How about some foraging projects this weekend? The weather is BEAUTIFUL here in Brooklyn, as was last weekend. With a little chilliness in between. But with the fantastic weather last weekend, I tested the foraging skills I learned on a tour with Leda Meredith. I came home with several quarts of violets, two quarts of dandelions and plans to turn these beautiful edibles into delectable treats. I felt a little bad because I was fairly certain I had cleared out all the violets in Owl’s Head Park, Brooklyn (don’t worry–I couldn’t even make a dent in the dandelion population. However, on my walk yesterday afternoon, I found probably three times the violets I had seen the previous weekend. They returned with a vengeance, a forager’s own utopia.
This weekend I challenge you to get outside and enjoy the weather, and most importantly forage for your own beautiful violets, before they’re gone for the year. As a reward, I’ll share a new violet recipe each day this weekend. And since it’s Friday night, and we’re all done with this hectic work week (let’s be honest, we were done on Tuesday), it’s only proper to start with a cocktail using homemade violet syrup.
Imagine your run of the mill simple syrup. Sweet yet boring. Now imagine it as a brilliant purple with a mellowed floral scent. When I first saw Leda’s recipe for violet syrup, I was a bit intrigued of course, but didn’t really have any idea what I would do with it. Once her suggestion to turn it into a cocktail came into the picture, I was all ears. The syrup is simple as can be. The only catch is you need a good day before it’s ready to consume. Yes, so I tricked you a bit. You’re reading this, hovering near the liqueur cabinet, ready to pull out some spirits and mix a drink. But just think, if you start right away, you’ll be all set for Sunday night, right before the work week starts when you probably really need a drink…
Violet Syrup (Adapted from Leda Meredith) Makes 1 Pint
- 1 1/2 c violet flowers, tightly packed
- 1 1/2 c boiling water
- 2 c white sugar (while I would normally advocate for raw sugar, the white sugar is essential in maintaining that beautiful purple color)
Gather the violets by pinching them off at the tops of the stems. Remove the calyxes (the green parts at the bases of the flowers) by twisting the petals free. You’re saving the petals only.
Put the violet petals into a heat-proof, small stainless steel saucepan or bowl and add boiling water. Stir to make sure the petals are completely submerged. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours. The liquid will turn a gorgeous clear blue with a slightly lavender hue.
Strain syrup through a fine sieve to remove flowers and discard them. Prepare your double boiler or simply fill a slightly larger saucepan with an inch or so of water and rest the smaller one inside it. Add sugar to violets and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar has completely dissolved. Let syrup cool to room temperature, then transfer to glass jars and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Fizzy Violet Cocktail (Serves 2)
- 3 oz vodka
- 2 oz violet syrup
- Lots of ice
- 6 oz tonic water
Mix vodka, violet syrup and several ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Notice how when you add the vodka, the syrup becomes blue greenish–don’t be alarmed! Shake vigorously for about 5 seconds. Add three ice cubes to each glass and divide tonic water between them. Pour in the vodka violet blend into both glass (back to a beautiful light purple!), and serve.
If you want to get really fancy, add a violet ice cube. Fill a regular ice cube tray half way and let the water freeze for a few hours. Add one violet flower to each ice cube, top off with water and freeze again. Perfectly adorable ice cubes!
- DIY Syrups for Cocktails (queencitydrinks.com)
- Home made green tea with lemon and rosemary (abricotsandlove.wordpress.com)
- Wednesday Cocktail “Blueberry Mint Juleps” (justinlovewithberni.com)
- A New Look at Local Food: Urban Foraging (bklynlocavore.com)
- Violets and Celandine (wildweedwisdom.wordpress.com)