Tea Time with Violets

Sarah Crosby, half of the boochababes.com, introduced me to violet tea. We were talking about her kombucha-making adventures with her partner, Jesse Horning, and she said one of her favorites was a violet lemonade combination. The season for violets is fleeting (check your yard now).

As a girl, a friend and I would pick and eat violets because they were sweet. Crosby told me they are loaded with vitamin C. They also contain some salicytic acid (natural aspirin) and have been credited with healing powers in both the flowers, leaves and roots. You can read more at Mother Earth News.

I grabbed a small canvas bag  and set out on my urban foraging mission to pick a bag of violets. They like loamy soil and some shade. I knew the perfect spot and the homeowners. There are a couple of rules when harvesting from nature. The first is to ask permission if you are on someone’s property. The second is to respect the plants, so watch your step and leave intact flowers behind to preserve the beauty of the landscape. The third is to use a gathering basket or bag made of natural materials that breath, so your harvest doesn’t mold.

Once you pick the violets, you can make your tea immediately with fresh flowers and/or you can dry the flowers for later use. If you choose to dry, place them in a basket made of natural fibers and with plenty of ventilation.

violet tea brewing
Steeping the violets in the teapot.

I put a couple of spoonfuls in my teapot, which has a tea strainer, and poured boiling water in. I allowed it to steep for about 5 minutes and then poured a beautiful cup of blue-green tea. I added a squeeze of Meyer lemon (also in season), which somewhat diminished the color, and a little maple syrup at the suggestion of Crosby, a photographer who worked in Erie and has since moved to western Massachusetts.

The unfinished tea went into the refrigerator for iced violet lemonade the next day. What a delightfully refreshing drink.

 

violet tea glass
The tea turns a pretty violet color. If you add lemon, it will change the color to a pink.

Crosby is an experienced kombucha brewer, so she is quite creative with her recipes and ingredients, including using the violet tea. You can check out her blog for recipes. I’m still in the beginning phase, so I stick to the basic recipe of green, white or black tea as the base.

Until I become more practiced in the art of kombucha, I made a violet syrup that can be used throughout the spring to infuse teas and lemonade. It is quite simple, but requires a fair amount of sugar.

Here is the recipe I used, which is adapted from several websites, including UseRealButter, LavendarandLovage, InJenniesKitchen.

violet syrup

Violet Syrup

3 to 4 handfuls of violets

2/3 cup boiling water

1 1/2 cups sugar (some recipes call for white sugar, some like natural cane sugar)

Put violets (stems removed) into a glass bowl that can fit over the top of a pot (creating a double boiler) or a sterilized Mason jar. Pour boiling water on top of violets and stir. Cover and let steep for 24 hours at room temperature.

Pour the mixture into a nonreactive pot over low heat and bring to just below a simmer (never boil), add sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Or you can create a double boiler by putting your glass bowl on top of a pot filled halfway with boiling water. Keep the water at a high simmer or low boil. Add the sugar to the bowl with the water and violets and stir until the sugar dissolves. This may take awhile, but assures you won’t burn your violets or scorch the sugar.

Use a strainer to collect the violets as your pour the liquid into a clean sterilized glass container. Some people add a squeeze of lemon juice now, which will change the color of your liquid to a pink. Refrigerate for up to a year.

Can be used to sweeten teas, frostings or any drink calling for simple syrup.

What’s Fermenting in My Kitchen

Growing up, we’d find what we’d refer to lovingly as science experiments in the family refrigerator. We had one upstairs and one downstairs.

Upstairs, anyone desperately hungry enough to root all the way to the back of the fridge might find something green and furry stashed there. With four kids, my mom liked to keep leftovers. The problem was none of the kids, or my Dad, were fond of leftovers.

The basement fridge was another matter. That my Dad’s territory. Home to duck legs in confit, cassoulet, borscht, it wasn’t a popular spot. This may explain why we had to have the Le Creuset pot blasted with the hoses used to clean the newspaper’s presses.

Ah, the Erie Times-News. That’s where I sort of grew up. My grandfather founded it in 1888 and it was in the family until January 2016. I worked there pretty much my whole life – minus 5 years in Peoria at the Journal-Star, which was owned by the Slane family. In the “this can’t be made up” category, both newspapers are now owned by the same media company. I don’t work at the Erie Times-News anymore, but I do freelance work.

At the age of 9, when we lived in Warren, Pennsylvania, I learned I loved to cook. I learned this from the woman who was trying to teach me piano. Turns out I had the hands of a baker, not a pianist.

Over the years, I’ve cooked and baked my way through apartments in Boston, Peoria and Erie – and ones in Paris and Florence. My current residence is a condo in Fairview, Pennsylvania, where I redid the kitchen. It’s not large, but it’s big enough to take on my projects.

Which brings me to my experiments, which are brewing on the counter and by a heat register. Gotta love Erie, it was 19 degrees today, April 5, 2016. I’m checking out a homemade ginger ale recipe and one for kombucha from thekitchn.com. I’ve also got a sourdough starter going on the counter as well.

Check back in a day or two, and we’ll see how well these are working out.

ginger ale