Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Candied Violets

So last week, while I was home one morning and taking my yorkie Fritz on a walk I had an internal dialogue with myself, this occur pretty often I must admit. But this one when something like this,

"Those are violets that grow like weeds in our yard, right? That's what Dad calls them, I think. (pause) Aren't violets edible? How could I use Violets in something?"
 (long pause as I continued to walk with Fritz) 
"Wait! Violets are one of the flowers commonly used for candied flowers! Like at For The Love of Chocolate in Carytown. And they are so crazy expensive there! I wonder if I could make candied flowers? I'm sure I could make candied flowers! And they'd essentially be free! I need to go do some research on edible flowers and candying them!" 

And then I quickly turned homewards with Fritz to do said research! And all of my thoughts were correct and the little purple flowers growing like weeds in my yard are in fact common violets and you can indeed eat them (Warning: if your yard has been chemically treated DO NOT use any edible plants from your yard for consumption! Our's hadn't been treated since well before winter so I went for it) and they can indeed be candied if you have the patience to do so!

So while it was still early and the violets hadn't yet been hit by full sun and gotten wilty I went outside and picked probably close to 100. I have an issue with quantity when it comes to projects like this, I always go for "MORE if more" over the Less if More and always pay for it in the end. 

The rest is pretty simple but is not for the impatient. This is a tedious and time consuming task so for a 1st time I'd start with 20 very nice looking Violets as large as you can find from a safe area that has not been treated with chemicals or pesticides and is not close to a road or busy traffic area as exhaust fumes can be absorbed into surrounding plant life making it unsafe for consumption.

Now I looked through a lot of different "candied flower" recipes and found two common themes for creating the glue that will adhere the sugar to the petals. I used the more old fashioned one because I had it readily available and because I eat raw cookie dough and cake batter but if you plan on serving someone who may be pregnant... go for the simple syrup instead of the egg white glue. 

Candied Violets Recipe: For Approximately 20 candied Violets
* Use only common Violets like the ones you see pictured here, Do Not use the more indoor common African Violets- those are for looks and not eating! 

Version 1 
20 freshly picked and washed violets with stems on- atleast 2 inches of stem
1 Egg white- from eggs you trust- beaten just til frothy. 
1/4-1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1 clean small soft bristled paint brush
Parchment Paper
2-3 toothpicks
Small Scissors (for trimming off stem once candied)

Version 2
Simple Syrup- to make put 1 cup water in small pan and heat to warm not boiling- then add sugar starting with 1/2 cup and stir until dissolved- continue adding until sugar no longer dissolves- you have simple syrup!
Everything in Version 1 minus egg whites. 

1st- clean your violets! However you rinse them make sure they get a good rinse and under a gentle flow of cool water, shake off gently then place on paper towels and allow to dry for 30 minutes. 

Now, assemble your Candying station- I recommend sitting down at a table. Have a bowl for your sugar, bowl with your "glue" of choice, paint brush, a plate to work on the violet and a lipped baking sheet to place the finished sugared violets on. 

Pick up your violet and brush each petal front and back with the liquid glue. Then sprinkle sugar over petals to coat, front and back... may need to touch up in areas brush missed. If flower looks wet after coating with sugar, coat it again. Once flower is nice and coated carefully lay it on parchment lined baking sheet and arrange petals face up how you'd like it to dry (enter tooth picks)- then snip off the stem with scissors. 

Repeat for each flower! 

Once all flowers have been candied- double check to see if you need to sprinkle more sugar over any and then place in a dry cool place away from people and pets to dry for 24-48 hours. Don't cover with clear wrap- I did and when I checked them the next day they'd gotten floppy- need to be left to open air so flowers can dehydrate and set. 

Once stiff and dryed out place in an airtight container and keep for up to 1 month! 

Use them as a pretty way to sweeten your tea (remove after sugar has dissolved) or to top cakes, cupcakes or even fresh fruit! 

Basically, after going to the trouble I would say this was a fun project.. though I was at it for 4 hours because of the 80 some violets I sugared... I have a knack for choosing tedious tasks! But aside from how pretty they come out and harken back to Victorian times which is one of my favorite Eras. Candied flowers are basically a pretty way of transporting sugar to your mouth. Its really not worth the effort unless you have a particular use for them like above mentioned suggestions in which case if you are willing to sacrifice a few hours it is definitely worth it over the crazy expensive price to buy them in specialty shops and is a rather fun and meditative activity! 

You can also candy Rose petals, Carnation Petals, John Jump-Ups, Fuschia, Impatiens, Pansies, as well as herbs like mint and lemon balm leaves which are especially great to put in your tea both to sweeten from the sugar on it and flavor!

Play around, just BE SURE to use plants from areas you trust and that you have identified for SURE as being EDIBLE! A quick internet search will pull up a lot of sites that are focused specifically on Foraged Food and even mention the taste of each edible flower!

DO NOT use store bought unless they are Organic and you really trust the seller but personally even then I would not use store bought unless maybe I specifically went to a florist and got their ok as a seller and DO NOT use flowers that are growing in either a place you know has been sprayed with chemicals or pesticides or you are unsure of having been sprayed or is near a road!
 Always better safe than sorry so if it means foregoing then accept it and instead add some of the edibles I mentioned to buying list for your spring/ summer herb pot/ garden so you can know for sure what's going into their soil and being sprayed on them which should be nothing except water. :)

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