Last autumn we made our first venture into the world of fermenting…turning apples into cider. It was a fun experiment with delicious results. Recently I’ve been exploring other types of beverages – fermented and not. Tisanes, cordials, squashes, switchels, tonics, infusions and syrups to flavor home crafted sodas and other drinks.
It’s finally SPRING in our neck of the woods and woodlands are where my first test ingredient can be found…common Blue Violets (Viola sororia) that have a very subtle fragrance. If you like more fragrance, you can grow the European sweet violets (Viola odorata).
For those with an interest in herbal healing, violets are used for cooling. In early times, cloths soaked in violet water were used to soothe a fevered brow. Violet teas, or tisanes, were drunk to help cleanse the blood and reduce inflammation. Another name by which violets are known is hearts-ease. The violet’s cooling properties and soothing color are well used in summer beverages. Violet syrup can be added to water, seltzer, or alcoholic beverages. Adding the juice of lemon, lime or orange changes the pretty indigo syrup to a magenta color.
For a rich syrup color, select the darkest purple flowers, and gather in the morning after the dew has dried. Harvest into a paper bag or cloth lined basket to keep them in the dark and dry as it will be a time consuming process to gather sufficient quantities. Gather only from areas you know have not been treated with pesticides or road chemicals. Practice good wild-crafting etiquette. And don't disturb any sleeping dragons!
VIOLET FLOWER SYRUP
· 4 cups of lightly packed fresh Violet flowers.
· 6 cups, or 1.5 liters of boiling water
· Approximately 16 cups, or 4 Kilograms of white sugar.
Gather the violets and remove stems and leaves. Measure the flowers, lightly packed then place them into a glass canning jar. Bring water to a boil and pour over the violets. Cover tightly. Let the violets sit overnight at room temperature or slightly above it. This is your infusion. After 24 hours or so, press out as much of the liquid as you can.
Measure out your violet infusion and put it through a very clean paper, (or mesh), coffee filter into a clean pot. An enameled cast iron pot is perfect. Try to avoid using metal.
For every cup of liquid, add 2 and 1/4 cups white granulated sugar. Slowly bring the liquid to almost boiling, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Skim off any scum and remove from heat. Wait five minutes and repeat. You are looking for the liquid to thicken into a syrup, but do not let it boil or the sugar may crystallize.
Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool, then pour it into sterile bottles. It can then be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks. Use it as you would a simple syrup.
Violet Limeade Refresher
A tall glass works well for this lovely beverage. Add ice if desired and pour approximately 1/4 cup of the violet syrup into the glass. Add the juice of two small limes, or approximately 1/4 cup of lime juice. Top off with original, plan club soda or seltzer, stir until the mixture is well blended. The indigo color syrup will turn into a lovely ruby color - the original pink limeade! Lemon juice can be substituted for the lime if preferred. Juice and syrup measurements can easily be adjusted to taste. Garnish with a lime wedge or twist and candied violet if serving to guests. Enjoy!