I have one season of canning under my belt. I'm a bit calmer entering season two after a little practice and not inflicting botulism upon anyone. The second season is officially underway with three flavors of early spring: violet, dandelion, and rhubarb.
Violets are plentiful in our yard and in the wooded area down by the creek. It never occurrred to me that they might edible, but after a discussion about candied herbs and flowers with my sister, the pastry chef, I was hunting for new types of wildflowers. While searching, I began to wonder if the abundant violet might have a culinary purpose. You would have thought a young Al Pacino was waiting for me given the enthusiasm with which I ran home and googled wild edible violets while dreaming of the possibilities of violet cakes, tarts, jams, and syrups. I discovered my idea is not original in the least. There are many violet recipes on the internet, including violet jelly. After reviewing several recipes, I decided on this one.
In order to make violet jelly, one must collect a crapload of violets (crapload=two cups). It takes a couple of hours to gather them which allows plenty of time to contemplate getting a new hobby. Then they are rinsed and steeped for at least several hours to make a beautiful violet tea.
The violet tea, which is actually blue, is strained and mixed with sugar and lemon juice. The lemon juice turns it a gorgeous shade of lavender. It is then boiled, the pectin is added, and the jelly is canned and processed in the boiling-water bath for ten minutes. It's good--sweet with a subtle floral hint. I would make it again if only for the novelty. It might not be the most delicious jelly I've ever tasted, but it ranks up there with the prettiest.
|2 cups violets|
Next, the dandelion jelly. I was skeptical. After all, dandelions are considered commonplace at best. Upon reviewing recipes my excitement to pick four cups of petals was barely over indifferent. I'll try anything once and set out on a windy afternoon to collect a heaping bowl of dandelion flowers. After gathering and rinsing the heads, it's imperative to remove all the green or it will impart color and a bitter flavor. I accidentally discovered that it is easier to trim the green from around the petals after the heads have been refrigerated because they become more compact. As with the violet jelly, boiling water is poured over the petals to create a tea.
|This is what four cups of dandelion flower petals looks like. I'm sure you were wondering.|
The recipe didn't work; it didn't set. However, due to the genius of Marisa McClellan at Food in Jars, I was able to save my dandelion jelly with her instructions How To Save a Runny Jam. You can imagine my irritation at the extra measures to save a jelly about which I was already lukewarm. It was worth it. The final product is what can best be described as a delicious, very floral, golden honey. What the name dandelion jelly lacks in description, it make up for in flavor. Really, very good. Next time I will use the violet jelly recipe, but substitute dandelion petals to ensure setting in the first round.
The final spring jam flavor: rhubarb, my favorite. There are lots of great rhubarb jam and jelly recipes out there, but for the first batch of the season, I kept it simple. Canning rhubarb is very easy because due to its own acidity level, it doesn't require added acid. I know people like exact measurements, but you really don't need them for this. Just find some beautifully red rhubarb, trim the tops, wash well, and chop into small dices. Then place the dices in a nonreactive pot and toss with granulated sugar so the pieces are well-covered. Leave overnight to macerate and then boil to a nice jammy consistency. Taste and add more sugar if too tart. I added one tablespoon of powdered pectin to ensure a thick jam, but it isn't necessary. Then hot-pack and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath canner. It is truly spring in a jar.
|spring jams: violet, dandelion, rhubarb|
Canning season two is off to a great start with three lovely spring jams: a beautifully violet violet jelly, a syrupy and floral dandelion jelly, and a sweet and tart rhubarb jam. Now that I've got my canning bearings, my water-bath canner better get ready. It's gonna be a steamy summer in the kitchen.