How to make Violet Syrup-a Wildflower Recipe

A Wood Sprite told me last week it was almost Friday, and she had spied some Violets open and ready, suggested it might be time to make some Violet flower syrup. Unfortunately it rained most of that day, so visiting the Violets was postponed. I hope this coming Friday the weather will be better suited for harvesting Violet flowers.

English: Violets on the Flitch Way Sweet Viole...

English: Violets on the Flitch Way Sweet Violets Viola odorata growing along the old Braintree to Bishops Stortford Railway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

   It is a simple recipe and provides the most gorgeous purple cooling and refreshing summer drink. Though it is a bit of a delicate procedure, temperature being critical to colour, it is well worth the effort.  It is the prettiest and  the most refreshing summer drink I have ever made! One other cool thing about Violet flower syrup, is that when you mix it in water it transforms to a translucent Lavender colour, and if you decide to “tarten” it up a bit with an acid  like lemon juice, it transforms to magenta! But if you add an alkaline to it, it will turn Green! (Mineral water??). Historically it was used a one of the first “Litmus” papers, before there were Litmus papers. 

  You can mix it with water or club soda/Perrier and still get the lovely colour changes and superb refreshment. Medicinally it is great for cooling down heated conditions, physically and emotionally,(anger etc.). Similarly, the leaves are traditionally used to treat “hot” tumors, boils, inflammations etc.

Violets

Venus And Violets

 Astrodynamically, like Friday, it is Ruled by Venus, Planet of beauty and Love among other things, and is cooling and moist in its nature. (As opposed to Saturns energy which can be cold and dry. 

  • As with most other flower wines, we want as much of the coloured petals and the least amount of green stem or leaf possible. When you find a nice thick carpet of flowering Violets in all their royal Spring purpleness, you will often be able slide your slightly parted fingers under the flowers, close the gaps between your fingers as you withdraw your hand, and harvest quite a few flowers at a time. Then just keep skimming them with your fingers, popping off the flowers till your hand can hold no more and you start picking more off the ground than you are collecting. Put them in your bag or basket and keep on skimming, moving over the more thickly populated areas till you have the required amount. Don’t be fooled by how simple the process is, it does take time to accumulate any significant quantity. Especially since they need to be compacted before they are measured for your syrup. I usually use a large paper liqueur store bag to collect them, keeping them always in the shade and cool. Then, off to home to do a final cleaning, separating as much green as I can, discarding any leaf, stem, substandard, dried or aged flowers.

Wild Violets-Viola Odorata

In our area we can find purple Violets, White Violets, white Violet flowers with purple speckles and various combinations of the three. For Violet Syrup we only want Purple flowered Violets. The deeper the colour, the better. Don’t be surprised if you find they don’t have much of a fragrance. At least in our area of North America. For many years I assumed that being a perfume ingredient, Violet flowers would have a fragrance worth capturing, they don’t. In perfume Violet leaf absolute is used, it has a sweet, green, floral earthy scent and imparts a beautiful green hue to your perfume. I know that Pansies, which are cousins of Viola Odorata, ( and edible in reasonable quantities), do sometimes have a lovely scent, and someday I will try making a Violet syrup from a purple fragrant strain. 

 Viola Odorata

Violet flowers do not dry very easily. Well, they dry easily enough but also lose their colour very easily. Perhaps pressed in the leaves of a book, safe from any moisture and absolutely no  heat or UV rays they might keep longer. In general they fade quickly with exposure to light. So something to keep in mind, is to store your dried Violets and your violet flower syrup in as dark a place as possible, cool is good too, so a fridge does come to mind.

  • If you are going to harvest Violet flowers for syrup, please have a look at  my earlier blog, “9 tips for  making a Kick ass Wild flower Wine”. It will give you some insight how to make the very best Violet syrup.
  • One difference between making Violet Syrup and Dandelion Wine, is that it is best if the Violet flowers are dry. Not so much because of spoilage, but because we want to avoid anything that might dilute their beautiful colour such as a higher water content in the recipe..
  • Violets proliferate and propagate themselves by seed and root, and though they are extremely resilient, please be considerate of the plants. 
  • Don’t harvest them all. If there is an abundance of them, spread your “footprint” out so your harvest is not too obvious.
  • Leave some for others to enjoy. Good Wild crafting etiquette.
  • Always give something back, Nature loves balance and will always find a way to keep it. Whether it is at your expense or not.

Paper bag, an open bucket or basket kept in the shade, are the rule for harvesting most herbs and mushrooms in the wild. Plastic does not allow air circulation, holds in moisture, can be a breeding ground for bacteria, especially if you don’t get to process your herbs immediately as can often happen with the complexities of life. Plastic containers can accelerate decomposition, especially if it is warm out,. It can cause them to wilt, and age before you even get your harvest to the kitchen. With Violet flowers, I find sometimes it is a good idea to fluff them up occasionally, allowing fresh air to the ones that are getting packed into the bottom of your collection. This also helps disperse any dew or rain that might be lingering on them. They are a more delicate harvest than most.

 A RECIPE FOR WILD VIOLET FLOWER SYRUP

  • 4 cups, or a one liter container, of cleaned, very tightly packed fresh Violet flowers.
  • 6 cups, or 1-1/2 liters of boiling water
  • 16 cups, or approximately 4 Kilograms of white sugar.
  • Do NOT add lemon juice! Though someone I very much respect calls for this in a violet flower syrup recipe, it will turn your beautiful purple to a magenta, which, though nice, is something you can do later in a glass with your purple syrup. If you add it while making your syrup, you will immediately lose the purple of the Violet.

Preparation

  • Put Violet flowers in a glass or enameled pot with lid. Only use stainless steel if you have to.
  • Bring water to a boil.
  • Pour the water over the Violet Flowers, cover tightly.
  •  Let sit overnight at room temperature or slightly above it. On top of the fridge sometimes works.
  • After 24 hours or so, press out as much of the liquid as you can.  (See nylon stocking in how to make a kick ass dandelion wine), or use a clean herb press with a nylon stocking.
  •  Measure out your purple liquid and put it through a very clean paper, (or mesh), coffee filter. (Make sure to enjoy the colour!).
  • Add your liquid to the now washed and clean pot.
  • For every 1 Cup, of liquid, add 2-1/4 cups white granulated sugar.
  • Bring slowly to a boil on medium heat stirring till sugar dissolves.
  •  Skim of the scum as it collects, (It will be a beautiful purple colour), but DO NOT LET IT COME TO A FULL BOIL!
  • Take it off the heat,
  • Wait for 5 minutes and repeat the process. Again, stirring, but do not let it actually boil.
  • Take it off the heat. Put the lid back on and let it cool till it can be handled or poured into vessels without cracking them.
  • If you have hot sterile bottles or jars to store it in, then use them. (You can pour it in hot). Personally, I love having it sit in a cut glass decanter. Beautiful to behold! I find it will keep for a few weeks, (or longer) in a decanter, months if I sterilize it first. (With Sodium Metabisulphite,make sure to follow the instructions that come with it.)   If you don’t have sterile canning jars or bottles, keeping it in the fridge will preserve it for weeks if not months.
  • Because of the lack, (and the expectation), of a sweet fragrance, I will often add one drop per two cups syrup, of essential oil of Neroli, distilled from the flowers of the bitter orange, right before I bottle the syrup. Feel free to explore this path of enhancing the Violet flower syrup, but keep in mind to only use real essential oils, never fragrance oils or chemically identical substitutes. Another point to keep in mind is that some fragrances are much stronger than Neroli essential oil, such as Jasmine Absolute. So use them accordingly.

 Have fun.
 And remember to always keep notes. Your future self will thank you.

Dan

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18 comments

  1. I made this recipe today, and it makes a lovely syrup, but SO MUCH OF IT! LOL! I have lots and lots of violet syrup to give to new neighbors etc. I would recommend halfing this recipe, especially since syrups don’t tend to can terribly well.

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      1. Dan- I wanted to let you know my very scientific experience with this recipe. None of the other recipes online mention it’s Ph properties like you did, and i must say that makes all the difference! I made the recipe in a much smaller quantity, but was befuddled when my 24 hour elixir was a “true blue”. I was disappointed, but stopped to think……and i remembered our well water years ago tested very alkaline, i think an 8.0, so, taking your Ph info into consideration, i realized our alkaline water was producing the “blue”. Knowing my color wheel and the Ph factor, i determined an acid should turn it the other way, and so, in went the lemon juice and, viola! The dreamy violet color appeared. I figured if the lemon juice turned violet into magenta, then the lemon juice should turn a blue into violet!!!! Also, i put two tablets of Choward’s Violet tablet candies in the hot mixture, to give it a more “esthetic” violet taste. Thank you for a new spring tradition!!!!

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      2. Hey Mountainfairy.
        That is brilliant!!!! I never thought it out that far. I think you took the information and brought the whole recipe up a notch. I will have to add a special bit to the recipe post referring to your experiences with adjusting ph properties in the source water. Thank you so much for visiting, and a special thanks for your input.
        Dan

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      3. Dan, i’m glad my scientific mind could help the violet syrup world! LOL
        So, my beautiful violet syrup crystalized on the bottom, white sugary, and
        violet syrup ontop after a month in the fridge. Is this normal? Is it like honey
        where heating it returns all to liquid? 1/4 of the mason jar is the crystalized
        white sugar and 3/4 is pure violet syrup. I can live with that. LOL

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    1. Hi Gail;
      Good question,,,, I would assume that they may grow in the cooler areas towards the mountains from Santa Barbara. The weather here in Southern Ontario doesn’t seem that different from yours except of course for the colder winters, which may be a critical issue, but I couldn’t say for sure.
      They grow readily from seed here, and of course from root cuttings. If I were you I would do some research on local plants and see if Viola Odorata is listed as growing in your vicinity.
      Apparently the deep purple Pansies can be used to make a similar syrup. Often with more fragrance. If you can find or grow some of those then you may have your solution. We usually plant them in the spring and fall since they too like the colder weather. That would be my second choice if I couldn’t find wild Violets.
      Good luck Gail. Let me know how it goes, perhaps I could arrange to ship you some seeds.
      Dan

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  2. So you use the syrup as you would any other syrup? As a sweetener on other foods? I’ve never encountered it, but we sure do have a lot of violets. A LOT of violets and more ever year.

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    1. Yes, just like any syrup. It has the most phenomenal rich purple colour though. That in itself adds another dimension to using it. With a squeeze of lemon and cold water it makes a Magenta coloured, very cooling and refreshing beverage. It’s not hard to make, you should try it sometime. It will add an extra splash of colour to your life in more ways than one..
      Dan

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  3. I was looking for a recipe for violet syrup that doesn’t use lemon juice so I wouldn’t lose the beautiful violet color. Just finished my first batch and it’s perfect. I’ll be out picking more flowers tomorrow. Thanks for posting your recipe,which I reposted on Pinterest so I can go back to it next year.

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    1. Thank you. That’s great!! I always feel anxious after posting a recipe in case I made a mistake or it’s a dud!! Yours is the first response to the Violet Syrup recipe. I am so glad you enjoyed it! You made my day!!!
      Dan

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