Along with the lovely tradition of making dandelion jelly in the spring, I also grew up with violet jelly. As a girl it took a lot of time to gather the hundreds of flowers needed to fill my mom’s pint jar. It often involved walking with my sister to parks and lawns that were further from the house than we were used to roaming. It was an adventure.
So I was delighted to find patches of violets springing up here and there in our parkways when we first moved here. I don’t make it every year, you really have to drop everything and get out there while they’re still blooming. You can find dandelions off and on all summer, but the violet flowers are a one-time deal. It took us about 45 minutes to roam around the neighborhood picking any flowers off of the parkways that are city property. I don’t worry much about pesticide, because there are so few of our neighbors who treat their parkways the way they do their lawns. And if they have violets and dandelions, they likely don’t treat either! Our neighborhood is relaxed like that.
The most magical thing about this jelly is the color. It glows with a amethyst purple that is almost prettier than the flower itself. And it makes a nice science demonstration.
When you pour the boiling water over the petals, the liquid turns a dark sapphire blue. The first time I made it I thought I had done something wrong. But when you add the lemon juice, the citric acid reacts to the cyan-compounds and lowers the pH, turning it right back to purple! It’s pretty neat. The flavor is very mild. It’s mostly just sweet. I’ve thought of adding a drop or two of rose water to give it a more floral note but always chicken out. If you try that, let me know how it tastes!
- Try to gather on a dry day. Muddy flowers mean muddy jelly. Ew.
- Which leads me to my next tip, which is to gather flowers in an area you feel confident is not loaded with pesticides and dog pee.
- Make sure to get as many flowers into your pint jar as you can. Press them down gently to fit them all in. The more flowers, the deeper the color.
- Make your violet tea as soon as you can after picking, while the petals are still a nice and fresh. A few hours is fine.
- Liquid pectin and powdered pectin behave differently. This calls for liquid pectin. Call ahead to make sure your grocery store stocks it. When I called mine, they had me spell it four times and then asked me if it was a “medical thing”. But they did carry it, just took some coaxing.
- Use the deepest pot you have because boiling jelly is no joke. It boils up very high and can be a real menace if it overflows.
- The recipe calls for 80z. (half pint) jars. I also put this jelly in smaller 4oz. jars for gifts. Ball sells a 4oz jar at Target with a one-piece lid that I like.
- The recipe says to put these in “processed jars”. This means the jars and lids have been boiled and prepared like you do with legit canning. There is a pretty good tutorial here if you’d like your jelly to be shelf stable. I usually make 8 jars and give 7 away, so I’m fine with just refrigerating.
Special thanks to my mom, Vicki Nowicki, for keeping this tradition going throughout my childhood and for sharing her recipe. I’ve made some changes to standardize the measurements, but the ingredients and method are the same.