I have so many violets on my land that they actually seem to crowd out the dandelions. (I wasn’t going for golf course-quality turf anyway.) I’ve never been troubled by Viola odorata. In fact, the pretty purple volunteers are quite useful.
For my part? I gather the fragrant flower heads to cook into a delicious pink jelly. Pretty, hand-labeled jars of the stuff make unusual, inexpensive gifts. (Because I like to divide my batches into several mini containers, I usually use four-ounce canning jars.)
Provided you have violets—and extra time on your hands—you might want to give violet jelly a try. The following recipe makes 64 ounces in all.
To make your own, you’ll need loads of violet petals. Harvest only from areas you know to be chemical-free. (Avoid Fido’s favorite patches, too.) Ideally, you’ll want enough violets to be able to come away with at least two tightly packed cups of petals—and many more, if you can put in the effort.
Bring the heads inside and separate any stray stems as well as the tiny green sepals surrounding the petals. You can either pinch off this leafy end of the flower head or pluck out individual petals one by one.
Although time-consuming, this process is, at least, perfectly suited for multi-tasking. Why not pick off petals while listening to your favorite podcast or chatting on the phone?
After you’ve removed their stems and leaves, pack as many violet petals into a one-quart jar as you can. At minimum, you’ll need two tightly packed cups’ worth. Even more is better.
To create a violet petal infusion, boil four cups of water and slowly pour it over the flower petals. They will shrink down considerably when submerged, so you should be able to fill the jar all the way to the top with your hot water.
Tightly seal the jar and allow it to cool to room temperature. For a stronger infusion, you can refrigerate it overnight.
Besides four cups of violet infusion, you’ll also need two tablespoons of lemon juice, one box of powdered pectin, and five cups of sugar. As I mentioned in my pepper-peach jam recipe, I prefer to use raw cane sugar.
Vegans and vegetarians as well as those wishing to keep kosher or halal might also want to go with raw cane sugar. (Traditional white sugar is refined with bone char. Raw cane sugar isn’t.)
Low-sugar pectin products are also available. That means you might be able to get away with using less sugar or even substituting alternate sweeteners like stevia or agave.
Want your violet jelly to keep for a year or more? Then haul out the canning supplies and plan on heat-packing it.
Before you cook the jelly, sterilize your canning jars, canning lids, and rings. (If you don’t feel like heat-packing your jelly, that’s OK. It will last as-is in the refrigerator for a few weeks.)
To start, pour the violet petal-filled liquid through a fine strainer or cheese cloth. Capture and save only the liquid. This is your violet petal infusion. (You can now discard the flower petals.)
In a separate bowl, measure out five cups of sugar. Set aside.
In a heavy saucepan, combine your infusion with the lemon juice. The deep indigo color should turn bright pink now. Stir well over medium heat. Gradually add the pectin powder.
Once you’ve mixed in the pectin, increase the heat. Add all of the sugar into the pot and mix thoroughly. Keep mixing as you bring the contents to a rolling boil. The jelly-to-be should remain at a rolling boil for one full minute.
(Failure to boil or failure to keep boiling for the full minute can cause failure to set.)
After the minute’s up, your jam is ready to transfer to your prepared canning jars or other containers. If you’re packing jam for long-term storage, leave about one-quarter-of-an-inch space at the top of each jar. Be sure lid threads are clean and jam-free so that your canning lids will form a tight seal.
As it cools, your jelly will begin to set up. This process can take four hours or longer, so be patient.
While you wait, consider designing your own labels as a finishing touch—particularly if you’ll be giving your violet jelly as a gift. One free, online design tool I like for this is Canva.com.