of sugar and about 1/4c of petals only (no green bits! ask me how I know), and a smidgen of lemon zest if you have some. Throw it in the food processor and pulse til smooth. If it ends up wet and sticky, you can find instructions for drying it here.
Sprinkle over buttered toast, cookies, cupcakes, french toast. It’s heavenly on fresh fruit.
For violet syrup, put the violets in a glass jar, then pour boiling water over the top. Steep for up to 24 hours, til it’s a gorgeous bluish color. Strain the violets, then measure your violet tea. Measure out an equal amount of white sugar. So, if you have 1c of violet tea, measure out 1c of sugar.
Put the violet tea in a saucepan and gently heat it up—if you boil it, the color will change. It’ll be grey, which is pretty but less striking. (If you want to play with color, you can turn it hot pink by adding a few drops of lemon juice.) Stir in the sugar til it dissolves and thickens, then remove from heat.
Once it’s cooled, put it in a pretty jar. Use in place of simple syrup in baking, sodas, cocktails, etc.
Maybe next year I’ll get really fancy and crystallize a few blossoms. What are your favorite springtime recipes?
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Obligatory PSA: African violets are not the same thing as woodland violets. Don’t eat those. They aren’t food.