I don’t know where the wild thyme blows but I do know where the paigles, primroses and the violets grow. Several banks, in fact, where small patches of violets nestle in the shade of the hedgerows and pale yellow primroses and deeper coloured paigles litter the grass like confetti. I choose my places to pick violets, away from the footpaths where boots tread them down and dogs relieve themselves, and take home a bunch for the bedside table and a bowlful for culinary delights. These culinary delights are mostly scattering a handful of petals over something sweet but we also eat them in salads and in a savoury dish of rice cooked with dried fruit, spices and nuts, decorated with primrose and polyanthus petals.
Each year, a small batch of violet syrup sees me through the summer and I make crystallised Violets to scatter over lemon trifle or decorate cakes and a jar of violet sugar for icing or whipped cream. I also make Violet Liqueur, which despite previoiusly thinking that Violet Liqueur may not have great keeping qualities, stores well. At the weekend, we found a little left in the bottle from last year that we poured over ice with a good squeeze of lime juice, a little syrup from my candied peel and the merest splash of tonic water to make a rather delicious Sunday lunch aperitif.
Sunday lunch was a little violet themed as the rest of the Violet Liqueur went into a syllabub. I love syllabub, mainly because it’s so easy to make but also because a little goes a long way. My little custard glasses only hold about two tablespoons but after a filling main course, when you just need a small taste of sweetness, they’re big enough for a serving of syllabub. You do of course need to use a teaspoon to complete the illusion of a proper pudding.
For the first time, I made Violet Jam this year. Just two tiny jars of firmly set jam. Enough for spring and early summer but not enough to sit unopened on the shelf gathering dust alongside the August 2009 Plums with Mulled Wine Jam. I have visions of sitting in the garden, sun shining and birds singing, eating scones alternately spread with Violet Jam and Rose Petal Jam. The reality may prove rather different.
Violet Jam Recipe
for a tiny amount, so you may want to double the quantities
1 ½ cups of violet flowers pulled from the stems
115 g granulated sugar
115 g jam sugar (sugar with added pectin)
100 ml water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Mix the flowers and granulated sugar in a bowl, cover and leave overnight for the sugar to draw out the juice.
Next day, put the jam sugar into a small saucepan with the water and juice. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the petal and sugar mix to the saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.
Boil for 4 minutes and then take off the heat and leave for a few minutes to cool a little before pouring into sterilised jars.
Cover the jars.
Eat the jam. Close your eyes. Soak up the sun. Relax.
Do you cook with flowers? Do tell.