By Catherine Winter
Here in the Laurentides, rural Quebec, winter is really just getting started. It’s around -15C outside, and snowing, and will keep snowing until the end of April. The world doesn’t revolve around me, however, and my friends in the UK are posting photos of the primroses, crocuses, snowdrops, and even violets that are popping up over there.
If you’re already seeing signs of spring, enjoy every moment! In fact, take full advantage of the early growth and do a bit of vital foraging. You can make dandelion bud capers, spruce tip shortbread, and one of the loveliest spring preserves imaginable: violet jelly.
Violet Jelly Recipe
Anyone who’s a fan of edible flowers will appreciate this delicately flavoured jelly.
Just be aware that that as you’re making it, the initial deep violet hue will change to a bright magenta after you’ve added lemon juice.
It won’t affect the flavour at all, but if you’d like it to be more purple, you’ll need to add a few drops of blue food colouring during the cooking process.
3 cups freshly picked purple wild violet flowers
3 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 boxes of pectin (57g each)
After you’ve picked your violets, rinse them gently in a colander or strainer and transfer them into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with just under 4 cups of boiling water, stir thoroughly, and cover. Let this sit for at least 6 hours, though 12 is ideal.
Strain 3 and 1/2 cups of this liquid into a small cooking pot through cheesecloth or a very fine sieve, and compost the used petals. You’ll notice that the liquid is deep indigo/violet, but as mentioned earlier, that’s not going to last.
Add the lemon juice, and slowly bring the liquid to a boil. Let this roll merrily for about a minute before adding the sugar and pectin. Stir this gently to combine, and bring the mixture back up to a hard boil for a minute or two. Then remove from the heat, and skim off any foam.
Ladle this mixture into sterilised 4- or 8-oz jelly jars, seal with lids and bands, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Let the jars rest for about 5 minutes before removing with tongs, and allow to cool on your counter.
You should hear satisfying little *pops* when the jars seal, but double check them the following day to ensure that all the lids have sealed properly.
The Joy of Foraged Flower Foods
These preserves make great gifts, and are also wonderful to keep in the cupboard to enjoy in the dead of winter. The jelly is gorgeous on freshly baked scones or vanilla ice cream. You can even get really creative with it and use it inside cakes or cupcakes.
Edible flowers are lovely to work with, but many species only appear briefly every spring or summer. If you can harvest some to enjoy throughout the year, by all means—take the opportunity to do so! You’d be amazed by how much joy a little jar of floral sweetness can brighten your day when it’s cold and grey outside.
I’ll sharing more recipes for flowery delights such as elderflower cordial, rose petal jam, chive blossom vinegar, and lavender sugar in the near future, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, if you enjoyed this article, you may like the following as well: