It’s time, it’s time. Violet time, that is. In the Northeast, it’s the time of year when many people regard these dainty little flowers as pests in their lush suburban lawns. I see them as an opportunity – a once a year harvest to gather for free. The only thing it costs is your time.
This year it’s all about candying violets. It’s a bit tedious, but you can get a bunch of them finished in under an hour. All you need are violets, sugar, egg whites and a small paint brush. It’s kind of a fun project for kids too and I remember making these when my kids were little with my friend and former neighbor Jeannette, who moved back to her home town, Santa Barbara.
Gather some violets from your lawn, a nearby park or anyplace that hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides. Pick them with the stems for this recipe since they’ll be easier to maneuver while you’re using the paint brush.
Wash the flowers carefully and let them dry.
Take one egg white and beat it with a whisk for a few minutes – only until it starts to foam.
Then take a small container and put some of the beaten egg white into it. I find it easier than trying to paint the petals directly from the big bowl, but you can find your own comfort level. With the big bowl, I have the tendency to put way too much egg white on the petals. You might be tempted to just dip the flower in the egg white and then dip into the sugar. Go ahead and try but you’ll end up with a big clump of something that’s unrecognizable at a violet. Painting with a brush will allow the individual petals to show.
Dip the paint brush in the egg white and holding the stem of the flower in one hand, use the other hand to paint the petals on both sides. I kind of flatten them in the little container and brush each side.
Then dip into the sugars. Holding the stem with my left hand, I lay the top of the flower into the sugar, then with my right hand, I use a demitasse spoon to cover the other side with sugar. Use superfine sugar if you can find it – that’s what the white sugar is in the picture. The other sugar is something I’ve had in a container in the basement for probably 10 years and it’s not superfine. The color is also more pink than purple, but hey, I didn’t think it was all that important to take a trip to the store just to find the perfect color match.
I also tried using the same technique with some pansies. It’s a little trickier, but you can do it. They are very delicate and break easily, so handle carefully. When they’re completely dry, store in a covered container in a dark, dry place. They don’t keep indefinitely, but they’ll be fine for at least a month, maybe longer. The pansies in particular have the tendency to fade if kept too long.
Use these to decorate cakes, cupcakes or other desserts. I’ve got a great recipe for you coming up in my next post using these candied violets, so get out there and start foraging this weekend.