The arrival of spring and all its wonderful blossoms, birds and warm breezes is by far my favorite time of the year. A while back I shared a recipe for Honeysuckle Jelly that is always a big hit everywhere we take it. The cool thing about this recipe is once you’ve learned how to make the infusion for the jelly, you can substitute virtually ANY edible flower to produce amazing and unique jellies. The variation I have below is for Violet Jelly, made from freshly picked, beautiful, purple violet flowers. The taste is hard to describe, but wonderfully refreshing; almost peppery with a little tart flavor still detectable underneath the sweetness. We put it on toast, biscuits and of course atop a fancy cracker with a smear of cream cheese for an eye catching appetizer.
Working with violets and capturing their purple color is fascinating, because so many things can affect the final color, or how much vibrancy of color remains after the initial infusion. The answer seems to come down to acidity, so adding a little lemon juice is good insurance for ensuring a striking end result. Without it, the color slowly fades into a greyish purple/blue. It’s still pretty but takes on a cloudy look.
Medicinally, Violets are used as a blood purifier and immune system supporter. They are a good treatment when swollen glands are involved to stimulate the lymph glands helping your body filter out toxins and other nasties. Unfortunately, the boiling process in jelly making negates much of their therapeutic properties, but at least the taste and beauty remain.
To make the jelly, collect 2 cups of flower tops. Violets come in several varieties, but the completely purple ones impart the best color.
Place the flowers in a large mason jar and pour in 2 cups of boiling water. Cap the jar and let it sit for at least 4 hours. If after 4 hours your color isn’t bright enough, or it looks like there is still a lot of color left in the flower petals, bring a pot of water to a boil, turn the heat off and sit the infusion jar down in the pot to rewarm the infusion. Leave this until everything has completely cooled.
After the infusion has cooled, strain out the flowers and measure to make sure you wound up with 2 cups of infusion.
You can see how much color and yummy goodness is leached from the flowers in these comparison photos.
Place the 2 cups of infusion in a large sauce pot with 4 cups of white sugar and 1/4 cup of lemon juice. The picture below makes it easy to see how lemon juice changes the color. Both are pretty.
Bring the mixture to a boil that you can’t stir down, then add one 3 oz package of liquid pectin and cook for an additional 2 minutes, stirring continuously.
Ladle jelly into hot, sterilized jars leaving approximately 1/2 inch head space. Screw on sterilized lids until they are “finger tight”. Use tongs to retrieve the hot jars and lids from their sterilization bath. Some recipes say to process jars of jelly in a Water-Bath Canner for 5 minutes, but I always do what my mother and grandmother did and just turn them upside down for 5 or 10 minutes, then right them to cool and they seal just fine. If botulism were a concern because of the acidity level, I would go for the pressure canner, but for jellies like this it’s not necessary. The water bath canner for only 5 minutes doesn’t get hot enough to address that anyway.
Place the jars, turned upright, away from excessive heat or drafts and allow to cool for 24 hours. You’ll hear them “Pop” when they seal and it’s fun to count them down. Once fully cooled, you can test to make sure they are properly sealed either by pressing on the tops to make sure they don’t make any sound or have any movement in the lid, or by bouncing a small spoon on each lid. If they are sealed, the spoon will bounce easily and make a nice “ping”. If they aren’t sealed, the sound will be dull and the spoon won’t have a good bounce. Jars that don’t seal can be kept in the refrigerator and used first.
Here is the recipe in quick and dirty form for those who don’t need the step by step:
Violet Jelly – yields approximately 5 half-pint jars
– 2 Cups Violet flowers
– 2 Cups boiling water
– 1/4 Cup lemon juice
– 4 Cups sugar
– 1 package liquid pectin (3 ounces)
Pick any stems from flowers and discard. Make an infusion by placing flowers and boiling water in a half gallon mason jar and capping tightly. Let sit for at least 4 hours or let cool and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Strain flowers from infusion and place the 2 cups of infusion in a large saucepan along with lemon juice and sugar. Turn heat to medium-high and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. If using a candy thermometer, heat to 220 degrees. (jelly stage)
Add the pectin and boil for 2 minutes.
Ladle into hot, sterilized jars and cap with sterilized 2 piece canning lids. Place jars in a water bath canner for 5 minutes or turn upside down on a towel for 5-10 minutes before righting.
Place jars upright on a towel, away from excessive heat or drafts and allow to cool for 24 hours. Test jars for proper sealing.