Rita asked me if I wanted to learn how to make jelly and jam using the violets growing in our yard and, of course, I jumped at the opportunity.
The first step - she told me - was that we had to pick the flowers, lots and lots of them. So Saturday evening after dinner I strolled across the street with my basket and we set to it...
Violets are technically a weed, but boy are they pretty. If I have to have weeds growing in my yard, give me something edible and beautiful. Rita explained that these nutritious weeds contain lots of vitamins C and A - even better!
It took us about an hour to pick two nice baskets full of flowers. When we measured it came out to about six cups of packed flowers.
Our first project was to be the jelly. I took half the flowers (three cups) and made an infusion. Rita told that when I got home I should put half the flowers in a glass container, boil water and pour about 2-1/2 cups over the flowers. It should be enough water to fully cover the flowers. Then cover it to keep all the good stuff from floating off into the air, and leave it sit.
The rest of the flowers I stashed, unwashed, in a plastic bag in the fridge until tomorrow. Rita said they will stay fresh like this for several days.
Sunday afternoon Rita came over and the real fun began. We uncovered my infusion and poured it through a strainer to get the flower pieces out.
It's a little hard to see in this picture, but the violets had turned a very pale shade of purple as all the color and goodness of the flowers was now in my infusion. I had about two cups of dark purple liquid now.
This went into a pot on the stove top. Look at that color!
Next we added 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.
The acid in the lemon juice caused an instantaneous color change in the liquid. Now, like magic, it was fuchsia!
We also added a package of pectin and then brought it to a boil.
Then it was time for sugar - four cups all at once. I stirred and stirred to mix it in thoroughly. Rita reminded me to wipe the sides with a rubber spatula to make sure all the sugar crystals got mixed in thoroughly.
Once the mixture came to a hard boil, we set the timer: one minute.
There is an art to checking the jelling point. You hold up the spoon and see how it falls or rolls off. This is perfect...
Time to fill jars! We used tiny sampler jars because this violet jelly doesn't yield a whole lot. It's like precious treasure. Doesn't the color remind you of a jewel?
Once filled, we skimmed off some of the foam that had formed on the top of the jelly. As it sat for a minute, most of this came up to the top. It was interesting, I told Rita, that she skimmed in the jars (save the "scum" - I'll tell you what to do with it later). I had always done it in the pot before filling jars. Either way is fine! We all have our different techniques. So, wiped, and covered, we processed the jars for just five minutes.
Next we moved on to jam. For this freezer jam, you process everything in a blender. We used a food processor because I don't have a working blender right now. Rita said mine came out smoother than hers usually does in the blender so keep that in mind when you decide: blender vs. food processor.
First the flowers (two cups) went in with 3/4 cup of water. I pulsed to chop these up.
We added another 1/4 cup of lemon juice and 2-1/2 cups of sugar.
This did the same magic to the color that it did for the jelly - transforming it instantly. What fun!
On the stove, we heated up one cup of water with a box of pectin. When it came to a hard boil, we set the timer: one minute. Then we poured the hot pectin into the food processor while running.
Done! We poured it into jars and let cool uncovered. Once cool, I put the lids and bands on and put it into the freezer. Because this jam is not cooked while you're making it, it's not recommended for canning.
When I filled my jars, I had a little left that didn't fill a whole other jar. This I would leave out for us to eat right away. To this, I added the "scum" saved from the jelly earlier. The result was heavenly. I literally stood there by the kitchen counter eating it from the jar with a teaspoon.
Here are both recipes, from Rita Heikenfeld:
3 packed cups violets, washed, stems and leaves removed
2-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
4 cups sugar
Boil water and pour over flowers in a glass container. Cover and let steep overnight (about 12 hours). Strain out the flowers. You should have about two cups of liquid; add water if necessary. Put in a jelly pot, and add lemon juice and pectin. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add all the sugar at once. Bring it back to a hard boil and time it for one minute. Pour into sterilized jars and process for five minutes.
2 packed cups violets, washed, stems and leaves removed
1-3/4 cup water (divided)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
In a blender or food processor, combine the flowers with 3/4 cup water. Blend well. Add the lemon juice and sugar. Blend until sugar dissolves. On the stove top, stir a package of pectin into once cup of water and bring to a boil. Once it hits a hard boil, time for one minute. Pour hot pectin into the food processor while running. Pour into sterilized jars or small freezer containers. Let cool, then seal and place in the freezer until ready to eat.
Rita also wrote a post about this adventure. Read it on her blog: abouteating.com