Have you rummaged in your undergrowth recently? Did you see any deeeeep blue flowers? No? I guess yours might be one of the gardens I pillaged for a supply of violets. You see, while flipping through the lovely Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry, I saw mention of a violet jelly, popular around Toulouse in France.
If you go Googling (no, wait, do it later!), you’ll find a few recipes out there for violet jelly — think clear preserve, not wobbly stuff. On a recent visit to Canberra, intrepid jam-man Greg suggested we go a-picking. So we denuded his garden, steeped handfuls of flowers in hot water, then cooked up the liquid with sugar and pectin and lemon juice to make… a rather pink jelly. We used this recipe.
Alas, blue colours in food are quite unstable. To set a jam you usually use pectin and a little acid. The acid (in this case lemon juice) does, however, turn blues to red. So, fixing the jelly endangers the prettiness. I overshot a little in my juice-dosing, it would seem, so pinkish jelly with violet taste was the result.
Recipes vary on their recommendation of variety of violet. Most just say ‘violets’, but some ask specifically for parma violets (which have lots of petals, a so-called ‘double’ violet variety), while others might ask for sweet violets (viola odorata).
Note that the violet fragrance is very delicate. It is difficult to create a jelly with a strong violet flavour, so if you’re tempted to make some, be prepared for the fleeting beauty of the violet.