There is nothing good about the devastation, the loss of life, and the havoc that is the COVID-19 pandemic right now, but we can use this time of isolation to find moments of connection- if we know where to look.
Springtime obviously DGAF about the petty problems of humans, as she bursts on the scene in her full floral glory, and daily walks in nature have become a welcome break for so many of us from the monotony and anxiety that is life in the time of Corona. And crafting and cooking are also getting their fair share of airtime- seems like everybody is perfecting their no-knead bread recipe or busting out the comfort cookies and cakes.
So what could be more perfect at a time like this than combining these comforts- nature, crafting, and cooking- into a cocktail- or mocktail-ready nature-based recipe?
Violets, one of the first brave flowers of spring, are not only beautiful and fragrant, they are also medicinal. According to herbalists, violets infused into syrup are a remedy for cough, fever, and respiratory ailments (very timely), and according to ancient lore, are useful in love spells. According to Witchipedia.com, violet flowers “may be carried as an amulet to increase one’s luck in love. Violets are also useful in spells for protection, wishes, peace and healing.”
One of the ways I have been bringing the beauty of these spring flowers into my kitchen and my life is by making violet simple syrup. Those familiar with mixology and baking know that a simple syrup is a liquid sugar that can be used to sweeten beverages or moisten cakes. Simple syrups lend themselves to herbal infusions, and, since sugar is a preservative, simple syrups offer a practical, low-tech way to preserve the color, flavor, and medicinal properties of an herb for storage and ongoing use. A violet simple syrup adds brilliant, all-natural blue, purple, and magenta jewel tone hues to your sodas and cocktails, along with a subtle floral fragrance and an unmistakable springtime vibe.
Step 1: Harvest your violet flowers.
Many vacant lots, slightly unmowed yards, and other urban and rural hedgerows and in-between places are home to the humble violet (Side note: the leaves are also edible and full of vitamin C. Sprinkle some leaves and flowers onto your next salad for a bright, powerfully antioxidant snack). To harvest, pinch the flower off with your fingers at the very top of the stem, trying to take as little stem with you as possible. Fill a hard container (like a basket or a plastic quart container) with as many violets as you can gather (you will end up with roughly double the volume of violets you harvest in syrup, i.e. 1 cup flowers = 2 cups syrup).
Step 2: Clean your flowers.
Gently transfer your flower harvest into a large bowl of cold water, submerging them. Sort through the flowers and pick out as much extra stem and green as you can, leaving just the clean violet flowers.
Step 3: Infuse the flowers.
Transfer the violets to a clean, heat-proof, non-metal container. A large, wide-mouth mason jar is ideal. For every cup of violets, measure one cup of water. Boil the water then pour the boiling water into the jar over the violets. Cover the jar loosely with a lid (not too tight as to let some steam escape as it cools) and then allow it to sit and infuse for 24 hours.
Step 4: make the syrup.
For every cup of violet infusion you now have, measure a cup of white sugar. Place the sugar in the top of a double boiler over medium heat. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a wide, heat-proof bowl on top of a pot of hot water, also over medium-low heat on the stove. Pour the violet infusion into the bowl with the sugar, and mix until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Do not boil the sugar-violet mixture, as boiling will destroy the delicate flavor and fragrance compounds. When the mixture is warmed and the sugar is dissolved, strain the mixture through a sieve to filter out the flower remnants. Bottle and refrigerate!
Experiment with adding a splash of your beautiful, springtime-in-a-bottle Violet Simple Syrup to your favorite cocktails, mocktails, bubbly waters and lemonades. Note that something acidic (like lemon or lime) will turn the violet color to magenta in your cup. And show me your delicious violet bevvies! Post them on instagram and tag me @jodirhoden! Happy springtime my lovies!