Friday, June 29, 2007

Hardly Shrinking - Violet Granita

Leave it to the Victorians. With their severely conservative customs, it’s no wonder they invented a language of flowers to communicate and vent the repressed emotions that filled the silent space between the gesture and the word. To this day, give a woman a bouquet of red roses, and we will immediately assume she is in the throes of a romance of deep beauty and heart-pounding sincerity. Give a woman an armful of white lilies, and we assume she is pure and regal in spirit and deed, heavenly and worthy of reverence. Give a woman a nosegay of violets, and we assume she is unassuming, prim, sweet, and … shrinking with shyness.

Well, I was never one for red roses nor white lilies, but I’ve always had a soft spot for violets, and I’ve never thought of them as shy and demure. True, they are tiny compared with the floral drama queens, but those little girls can sure pack a wallop of color, perfume and taste. Yes, taste. With a sweet, yet sharp, edge that strikes like lightening and flees just as fast, the taste of violet is elusive and explosive and endlessly enchanting. Europe has a long history of infusing the cherished essence into preserves, liqueurs and sweets as well as folkloric medicines.


Beyond its intensity of hue, and occasional flashes of fascinating, ephemeral fragrances, most Americans only know the flavor of violet, if they know it at all, by the foil packets of chalky tablets or chewing gum introduced by C. Howard back in the 1930s, and still found today at some newsstands across the country. A fair proximity to the flavor, C. Howard’s formula relies on a chemist’s beaker rather than a natural extract derived from any one of several varieties of viola odorata blossoms. This is something of an injustice, since the natural flavor is far less harsh and more nuanced that the artificial. This may be one reason why violet comestibles are as elusive here as the scent itself, and why they are considered something of an acquired taste, even more so than rose or orange blossoms.

As hard as violet is to come by, there is a small chance that you will happen upon the genuine article someday. If you do, you must quickly dismiss any notion of musty old Victorian lace priggishness or peculiar qualities more soapy than sensual. Go on. Step right up. Don’t be shy.

First freeze

Violet Granita


1 cup violet syrup (or any other flavored syrup of your choice)
2 cups water
2 drops blue coloring (optional)
1 drop red coloring (optional)


Mix syrup, water and coloring together in a bowl. Pour mixture into a chilled 8" or 9" metal or glass baking pan. (The mixture must not be too shallow in the pan.) Place pan in freezer until ice crystals form and mixture is partially frozen (30 – 45 minutes). Rake the mixture with the tines of a fork then return it to the freezer until it partially freezes again. Continue raking and re-freezing until the texture is coarsely granular and slushy. Granita is not meant to be a smooth frozen dessert like sorbet or Italian ice.

Serves 4 –

Note: Natural violet extract is virtually impossible to find in the U.S. Though Monin syrup is naturally flavored, it does have artificial coloring, which was diluted when mixed with water. The coloring I used was produced by India Tree with natural vegetable dyes.

This post is being submitted to Fiber at 28 Cooks for her summer
Chilled Out! blog event.


Nanditha Prabhu said...

sun is scorching here and your slush is the most fitting treat .wish i could have it right now .

Anrosh said...

Hi Susan: Nice Colors. Where do I buy the syrup ? Can you tell me sources in manhattan?

Patricia Scarpin said...

Susan, I studied a bit about the Victorian age in the university but did not know about the language of flowers - how interesting! (my favorite flowers are tulips, btw). :)

This is so interesting, I didn't know about violet syrup either. The granita looks beautiful, I love purple/lilac shades.

Abby said...

That is SO pretty! It sounds like a fun idea, too.

The zucchini was a great, healthy alternative to deep-frying it. Thanks for a fab recipe!

Terry B said...

This looks and sounds wonderful! Will have to trot it out for one of our Sunday dinners if I can find the syrup.

Mishmash ! said...

Susan, I am speechless ! the first pic looks like a piece of art ! How can one eat that ??? I think I will just keep looking at it until it melts !!!


Mevrouw Cupcake said...

I recently had a cocktail with Parfait Amour at my favorite cocktail bar, and nearly swooned in heavenly delight! Next time I'm there, I'll steal the recipe and send it to you.

Christina said...

So, so pretty. I've never tasted anything violet, so now I have to put it on my list of "To Taste Before Dying." Man, the list is growing!

Have a happy day!

sra said...

I only recently discovered lavender can be used in food, and now you come up with violet! Such lovely pix!

Lydia said...

I've never heard of violet syrup, but it makes the color of that granita absolutly irresistible. Must try this -- thanks!

Susan said...

You've piqued my curiosity about violet syrup. It's always a pleasure to learn something new, especially when it's as well written as this.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

That would seem to be totally cooling and refreshing! Wish I had a little bit.

Cynthia said...

Thanks for this introduction to Violet syrup. Never heard of it before. I liked this True, they are tiny compared with the floral drama queens

As always, pics are works of art.

Dilip said...

first time here...great blog...

Suganya said...

Dear dear.. Violets.. i luv 'em. And I have a similar recipe (and shot ;)) to post!

Susan said...

Hi, Nanditha. When it’s horribly hot, slush is great refreshment if you can eat it up before the sun has its way with it.
Welcome, Anrosh! I had to buy the syrup through the Monin website. They have a retail store. I’m sure it’s available somewhere in Manhattan, but after much internet researching, I gave up and had it delivered. Thank you for visiting.
Thanks, Patricia. I love tulips, too. Even after they are blown, they are lovely. And what is it about all shades of purple? They are so compelling.
Thanks, Abby – It was a fun kitchen project and VERY easy. I hope you try it soon. Glad you enjoyed the zucchini.
Thank you, Terry – As I’d mentioned to Anrosh above, I purchased the syrup through Monin’s site. It was $8 plus shipping.
Shn – You have to eat it no matter how great it looks; because it is not frozen solid, it melts very quickly. I kept putting the glass back in the freezer every few minutes while I was photographing it. Thanks for you’re kind words. You are very sweet.
Hello, Mari. Welcome! Parfait Amour….It does make a very swank cocktail, doesn’t it? There are a handful of other violet liqueurs – all very hard to find here. There must, though, be a bar in NYC that has its own special reserved bottle or two. Thanks for visiting. Hope to see you again.
Thanks, Christina. Yes, the list grows, but there are many long and wonderful years of discovery to come. Hope you are enjoying the early days of your school’s-out vacation.
Sra - I love lavender, too, but violet has its own allure. If you like rosewater, you will probably like this. I’m glad you like the photos. Thank you!
Lydia – I’ve known about the liqueurs and candies for a while, but not the syrup. It was an accident of determination to make something with violet that I found it at all.
Thank you, Susan. Know matter how much we know, there’s always a discovery around the corner. It keeps life fresh and interesting. You are right; there is a certain, special pleasure in learning something new.
Tanna – It is shockingly cold, much more so than traditional ice. It’s very easy to get that rush of brain freeze from it.
Thanks, Cynthia. They really are tiny and delicate. I would have taken my own shots of the flower itself, but as with the flavoring, I couldn’t find one. : )
Thanks, Dilip! Good to see you. You are welcome here anytime.

Susan said...

Suganya, I can't wait to see your post. I'm sure you'll give violet a spectacular showing!

Rosa said...

Lucky me, I can buy violet syrup easily at a quirky little syrup shop in Nice! Have you ever tried violet kir, made with violet syrup and white wine?

Lucy said...

What a colour! Am closing my eyes right now and imagining the floral notes of the violet, coupled with the cold, sweet crunch of granita.

Those Victorians - I've always had a bit of a soft spot for their chair-and table-leg coverings. How wonderful to think an inanimate object so racy!

Jyothsna said...

I enjoy the way you write, you weave a beautiful picture with words! I love that colour! I didn't know violets could be consumed. Will be back to read your next interesting post!

Johanna said...

looks gorgeous

isn't it interesting that violets are seen a shy and retiring when purple is the colour of passion - good to see it being reclaimed so beautifully

Susan said...

Rosa - A quirky little syrup shop in Nice - what fun! No, I haven't had kir with violet yet, only cassis or Chambord. Sounds dreamy. There are a few cocktail suggestions on my bottle, but I haven't indulged yet.
Hi, Lucy. This tastes exactly like you would think the color would taste. It's hellion cold, too!

The Victorians really were hot stuff underneath it all.
Thank you very much, Jyothsna. I'm so glad you enjoyed my post and appreciate every one of your visits.

librariane said...

Such a fabulous idea--using flowers for granita! One thing I do happen to have in abundance is rose water (you tend to just need a tablespoon or two, but it's available in 12 oz bottles), so I may try that.

Nora B. said...

Susan, such a wonderful idea and I love the colour. I actually thought of lavender when I say the granita, only because I am addicted to lavender (there, I said it). And thanks for all that background information. I learnt something new!

Susan said...

Welcome, Librariane. Rose is an excellent idea. You're right; it is potent stuff. I like to put a teaspoon in a glass of lemonade. Thanks for visiting today.
Thank you, Nora. Lavender is pretty special, too. I'm not surprised by the addiction. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Julie said...

That violet granita is absolutely beautiful, such a gorgeous color.

Susan said...

Thanks, Julie. Good to see you.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

That looks wonderful! I'd never appreciated how much flowers could be used in cooking until this past year. I bet this must have been fantastic.

If you're interested, I'd love to have you join in my frozen dessert event...