Violet Jelly

I am not always an adventurous eater, but I do like to try historical foodstuffs, especially florals and plants that have gone from crop to weed. I have been known to pick dandelion greens and purslane from my yard for salads. At my old house, a bird planted a couple of random mulberry trees and I chose two and let them grow, because I love them, and I had a very old climbing rose with beautiful fragrant blossoms. Every year I would wait delightedly for May and June so I could make rose liqueur and mulberry liqueur and preserves. When we moved two summers ago, those plants were the only thing I missed about that house. Our new home has one stinky and not at all tasty rose and no fruit. (Yet.) But this spring it is awash in violets, so taking a page from the Victorians, I decided to try jelly, if for no other reason than to see what it tasted like. One can’t pick it up at the store around here.

Violet jelly is even more of a science experiment than regular jelly-making. The chemical that gives violets their signature bluepurple color is related to the one in red cabbage. It is acid/base reactive. To make the jelly, you start with a tea of violet blossoms, which comes out a rich aqua or blue depending on the color of the violets.

It requires acid to make it gel, so I used lemon juice. Between that and the citric acid in the pectin packet, the color change is immediate and dramatic.

It is quite delicious. A very delicate flavor, sweet and bright from the lemon juice, but faintly fruity and floral. Not a robust flavor at all, perfect for scones or an english muffin. It is so lovely, too.

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Oooo! This sounds quite good! So wonderful that you made something from your new place’s bounty!

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Lovely color. Neat to use what’s on hand.

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This looks great, and a lot of work. Violets are so tiny. You can also try crystallizing them, they are pretty for cake decorations

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This is awesome! I really love the taste of violets and this jelly looks so delicious!
I’ve made syrup from lavender and roses to make lemonade in summer or have it with ice cream. A friend of mine made honey from dandelions. Have you tried that?

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I need to try that sometime! I got a packet of edible violet seeds, but so far it hasn’t resulted in flowers yet. I actually grow purslane in my garden, we love eating it. @Magpie told me it’s considered a weed on your side of the Atlantic but we think of it more as an heirloom crop.

I am impressed by the colour of that violet tea. Have you tasted it? That would look pretty fancy if you served it at a tea party. Hopefully we’ll soon be able to have those again.

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I had no idea you could eat violets! The colors are worth it for me!

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I love seeing violets in the springtime. It’s so cool that you made jelly.

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Well, this is simply intriguing! I love seeing the different stages. Thanks for sharing!

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What a cool experiment! I love that you shared this with us!

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Did you start this post saying you weren’t an adventurous eater? LOL! It sounds like you are. The jelly looks really neat and I am curious of the taste. I had never heard of it before. Cool project.

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It’s less work than it looks. This batch used 2 lightly-packed cups of violets, and mine are blooming in such profusion that it only took me about 15 minutes to pick what I needed. Then you just cover them with boiling water and leave them overnight. The actual jelly-making the next day only takes about 10 minutes, and I didn’t water bath process this batch because each of these jars is going straight to a friend who is also interested in tasting it, and will likely get used right away, so it was a lot of extra fuss for no real reason. I highly recommend it if you can find the blossoms!

I haven’t tried anything with dandelion blossoms. I keep thinking I should, but most of my dandelions are in the dog portions of my yard now, so I can’t be sure of cleanliness. I LOVE rose lemonade. The rose liqueur I made makes a hard lemonade to die for, and was also surprisingly delicious mixed with cherry lime LaCroix. The rose flavor perfectly complemented the cherry and lime, and there was just that punch of sugar in the liqueur to make the sparking water more of a sweetened soda. I REALLY wish the rose at my new house was tastier. I might have to find myself a nice heirloom rose for side for the side of the house. I miss the rose liqueur.

I think purslane in particular is making a comeback in some circles, but mostly is considered a sidewalk weed here.

In my case, my wild violets are bicolor white and blueviolet, so the tea was more of a teal or dark aqua green, but if I had more of the true purple violets, it could be an almost cobalt blue. The tea itself is very lightly flavored, slightly sweet and floral. I think, though, that it would take SO MANY violets to really make a drinkable quantity that it isn’t worth it.

You could, instead, make syrup out of the tea, just sugar, no acid, so it remains the amazing blue or green color. I know they’re making a gin with butterfly pea flowers these days that changes in the same way, so it changes color depending on what you mix it with. But a violet syrup could be used in a black tea, and it would change the tea to a red color, I imagine.

An interesting note to this is that pansies and violas are all edible as well, so it isn’t JUST the wild violets that are edible. And in fact, my violets are technically viola bicolor, the “field violet”, where the standard blue-violet wild violet in the US is the viola sororia, the “wood violet” or sometimes “meadow violet” and the typical wild violet in much of Europe is viola tricolor, also called just “Viola” as a common name, and the basis for almost all Pansy hybrids, which are typically called “viola tricolor hortensis”. ALL of these plants are edible and can be used for candies, jellies, syrups, etc.

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Honestly, I am not a HUGE jelly-maker, and typically make liqueurs rather than more traditional foodstuffs. I also had no idea at all what this was going to taste like or if I would like it, and I knew I would get at least 4 jars out of the batch, so it really HAD to be something I was going to enjoy the making of, to make it worth it. And boy did I. It was so interesting. I have a video of the pouring the lemon juice into the tea, but couldn’t really post it here. I’m probably going to blog about it later, though. lol

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I suppose maybe I am not as unadventurous as I think. My sister is an anthropologist who is FAR traveled, and as a consequence is a foodie with a VERY broad taste range. Compared to the things she makes, using a recipe you might have found in Anne of Green Gables does not seem very interesting. lol

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How very cool. I am so interested in the taste.

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I don’t drink but that’s a brilliant idea, it would look very spectacular if it changed colour while you mix it. Syrup is a great idea too.

For edible flowers in general, only eat them if you’ve grown them yourself or they are sold as edible. If you buy non-organic plants they could be sprayed with chemicals that you don’t want to eat. Flowers on peas, beans, zucchini and squash are also edible, but if you pick all the flowers there won’t be any harvest, so i don’t usually do that. But they will impress your dinner party guests!

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Oh, absolutely re: growing them one’s self. And not just due to pesticides and herbicides, but also, no delicate way of saying this, dogs.

The flavor is really very odd, in that it is familiar but totally unrecognizable. It tastes sort of like a lot of things, but not like anything else, at the same time. Quite pleasant, although my husband reported getting a little hit of bitterness when he tried it, that came and then went again immediately. (And, I think largely due to overhearing that comment, my kid also reported it being “slightly bitter”.) I don’t get any hints of bitter, really. Just vaguely fruity and floral. While cooking, it tasted a bit like a pink lemonade, from the lemon juice I used as an acid, but after cooling, that lemon is less distinct, and more of just a bright note in the overall flavor. It is SUPER simple to make, and well worth it just for the experiment.

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