Last weekend was my mom’s…29th Birthday. Somehow time has reversed and it’s gotten to the point where I’m actually a year older than her. I’m not an expert, but I’m fairly certain those numbers don’t quite add up, but we’ll let it slide. So my family came to Brooklyn for dinner. Food is always a good way to entice visits. The problem with a late April menu is, while it’s clearly been spring for a few weeks now, Spring fruits and veggies are still trying to catch on. The menu was a bit limited–mixed greens from greenhouse gardens, carrots from last year’s harvest, potatoes (there’s always potatoes) and lamb stuffed with bitter spring greens. On the positive side, I was able to bring some brightness to the menu thanks to my new foraging skills. Over the past few weeks I’ve gone a bit crazy with violets–jelly, syrup, candies–and I might have just one more recipe up my sleeve if I can find some more flowers this weekend. I figured what best to celebrate the awakening of spring than with some edible flowers?
It’s a little late in the night, I know. I’m here sipping on the last of my fizzy violet cocktail. Not so fizzy anymore. We hosted my family yesterday for my mom’s birthday, with a good deal of violets and some foraged field garlic. Dinner consisted of roast lamb stuffed with Swiss chard and Merguez sausage, smashed potatoes with field garlic and maple glazed carrots. And that cake with violet jam? Delicious! Don’t worry, photos and recipes coming soon. We’re not very good at stocking a bar. Sure, we have plenty of booze, but not too good with the mixers part. Instead we often have a signature cocktail, if you will, ready for guests to start the evening along with plenty of local wine and beer. I made fizzy violet cocktails by the pitcher, and always forgetting how large the pitcher really is (it looks average size but fits about 1.5 liters), had to manage with some leftover cocktails tonight. A bit flat by now, but still quite tasty. But that’s neither here or there. You’re here to figure out what else you can do with those beautiful violets you spent all weekend foraging for. You did really forage, didn’t you…?
I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to making jellies. (A) they’re a lot more work than jam. You need to collect the juices of whatever fruit (or in this case flower) you’re using, then cook the liquid then add the pectin, then reduce it… It’s just a lot of steps. Where as with jams, you mash the fruit, cook it for a bit, and there you go. (B) I’ve had a lot of failures with jelly. It took me some time to get the hang of using pectin. The jelly isn’t supposed to be totally thick when you’re canning it, it thickens as it cools. I’ve ever ended up with over jellied jelly, so thick, it’s practically a soft candy, or under jellied where after canning, I can turn the jar over and it’s like having canned a syrup. Somehow with this recipe I got it right, a well jellied consistency that moves a bit in the jar but still holds firm.
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.