The aroma of violets is notoriously difficult to capture. The fragrance is so delightfully sweet in the flower itself, but the volatile oil is delicate and elusive so there’s no easy way to bottle its beautiful smell. The absolute is sometimes made available, but is usually incredibly expensive and inaccessible for most people. It is also usually made with the leaves, not the flowers, so it smells more green than sweet. Absolute made with the flowers is even harder to find. But there is one way to preserve that famous violet scent: in sugar. I discovered this quite by accident last year and found myself opening up my jar of violet sugar throughout the year when I missed their scent. I have since decided to sugar violets every year that I can harvest them. They’re blooming in my garden now, so this is the perfect time to start a new batch.
Now, before you write me off for suggesting that you use sugar in something, just remember that you don’t have to eat it. You can just smell it if your main goal is to capture its scent. For internal consumption, you can use organic, unrefined, high quality raw sugar. It is lovely in confectionary, but it’s also just as wonderful when all you need is a whiff of something spring-like in the gray days of winter. For internal use, you can also use honey. It captures the flavor more than the scent and will still give you something luscious for your pantry. I’ve covered both options for you below – sugar and honey.
How to Make Violet Sugar
Pour a bit of sugar onto a flat baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread it into a layer about ¼” thick, then start to place your freshly harvested flowers (dry, not wet – so if you’ve rinsed them clean, you need to let them air dry first) in a single layer on top of the sugar. Top with another layer of sugar, spread evenly so that the flowers are completely covered. Allow to sit (uncovered – it needs air circulation) for 24-48 hours, then remove the flowers from the sugar and store the sugar in an airtight jar. You can continue to add flowers as you’re able to harvest them to increase the aroma. It’s a good idea to let the sugar stand open for another day to allow any residual moisture to evaporate before storing. You can then finish drying the flowers and add them to the scented sugar for added flavor.
If you’re working with just a few blooms at a time, you can do this in a small bowl and add flowers each day as you’re able. Cover the bowl with a light tea towel to allow air flow as they infuse.
How to Make Violet Honey
Fill a jar with freshly harvested violet flowers (again, not wet – if you’ve rinsed them clean, let them air dry first), then pour raw honey over the flowers until they’re covered. They may float to the top of the jar – this is fine. You can continue to add flowers to the jar as the blooms open in your garden. The flowers are edible and do not need to be removed from the honey, so you can leave them in without straining.
The sugar is lovely in delicate baked goods and the honey is delightful on toast or in light, floral teas. The honey can also be used topically to help soothe the skin, especially when there are signs of heat, redness, or irritation.
How do you like to use violets? Have you ever tasted one? Do you make violet honey or sugar? Tell me about some of your favorite ways to use violets in the comments below. If you want to learn more about how to use violets therapeutically, you can read more about them in my monograph by clicking here.