Images & recipes © Christine Mercer-Vernon unless noted otherwise. Please play nice when sharing and give proper credit and link backs.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Look around... look up...

Go outside.

Look around, don't glance or skim, really look.

Look at the trees, look at the flowers, look how much things are growing.

Look in the grass, you never know what you might see.




Now look up.



Take some slow deep breaths.

Relax.

Even if only for 5 minutes.

Breathe and look up.


What did you see?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Violet Lemon Seltzer...


With temperatures in the 80's and slightly humid, and so much time spent picking tons of violets, I couldn't wait to use the syrup in a seltzer.

Violet syrup and seltzer alone is ok, but with lemon... very refreshing!

I made a second batch of syrup last night and I'm considering a third if I can find the time to pick four more cups of flowers.  I'm thinking of lots of summer seltzers, lemonade and iced tea.


Violet Lemon Seltzer
[printer friendly]


  • Half of a fresh Lemon
  • 2 Tbsp Violet Syrup
  • Seltzer Water
  • Sprig of mint if you are feeling fancy
  • Handful of ice cubes


Squeeze the lemon half into a glass, be sure to get all the good pulp.

Add the Violet syrup and stir to make a slurry.  Add a few splashes of seltzer and mix well to dissolve the syrup before adding the rest of the seltzer.

Add a few ice cubes then fill the glass with about 8-10 ounces of seltzer.

*******************

This is very light, I'm not one for a sugary drink and I've worked so hard to reduce or eliminate my sugar use throughout the day, so I used just enough syrup to taste it, you can add more if you have a sweet tooth, although reducing sugar use is a good thing. :]


... our resident toads have returned. This guy was outside the garage door dining on tons of bugs under the light.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

bad, bad squirrel...

snow peas grown in a container

While the weather still is not consistent enough to leave my warmth craving plants out, cool weather crops are growing nicely in containers.

mesclun bowl
Can you guess what area of the mesclun bowl my Jelly Bean seeded? It won't be long now and we'll be eating fresh picked salad.

picklebush cucumber starts
My cucumbers are looking fabulous. And that one empty cell magically sprouted two weeks behind the others.

baby romaine
I'm a little unsure about the baby romaine. Never grown it before and it's looking so wiry. We'll see what happens. I will thin them out when I see more clearly what are going to be the stronger plants.

potato bags
I'm late in planting these, and my seedling potatoes were looking a little sad, but they should be ok.  These potato bags are pretty cool. I've never grown potatoes in a bag but have been very successful with them in my rented garden plot the past two years.



Simply fill with about 6-8 inches of soil, plant your sprouted potatoes about 3" deep, water then keep adding more soil as the plants grow, just like you would in the garden.



They have nifty little side openings where you can reach in and pick new potatoes once the plants start flowering. Coolness.

Jelly Bean also planted her seeds that the Easter Bunny brought her...


She's so excited she wants to water them every five minutes.

But in all this exciting growth, there is this...

yesterdays flourishing container beets...
today's destruction by bad, bad squirrel
Left to take the jelly bean to preschool, beets looked wonderful, arrived home to find very bad, bad squirrel had dug them up. All I can say is bad, bad squirrel better not come knocking on the window for dried corn.

I managed to salvage most of them, but I fear the trauma may be too much for the delicate seedlings. Only time will tell. I watered them and covered with some mesh to protect them.

I love all animals... but damn squirrels.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Violet Syrup... oh yes please...

So yesterday was round two of violet steeping... this time I made Violet Syrup. Way more sugar than the jelly, which is horrifying, but then again, it is syrup. But to me, it's like this... it's a natural product, I made with my own hands, I can pronounce and spell every single ingredient and can count the number of ingredients on one hand.

Used with discretion, this will be a refreshing and rewarding treat this summer.



Some uses for Violet Syrup:

  • drizzled over pancakes or waffles
  • added to seltzer or club soda for a sparkling beverage
  • used to sweeten iced tea, hot tea, lemonade, etc
  • gourmet desserts and baked goods

I think you can be pretty creative with this.  Like the jelly, it is very sweet with a subtle floral flavor I can't describe any better than saying it tastes like violets. Very helpful, I know.

Violets also have a deep history of medicinal uses, as described in several herbal books that I have, and touched on nicely in this article from NaturalNews.com. The flowers, leaves and roots all have medicinal and nutritional uses and are rich in vitamins A and C.

Read more about Violets here.

The Violet syrup recipe origins are yet again a mystery, but based on the article linked above, I'd guess it's been around a long time and modernized with each new age.

There are many variations of the recipe out there, the blog 5 Orange Potatoes shows another, plus some delicious sounding beverage recipes I will surely be trying this summer.

Four cups of steeped violets made this even deeper, richer, more purple liquid...


Violet Syrup
[printer friendly]

  • 4 cups fresh violets*
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon, strained (measuring 1/4 cup lemon juice)
  • 2 cups water


Place flowers in a glass jar or bowl, pour boiling water over and gently push flowers under water.

Cover and set aside on the counter to steep for 24 hours. Stir or swirl once or twice to keep the flowers submerged.

Strain flowers through several layers of cheese cloth or very fine sieve in a separate bowl.

Squeeze the extra liquid gently out of the blossoms, then compost or toss them back out in the yard or garden. Set aside.

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice in 6 quart saucepan and bring to a boil.

Boil until syrup thickens, about 3 minutes.  Test by placing a small amount on a dish to cool. Don't judge by what you see in the pan, hot sugar/syrup will seem thin until it cools.

Slowly add violet water and bring back up to a rolling boil.

Boil for 10 minutes or until thickened. (Mine took about 15-18 to get to a nice thick consistency when tested on a plate).

Pour into a sterile jar, allow to cool, then seal and refrigerate.

Makes 3 pint size jars, plus a little bit extra.

This is a pretty popular variation seen around if you google this recipe: substitute 4 cups fragrant rose petals and add one stick of cinnamon per bottle of syrup.

*ALWAYS use flowers from chemical free untreated areas.

**************

After much discussion with Marisa over at Food In Jars, we've come to a unanimous agreement that floral syrups should not be canned.

It is common practice with many bloggers to water bath process them and that is where I originally first started to do so. But the FDA does not offer any recommendations for floral syrups.

The reason for this advisement is that after 6 months I noticed major changes in my processed jars. There were 'colonies' of 'something' growing. Neither of us were able to determine what exactly it was but it was every single jar of both Violet and Dandelion Syrups had something growing in them.

There was no off-gassing or expansion, bubbling, or off-odor, but it almost looked like the 'mother' you would find in cider vinegar and kombucha.

Without testing there is no way to know, but it seemed to resemble a fungus of some sort. Possibly something that was on the flowers.  Both types of floral syrups seemed to grow different 'colonies'. I canned several different batches over a period of one month, all from flowers from my own yard, and all but two jars had something growing.

I have been growing, making and preserving my own foods for a very long time and have not seen this before.

So, if you are going to can these types of syrups I would advise against doing so, but if you decide to, I would use them in short order.

It's my feeling that it is best to refrigerate floral syrups in sterile jars.
***************************************



See my posts on:


Making Violet Syrup
Making Dandelion Syrup
Floral Syrups - Things you should know




Monday, April 25, 2011

Violet Jelly & a busy weekend

It was another dreary weekend... but it makes for pretty pictures.


We had a jam-packed schedule which included a somewhat last minute change to us hosting Easter lunch for HE's family, for the first time EVER.

Which meant my to do list exploded. But everything went off without a hitch.

We saw enough sun on Sunday to eat outside, which was very nice. Scotch tape presents were made...


As well as this...Violet Jelly!


Yes, Violets as in these...


I've had the recipe for years, you can find it everywhere, it's rumored to be an old time recipe but no one can pinpoint the origin.  Even my 1879 Housekeeping in Old Virginia manual does not mention it.  Hmmm... mysterious.



The most time consuming part of making Violet Jelly is picking the flowers, lucky we don't spray or treat our lawn so we have quite a large supply of them right now.  Enough so, I picked an additional 4 cups for Violet Syrup which is currently steeping.

Violet Jelly
[printer friendly]

  • 2 cups fresh violets
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Juice of 1 Lemon, strained (measuring 1/4 cup lemon juice)
  • 3 oz Liquid Pectin (or 1 pkg powdered pectin)
  • 4 cups of white sugar


Place flowers in a glass jar or bowl, pour boiling water over and gently push flowers under water.



Cover and set aside on the counter to steep for 24 hours. Stir or swirl once or twice to keep flowers submerged.


[Look at this color, left and middle are after steeping the flowers, beautiful blue color. Photo on right - lemon juice changes the color to a vibrant magenta.]


Strain flowers through several layers of cheesecloth or very fine sieve into pot. Squeeze extra liquid gently out of blossoms, then compost or toss them back out in the yard or garden.

Add lemon juice, stir in pectin.

Bring to boil. Add sugar, stir well, then bring to boil again.

Boil vigorously for 1 minute. (I used a candy thermometer to bring the temp to 220, the gel stage for Jellies. It took slightly longer than one minute). Skim if necessary

Pour into sterile jars and refrigerate.

Makes about 4 1/2 half pint size jars.

**********************
A few notes:


I gently rinsed the flowers to remove a few little ants prior to steeping. And I packed them in my measuring cup pretty tight, so I had a full tightly packed 2 cups worth.


ONLY use violets that come from chemical free untreated areas.


I used white sugar, because I've seen notes that those using raw sugar found it changed the color slightly.  I use Domino brand as they do not use GMO sugar beets.
**********************


After much discussion with Marisa over at Food In Jars, we've come to a unanimous agreement that floral syrups should not be canned.

It is common practice with many bloggers to water bath process them and that is where I originally first started to do so. But the FDA does not offer any recommendations for floral syrups.

The reason for this advisement is that after 6 months I noticed major changes in my processed jars. There were 'colonies' of 'something' growing. Neither of us were able to determine what exactly it was but it was every single jar of both Violet and Dandelion Syrups had something growing in them.

There was no off-gassing or expansion, bubbling, or off-odor, but it almost looked like the 'mother' you would find in cider vinegar and kombucha.

Without testing there is no way to know, but it seemed to resemble a fungus of some sort. Possibly something that was on the flowers.  Both types of floral syrups seemed to grow different 'colonies'. I canned several different batches over a period of one month, all from flowers from my own yard, and all but two jars had something growing.

I have been growing, making and preserving my own foods for a very long time and have not seen this before.

So, if you are going to can these types of syrups I would advise against doing so, but if you decide to, I would use them in short order.

It's my feeling that it is best to refrigerate floral syrups in sterile jars.
***************************************


Wondering about the taste?

I spent some time tasting it this morning. I was very surprised. Obviously, due to all of the sugar and it being a jelly it is very sweet. But there is a very light floral taste that is quite pleasing, and since Violets do not have a fragrance this really surprised me.

With butter on toast it was very good used sparingly. Definitely would be quite good on a not too sweet pastry such as biscuits or scones.

I would definitely make this again. It would make a nice gift or tea party condiment.

*************************
See my posts on:

Making Dandelion Syrup
Floral Syrups - Things you should know

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why I Love the Earth...

All photos © christine mercer-vernon.





 























© Robin Miller (my super awesome friend)





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