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.
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.