Keith Davis – F&B Director (& Forager Extraordinaire!)
Spring is a hectic time of year; the hotel is jamming, school activities are at a peak before year ends, the woods which awakened a few months ago are at full throttle, garden plants are growing, and the mushrooms are ready to sprout. So, unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to go out and walk as much as I would like to do, but still manage a few hours a week. So it was a few weeks ago when I went out with my son to pick violets. Yes violets, which are one of many edible flowers.
As a young boy, just about my son’s age, I would walk down to a special patch of woods that I knew had violets, and pick a bunch for my mom. These were for a vase, not for consumption. This patch contained several varieties/colors of violets; purple, blue, white, and yellow. For my purposes now, only the purple and blue violets are the ones I want. The other colors can contain compounds that you should not digest.
A small patch of spring wild violets.
For more on Violets click here:
I enlisted my youngest son to help me forage.
A container of wild violets, Viola odorata.
So what can you do with wild violets? They can be cut at the flower base and added uncooked to any salad. But for my purposes here, I was looking to do something a little more creative. I was going to make my own Crème de Violette, which actually doesn’t contain any cream what so ever, but is basically a violet infused alcoholic syrup used in cocktails. And I wanted to use this syrup for a special function, so I needed a lot of violets. There are a few brands of Crème de Violet you can buy, made with a neutral base or with brandy. But I like to go the natural way and make my own.
Once you pick a fair quantity of violets, you need to remove the actual petals from the plant/stem, or calyx. This takes some time, but if you skip this step, the syrup will be bitter and not taste as pure. The syrup ends up a light purple, and smells a little grape/violet like. A neat thing is that when making this, even the sugar gets an aroma that is definitely violet. It is great when added to champagne, a special cocktail, or even just added to soda water. For a few ideas, see:
Crème de Violette
1 part violet petals
2 parts vodka
2 parts sugar
1 part water
Juice for ½ a lemon
>In 2 mason jars, place ½ of the petals in each.
>add the vodka to one and cover with a lid, shake to mix.
>add the sugar to the other jar, again cover and shake to mix.
>Let the jars sit to infuse for 4 to 5 days.
>add water to a sauce pan, and add the sugar mixture, mix and bring to a slight boil. Remove from the heat and let the mixture sit till cool.
>Combine the jar with the infused vodka to the syrup, add lemon juice, and strain to remove the petals.
Keep in a cool dark place. Shake mixture before using.
A batch of the violet petals. Sugar/petal mixture and Vodka/petal mixture