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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Back Yard Jelly

Many years ago I was introduced to violet jelly.  Someone brought it to work and it was a tasty little jelly with the most amazing violet color.  More recently, a local craftswoman I met mentioned she makes the violet jelly and sells it at farmers markets and specialty stores and it demands what I thought to be a rather high price.  The wheels started turning in my head and I thought maybe I should try my hand at making the jelly and if it turned out, maybe I could market "Goodness Grows Farm Violet Jelly."

The April showers have brought a plethora of violets to our yard here at Goodness Grows Farm, so I decided to try my hand at making it.  This little section of yard is what inspired me.  It was dotted with the tiny purple violets that are so pretty but so fleeting.

I did what probably a lot of American farmwives do now a days and I Googled "Violet Jelly."  The first site that came up was  .

Under their recipe section I found:  Prairie Land Herbs Violet Jelly.

The recipe is as follows:

2 heaping cups of fresh violet petals (see note below)
2 C boiling wter
1/4 C well-strained, clear lemon juice
4 C sugar
3 oz liquid pectin (Certo)

NOTE: Look for fully opened flowers, not partially opened buds, for better
color and more intense flavor.

Wash petals well, drain and place in heat-proof glass or nonreactive bowl. Pour boiling water over petals and let steep from 30 minutes to 24
hours. It usually takes about two hours for violets. Strain through a fine sieve, reserving the clear, purplish liquid or infusion. If not using
immediately, refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Place jars and lids on rack in pan or stockpot deep enough to cover them with about two inches of water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, keeping the jars hot until ready to fill.

To make the jelly, stir lemon juice and sugar into reserved infusion in a two-quart nonreactive or stainless steel pan. Bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Add the liquid pectin and continue to boil two minutes, skimming any foam that may rise to the surface.
 Ladle quickly into jars to within about 1/8 inch from the top; clean each rim and threads of the jar as it's filled, and place flat lid and ring on each before filling the next.Place the jars in a hot-water canning bath and boil for 10 minutes (or the appropriate time for your area). After canning, carefully check to make sure the lids have all sealed. 

Sealed jars will last up to one year in a cool, dark place. Put any unsealed jelly in the refrigerator. it should keep about three weeks. Makes four or five half-pint jars.

 I photographed this little patch of violets to show you how bountiful it was: 

and how quickly I plucked the heads off the stems and put them in my colander.

This is a little section along my driveway.  This 2' x 4' section was all I needed to pick in order to get a colander full.  I say that with a bit of sarcasm because although it was a very small section, picking violets is very tedious.  I had bribed offered my children money to help me, but they tired quickly.  Clearly they have not received the memo that suspends child labor laws for farm wives trying to force their children to pick violets.

I had several stops and starts to my picking process, so it took me over two hours to complete my task - and since it was a warm day and the violets started to wilt a bit once I plucked the flowery head off the stem, so they began to compact in the colander.  When all was said and done, I had four heaping cupfuls of violets.

As I was picking violets, I noticed the dandelions that are also growing so bountifully in our yard.  The amount of dandelions and the fact that under the violet jelly recipe on the website was a recipe for dandelion jelly had me thinking I would try my hand at dandelion jelly.

 So I also picked a colander full of dandelions.  I rinsed them thoroughly and followed the directions of cutting as much of the green sepals off of the yellow petals.

 I ended up with some green still attached, but overall, my measuring cup looked like this.

 I was quite dubious about the methods, but I followed the recipe.

I boiled the water, placed the thoroughly rinsed petals in jars and poured the boiling water over the petals, capped the jar and let the mix steep for 24 hours.  As you can see, as soon as the boiling water was poured over the petals, the violet color began to seep from the petals - just like tea.

I had enough for two jars of violets and one jar of dandelions.

The violet mixture eventually gets VERY dark.  Like, royal purple dark.  You can see that the violets actually start to lose their pigment and the petals turn white.

The dandelion water gets very dark - almost a dirty honey color.

 After steeping for 24 hours, I lined my mesh colander with cheesecloth and emptied the jars.  The violets were saturated with the water and when I poured the water out, I only had one and a quarter cups of liquid.  I was glad I ended up deciding to use the cheesecloth because I was able to squeeze the remaining liquid from the violets to get the recommended two cups of liquid.

 See how dark the liquid is?

I repeated the process because I was going to double the batch.

I poured the liquid into my cast iron enameled pot and whisked in sugar and lemon juice.

Once the sugar and lemon juice are added to the mixture, the liquid gets lighter in color.

 I also boiled the jars and lids, prepped them and kept them warm to pour in the jelly.

So now is the point in the story where I tell you that while I doubled the liquid portion of the recipe, I forgot to double the sugar and lemon.  I got all the way through of boiling the liquid, adding the pectin, pouring the mix into jars, putting the lids on the jars, boiling the jars for 10 minutes BEFORE I realized I had forgotten to add the extra sugar and lemon juice.

So, what did I do??  I tried looking up a solution on the internet, but didn't find any fast answers, so I poured the liquid all back into the pot, added the sugar and lemon juice, brought it back to a boil and repeated the process.  There was a bit more foam to skim this time, but it all seemed to work out.  The jelly gelled and I had eight jars of jelly instead of just four.

I then cleaned all of my pots, utensils, etc., and repeated the process for the dandelion jelly.  I heeded the advice from the recipe and I added yellow food coloring to get a more yellow color and got a really pretty color.  I do think next time I make the jelly I won't and see how the color turns out.  The only reason I added the food coloring was because I had the sneaky suspicion that my children would be confused when searching for the honey because the colors of the jelly and our natural honey are so similar.

As I was looking at the jars, I remembered the Christmas gift I had received from my sisters.  An embosser from Williams Sonoma.

 The embosser has an engraving plate that says, "Goodness Grows Farm."  To be honest, I'm not sure if the design in the middle is supposed to be an "S" or if it is just a symbol of some sort, but I'll play it off and pretend it is an "S."

The stickers were the perfect size for the lids of the jelly jars.

My dozen jars of jelly.  All in all, the process took me about 3 hours due to jar sterilizing and the mix up with the violet jelly.  However, I am going to look into the dishwasher processing of the jars - where you time your dishwasher cycle to end just as you are ready to pour your jelly into the still warm jars.  From what I have read, it is just as sterile and as easy.  I'm torn about the final processing aspect - whether I need to boil the filled jars the additional 10 minutes or if I can just let them seal on their own.  Most of my jar lids actually "popped" before I even put them in the hot water for final processing, which means it was sealed properly and should not spoil.

Additionally, I am going to break down the cost of making the jelly.  I happened to have lemons on hand, but I am going to investigate purchasing certified organic lemons and sugar to see what the cost for producing an "organic" product would be and if the cost would be worth even trying to sell.  I'm also going to look into getting my kitchen USDA certified so I can sell the jellies at local farmers markets and specialty stores.  Keep you eyes out!

 My second sister graduated from Pitt on Friday with her MBA.  So I packed these jars for her and gave them to her as a little gift.  I told her even if she didn't want to eat them, she could put them on a shelf and they would look pretty.

Now I just have to convince Erik that I need to buy a jelly cabinet to display all my beautiful wares.

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