Recommended: A spring afternoon spent playing with flowers. My kids are on spring break this week and we’re spending a few extra days at my parents’ house, half working and half playing and mostly getting all the way muddy.
My mom and dad’s yard is an early spring dream this week: all daffodils and violets edged with a bright yellow forsythia hedge. The patches of wild violets are mostly of the white variety, streaked with painterly purple, but there are are—or at any rate, there were—a handful of patches populated with dark purple flowers, perfect for experimenting with violet confections.
I’d never made a violet syrup before, but what better way to please a four year-old enamored with the color than to make a bright purple syrup for her tasting pleasure? Together, Faye and I harvested as many deep purple violets as we could, popping the cheery heads off of their stems like two not-so-gentle giants.
Most recipes for violet syrup call for a quantity of violets that surpasses what my parents have in their yard, so here’s some encouragement to go ahead and give the recipe a try even if you don’t find yourself in the middle of a violet metropolis. I found the recipe to be forgiving and amenable to changes and fairy-sized portions. Here’s what I did; feel free to adjust according to the size of your patch and ambition.
+ ~1 cup of packed dark purple violets, stems and green base removed.
+ Water, enough to just cover the violet petals
+ Lemon juice, just a few drops
+ ~ 1/2 cup sugar
+ Cheesecloth or other clean fabric
+ Small sauce pan and heat-safe bowl, or a double-boiler if you have it.
+ Clean bottle or jar for storing the syrup
+ Lightly rinse violet petals in sieve under cool water to be sure they’re free of bugs and insects.
+ Place cleaned petals into a non-reactive glass or stainless steel jar or bowl. Pour boiling water on top of the petals until just barely covered. Use a wooden spoon (or your fingers once the water is cool enough) to gently agitate mixture and press the petals. Let sit covered for as little as a few hours, or overnight.
+ Once steeped, the water will appear dark blue. Add a few squeezes of lemon juice and watch it turn a bright, very nearly luminescent purple.
+ Line a sieve with cheesecloth and strain the liquid into a bowl or pot. Squeeze the cheesecloth to get every last drop out of the flowers.
+ Add ~1/2 cup sugar (liquid to sugar ratio should be about 2:1) and stir. Place the bowl or sauce pan over a pan with boiling water to gently melt the sugar.
+ While still warm, add the the syrup to a clean glass jar or bottle. Cover and keep refrigerated until all used up in the making of sparkling seltzers, drizzled over cakes, stirred into frosting, added to cocktails or otherwise generally enjoyed.
+ Always be sure that you’re harvesting edible flowers away from places that have not been treated with pesticides and/or that have also been recently treated to gifts from neighborhood dogs.
+ Recipes for violet syrup are abundant online. Some have you steep in cold water. Some have you cook petals over the stove. Some, like I have, used boiling water to kickstart the infusion process. If you’ve tried a different process that you’ve like, feel free to share in the comments!
+ I can’t say that the resulting syrup is the most floral or fragrant that I’ve made. It’s definitely purple, but it mostly lacks the signature violet taste of, say, the violet pastilles I loved as a kid. This is likely violet variety specific, and probably has to do with the delicate nature of the scent to begin with. Enjoy the process, and the thrill of drinking flowers, but don’t, perhaps, expect an extremely floral syrup if your flowers are not very fragrant themselves.