On the culinary herblist in May97,
by Mary Emme Hall Sheahan
My friend Sharon asked me to send her info on candied violets, and I figured I'd send it to the culinary herblist, too:
Candied violets aren't difficult, just seems to take some practice to keep 'em from looking mushed. A dry day helps--and I can't wait to try my dehydrator.
- A place to pick violets that haven't been sprayed with pesticides (Sharon, you live in NYC, your roadsides can get contaminated--be careful! Please don't use flowers from a florist, they spray heavily.)
- Something to put freshly picked violets in.
- Something to rinse violets in
- A colander to let the violets dry off in
- An egg & bleach OR baker's eggwhite substitute if you don't trust my bleach trick. (Several eggs if you have several impatient people involved in egg-dipping)
- Sugar (we used ultra-fine "10x")
- Waxed paper or baker's pastry paper
- Plenty of space and a dry day.
Pick violets, rinse them and allow to dry a bit.
Wipe a couple of eggs with a mild bleach solution, allow to dry. (A modern trick--we read it cuts the salmonella risk by 90%) Separate the yolks and put them aside for other cooking. Whisk the eggwhite until it's frothy but not so long that it forms peaks.
One violet at a time, dip a flower into the egg white. Then coat the eggy part with sugar -- a book says to roll the violet in sugar, we thought it looked better when we sprinkled the sugar on the violet. Put the coated violet onto the wax paper to dry. It takes at least a full day. If you've got a dehydrator it might work better. Don't let your husband brew beer in the kitchen while they're drying, it REALLY slows down the process. (voice of experience)
We tried drying 'em on a plate -- don't, it sticks and they crack when you try to peel them off. Wax paper you peel from the flower-- a plate you can't and you can't peel off a crystalline flower without cracking it. Dangling some from a cake-drying rack worked, too, but even that stuck some.
I also suggest you have more than one person involved, but that they're patient enough to only try one part of the job. Have one person handling the wet stuff, and another person sprinkling on the sugar -- it clumps up fast otherwise.
Other things to candy include scented geraniums (both petals and flowers), rose petals, pansy flowers, lilac florets...basically any edible flower or leaf that would go nice with sugar (and, again, that hasn't been sprayed). I've never tried dandelions, but it might be a fun challenge. I wonder if I could get enough sugar on them to dehydrate them completely...
The instructions my friends and I originally referred to come out of "The Pioneer Lady's Country Kitchen: A Seasonal Treasury of Time-Honored American Recipes" by Jane Watson Hopping.