Writing about art, food and changes

Theresa Rice

Theresa Rice
North Georgia Mountains, Georgia, United States
August 24
I write. I paint. I teach. I grow things. I cook. I eat. Louisiana-born and Southern bred, I love people wise enough to be optimistic and generous enough to bring their gifts to the table.


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MARCH 27, 2011 2:44PM

Spring Violets

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. . . O wind, where have you been,
That you blow so sweet?
Among the violets
Which blossom at your feet.    

  The honeysuckle waits
For Summer and for heat
But violets in the chilly Spring
Make the turf so sweet . . .

~Christina Rossetti 



      I love the delicate cadence of spring, measured by my flowers. First brave and stealthy crocuses scout out winter's retreat. Then gallant daffodils wave golden flags in the rain and freshening winds to claim the land for spring.

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But it is violets that demand the landscape in earnest. The first few tufts of round green leaves  appear, delicate and deceptively tentative looking. But their delicacy is a crafty ruse.

. . . Within my garden’s sunny bounds
Those flowers in wild profusion grew
And wandered over walk and bed
As if their privilege they knew. 
  Uprooted was each noxious weed,
Well trained the lily and the rose;
The violets alone were left
To wander wheresoe’er they chose . . .

~Mrs. Emma C. Embury, from Violets

 Soon they tumble over the rocks and escape the beds. They edge across the gravel walkway and surround the paving stones. They grow into crowds and thongs and multitudes and each year they capture more territory. 

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They are beautiful and fragrant and I cannot bear to treat them as weeds—pull them by their roots or lop them to the ground. I do, however, demand a toll for their aggressiveness. I gather them for tiny vases as you might expect. But they also find their way into my kitchen.

One of my dearest friends uses them in a tossed salad with oranges to mark her Easter feast. We enjoyed it  early this year because the holiday is so late she was afraid to miss them. It was a delicious taste of spring.

I like to borrow a leaf from her book for a composed salad of orange suprêmes, red onions and pistachios on a bed of butterhead lettuce with a spicy red pepper and maple syrup viniagrette. Grapefruit and avocados with bright green pumpkin seeds are also a visual joy when garnished with violets. Possibilities are colorfully endless. 

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Salads are lovely and, alas, disappear when the violets fade, leaving only a whisper of memory behind. That is why I also like to find ways to preserve my sweet little purple flowers so I can re-create spring whenever I choose. 

  On a recent sunny afternoon I sat among my violets and gathered them up to make into rare treats. One charming and old fashioned way to do this is to make candied violets, or Violettes Comfits.
Another astonishing beauty is violet jelly, or Gelée de Violettes


(Candied Violets)

IMG_2255 resize1Candied violets have a fragile antique Victorian air perfect for brides and babies. Use them to lend a romantic delicacy to cakes and petit fours for weddings and showers,  or set out a little bowlful for a sweet taste of yesteryear. 

Find a stand of violets and gather flowers that have not been sprayed or treated. Select well-formed young blossoms that have opened well. Leave the stems long and intact so you have a "handle."

Dip the flowers into a cool waterbath to rinse, drain gently and set out on clean paper towels or kitchen towels to dry completely.

  • 24 freshly gathered perfect violets
  • 1 egg white from a pasturized egg, allowed to come to room temperature
  • superfine sugar

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Hold a dry violet by its stem. Use a small clean food-safe brush to thoroughly coat all the petals of the flower with the egg white.






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 Sprinkle the coated flower with the sugar until it is completely covered. Arrange carefully on a sheet of waxed paper or parchment set over a baking rack. Repeat until all violets are done. Make sure the sugared flowers do not touch each other.

Allow to sit undisturbed in a warm dry place for 24 hours or until completely dry. 

Snip the stem off the flower heads and store in an airtight container away from sunlight. If you need to stack the flowers, layer them on parchment paper. Do not crowd.



(Violet Jelly)

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 Violet jelly is a startling unexpected color and an ingenious flavor enigma. By some magic the dark violet infused liquid lightens to a magnificent flushed rose color. The tang is unexpectedly deep with a touch of citrus from the added lemon. Use to fill shortbread thumbprint cookies, or tea sandwiches made with poundcake. Delicious with your favorite tea, although it is tempting to break out champagne.


  • 2 cups violet flowers, heads only, packed full
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, strained to be very clear (juice of one lemon)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 3-ounce bottle liquid pectin
  • sterilized containers and lids to hold about 5 or 6 cups of jelly

 IMG_2177 resizeDirections:

Gently rinse flowers, trimming off stems if any remain. Place in a non-reactive container and pour boiling water over the flowers. Allow to stand 24 hours at room temperature.



IMG_2183Strain and the reserve liquid, discarding flowers.  The infused water will be quite dark.

Add pectin and lemon juice to the infusion. Bring to a boil and add the sugar. Return to a boil and boil hard for one minute.

Pour into containers and top with lids.  Jelly can be stored in the refrigerator for two or three weeks.



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To can the jelly for prolonged storage use 5 or 6 half pint jars. Place them in a large pan or stockpot deep enough to cover them with at least one inch of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and allow to simmer as you make the jelly. Use a rack if you have one to hold the jars. If not, put a clean dish towel in the bottom of the pan to keep the jars from rattling.

Put canning lids in a small pan, cover well with water and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat. Do not boil the lids.

 Place a clean bath towel on the counter. When the jelly is done use tongs to remove jars from the hot water, drain and place right side up on the towel. Carefully fill jars to 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe jar mouths with a clean damp cloth and place a lid on each one. Screw a band tightly onto each jar, then loosen slightly.

IMG_2184 resize Use tongs to lower jars into the hot water in the pot. Make sure water level is at least one inch above the tops of the jars. Return to a boil and process for ten minutes. 

Turn off the burner and carefully lift the jars to the towel on the counter and allow to cool. Check to see that all jars have sealed well once they have cooled by tapping the middle of the lid gently. The raised part in the center of the lid will be all the way down. Store in a cool dry place and use well before the next violets bloom.  


 For a Special Treat 

 IMG_2276 resizeMake your favorite white cake and buttercream frosting. Coat the bottom layer of cake with violet jelly. Stay about 1/4 inch away from the edge of the cake to prevent bleed through. Cover with buttercream, sealing in the jelly layer.



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Top with the next layer, then ice the cake as usual. Place candied violets as desired to decorate.












IMG_2246 resize Verdi gave us the tragic Violette from La Traviata, a beautiful flower in love with life, destined to die young. Her joyous aria, Sempre Libera—Always Free—personifies the unbridled gaiety of spring that cannot last forever. Here is one translation. Another is given on the accompaning video. 



Free and aimless I frolic
From joy to joy,
Flowing along the surface
of life's path as I please.
As the day is born,
Or as the day dies,
Happily I turn to the new delights
That make my spirit soar.

Love is a heartbeat throughout the universe,
mysterious, altering,
the torment and delight of my heart.

Oh! Oh! Love!
Madness! Euphoria!




Immortal twentieth century soprano Maria Callas shines from the height of her talent in this recording. The performance stands as a masterwork. 



Photograph of Maria Callas courtesy of PhotoBucket
All other text and images copyright 2011 Theresa Rice
Videos courtesy of YouTube


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Lovely. I adore violets. Extra points for including the candied ones.
Theresa: I know I keep saying I look forward to your posts but I do.
They are so well done and wonderful to read.
Rated with hugs
The cake sounds incredible...I think I need to plant some violets around my place.
Love all of your posts. This one is fantastic. I was just wondering what to plant by my front door. Something short and sturdy would be best. Think I'll try violets.
I simply adore this post...I want to try all of this...xox
You really know how to separate the Violets, Theresa. =o) Now I want some candied violets!
And Salad
And that cake!
And that opera!
Dang it, I meant CELEBRATE! Fingers and brain not working in complete partnership, today.
Theresa, this is the most beautiful skc challenge I have seen! Violets are my favorite 'wild' flowers. I had made candied ones before but none of your other suggestions. Can imagine the delicate perfume and taste of violet jelly. The poems. . . Thank you. Rated highly.
Wow, what romantic-sounding recipes! I've tasted lavender in cooking, but not violets. The salad you describe sounds gorgeous, too. How lucky you are to have such gorgeous flowers growing so prolifically in your yard!
What a lovely post!! Thank you!
what a gorgeous post. it's far, far too hot to grow violets here, but i might just have a glass of champagne, listen to maria sing and dream of violets. oh, what i wouldn't give for some violet jelly. [sigh]
ms theresa ... here in San Antonio and the Hill Country to the north
(L.B.J. & Ladybird Ranch), the "violet-blue" blue bonnets are in full blossom ... the color's right - with some sugar ... what do you think ?
... Rated ... Will
Violet jelly, oh my. And what a dreamy cake. Believe it or not, my husband won't eat cake (what a kill joy), so I rarely bake an all-out cake with buttercream frosting. But this one... This one look heavenly; I'm coming down to Georgia for a slice. :)
you always go over the top (in a good way) with your blog. I love this one so much because I've always loved violets. I'm keeping the jelly recipe. Thanks!
I love violets when they are used this or just to look at. -R-
This is something you'd read in Martha Stewart's magazine. Luscious and lovely!
Every paragraph you write is lagniappe. Flowers are both a visual and gustatory delight in cooking. This is totally unrelated, but have you ever found a use for wild onions - the kind that are so present when the grass if first cut in the Spring - in cooking? I tried sauteing them once to add to scrambled eggs and they are very strong and would definitely be an acquired taste.
Loved this. I bought violets for the first time this spring, normally too hot here. I have been enchanted with the 2 hanging baskets on my porch. Now I know a bit to try in the kitchen, can enjoy the blooms and foliage with added texture and history. Thanks.
Great post Theresa, brilliant content, plenty to keep us busy here. Rated
Wow, what a lovely post. I had no idea we could make jelly from violets or candy them. Thanks. Snow still covers over land. Can't wait til this time. R
That was fun. I love violet jelly.
Thanks for posting this Violets 101. Candied violets, poetry, and more. Nice all the way around and then some. I am glad you violated us with this....
So, so pretty! I have been longing to make these and now I know how. As always, I love your posts. :-)
Wow this is wonderful! I am going to pass this on to my aunt. She loves to cook with lavender, perhaps this year she can try out your violet recipes!
Love the violets and purple pansies that grow wild in my planters, seeds jumping from one to the other; overflowing the bird bath garden. So much rain ponding down yet they remain undaunted and flourish as the sun shines brightly, finally, this day. I love to use them as garnish on They make any day look happier, while they color ours brightly.
Funny, part of my comment disappeared! Tried to say, I love to use them as garnish on cheese plates, in salads, even in fruity beverages, lemonade or Arnold Palmers! Tiny colorful vases stuffed with these purple clusters adorn the bathrooms and hall table to welcome occupants to spaces of nature's vernal displays, large and small.
Simply beautiful, Theresa!
Spectacular! The candied violets look like the require a delicate touch and could only turn into a travesty in my ham hands, but I can still dream abiout them....
Lovely, lovely post. I was just talking with a friend about sugared violas. The violet jelly is beautiful and interesting!
I feel blessed to have been the birthday girl who was honored with that gorgeous cake. It was delightfully sweet and the flavors blended together perfectly. It was pure heaven.

I would like to add that I've been privileged to eat Theresa's cooking on more than one occasion. She has yet to feed me anything that was less then perfect bliss. The girl can cook.
La Traviata is my favorite opera. I do have a problem with it though, I can't keep from bawling, the music is so beautiful. Violets make me remember my dear mother-in-law, her beautiful purple flowers and sweet smile. Marie Kinneer
I just stumbled on this post-so beautifully done! As a teenager I used to care for a neighbor's garden when she vacationed in France and she always brought me back candied violets. This brought back memories...