Every year around this time my lawn becomes awash in violets. To some, these lovely little plants are weeds – the bane of a homeowner’s pristine-lawn-loving existence. To me, they’re an opportunity to behold nature’s beauty – and to make violet jelly!
As an herbalist, I need to share that the sweet violet (Viola odorata) has a host of medicinal properties, the most common of which might be to ease respiratory afflictions. For a summary of traditional and modern uses of violet teas and topical applications, visit Ask The Herbalists for my latest post. For a more in-depth look at Viola odorata, check out my monograph which was published in the Journal of the American Herbalists’ Guild (scroll down to the SILVER JUBILEE ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL issue).
But for our purposes, I really want to get to the violet jelly, because I recently made a batch that’s to die for! The first step is to harvest about 4 cups of violet flowers from a location that you are confident hasn’t been sprayed with chemicals. I have different colors of violets in my yard, as you can see to the right. Infuse the 4C of violets with 4C of boiling water and steep overnight, up to 24 hours (mason jars are nice for this). Be sure you keep the jars covered, else you will lose the volatile oils that give the violet its distinctive scent and flavor.
After a good steep, strain the liquid off and compost the flowers. The tea will be an unusual shade of purple, almost ‘electric’. Now you’ve got the liquid to make the jelly. Assemble your canning materials and the following ingredients for a low-sugar version:
4 C violet infusion
1/2 C lemon juice (preferably bottled because the acidity will be standardized)
2 C sugar
4 tsp of Pomona pectin (an amazing low-sugar pectin)
4 tsp of calcium water (calcium comes with the Pomona pectin)
Mix sugar and pectin powder in a bowl and set aside. In a large saucepan, bring the violet infusion, lemon juice, and calcium water to a boil. Slowly add sugar and bring back to a boil, stirring vigorously with a wire whisk for 1-2 minutes to dissolve sugar/pectin. Remove from heat. Process sterilized, filled jars for 20 minutes. Makes about 4-5 cups.
From here consult your favorite canning instructions for sterilizing jars and processing. Ball canning has some nice introductory information online, and Pomona pectin (which is all I use due to the low sugar ability) also has specific instructions and tips for using their product.
The finished product will be a bright, iridescent purple and will have a lightly sweet floral taste. It’s a bit like grape jelly, but more delicate.