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