February 12, 2009

CANDIED VIOLETS: Remembering My Mother on Her Birthday

     While living in the home we built in Slippery Rock, in the midst of seventy acres, part of our experience is what many would describe as “back to earth.” We gardened, canned, kept chickens. We also had lots of violets that bloomed in the spring and in the fall. (click to view photo: )
     It was the early seventies when I discovered that one could make what was considered a delicacy: candied violets, a violet blossom preserved by a coating of sugar syrup.  Described as “quaint and Victorian and lovely,” cabdued violets are still commercially made at Toulouse, France, where they are known as violettes de Toulouse.
     I decided to experiment with making candied violets as a special birthday treat for my mother, Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius. The violet was her favorite flower, and the flower of her birth month, February (12th).
     I was able to select my blossoms and make them in early fall. I didn’t have to worry about pesticides, because in our large field was clear of them. (click to view photo: )
     My mother’s favorite color was purple, so I only sought stems with purple blossoms, although I also found violet plants that produced yellow, pink, lavender, or white blossoms. Should you decide to make this delicacy, a combination of colors could be attractive.
     Candied violets are described as “unbelievably tedious” to make, recommended only as a special gift for people you adore (or are related to or can give you a raise). This seemed obvious, as I reviewed the technique of producing my gift: after mixing up the “glue” that would allow crystallized sugar to remain on the delicate flower petals, I was directed to brush (using a new child-sized paint brush) this liquid onto both sides of each petal before sprinkling it with fine sugar.
     To make candied violets, a hot syrup is poured over a fresh flower (or the flower is immersed in the syrup), where it the syrup’s recrystallizes as the coated flower dries. This method, still used for rose petals, was applied to orange flowers in the past.
     I cleared my table of its usual clutter, set out trays covered with waxed paper, several new paint brushes confiscated from my children’s craft supplies, my bowl of “glue,” and a container of fine sugar. Several dozen washed, dried, plant stems with gorgeous purple blossom caps were arranged on another tray. And I began.
     It was tedious hand-painting each petal and sprinkling the sugar on each blossom. Others who have done this project consider this hand-painting ludicrous and recommend dunking the whole blossom into the glue, stating that the majority of the blossoms come out fine rather than clumpy. That’s not a bad idea, especially if you have many blossoms that are available. It saves time and patience, and produces a pool of sugared violets to choose from. The less-than-perfect stems can be shared with your family and friends, or—gobbled down, treating yourself. The candied violets, stored in a cool, dark, place, will keep for several months. Sprinkle them over cakes, ice cream, custards—use your imagination!
    I finished my project and gently packaged the violets. My mother was pleased and surprised with her gift.
     There are some cautions. With today’s concern about raw egg whites (a key ingredient in the glue), it is possible to substitute an equivalent amount of meringue powder, available at many baking supply stores. Do not use African violets, which are not are not related to the true violets. They belong to the biological genus Saintpaulia, which includes the dog violets (a group of scentless species which are the most common violets in many areas), the Sweet Violet Viola odorata (named from its sweet scent), and many other species with the common name that includes the word “violet.” Again, be careful not to choose your violets from areas that are sprayed with pesticides.
     There is another option for persons who are fascinated in having this unusual item for a gift. Candied violets can actually be purchased. A company in France, the India Tree, sells a five ounce bag for  $7.50, and H. O. Foose Tinsmithing Company in Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, sells candied violets imported from France at $7.00 for the same amount (see “Sources & Links” at end of article). 
     Below are several recipes if you want to try your hand at making candied violets. The first one comes closest to the recipe I recall using.



Remembering My Mother on Her Birthday




· Violet flowers and leaves
· 1 egg white
· Sugar
· Clean paint brushes (that have never been used with paint)
· Wax paper
1. Wash the violets and leaves, set them out to dry.
2. Separate the egg by holding it over a small, clean bowl, and crack the shell around the middle. Now pour the egg back and forth between the two shell halves, keeping the yolk in the shell and letting the white run into the bowl. Throw out the shell—use the yolk, if possible, in another recipe.
3. Dip a small brush into the egg white, and brush it on the violet petals, covering both the front and back sides.
4. Sprinkle sugar onto the violets, covering them completely.
5. Put the violets on wax paper to dry.
6. Candy the leaves the same way.


1 large egg white
1/3 cup water
1 16-oz. box superfine sugar
100 freshly picked violets on the stem
— In a small, deep bowl, lightly beat together the egg white and water. Set aside.
— Pour the sugar into something smallish and deep, like a loaf pan. Working with 1 violet at a time (I warned you, this is tedious!), dip the violet into the egg white mixture, then hold it over the sugar and snip the blossom from its stem. Gently scoop more sugar on top of the violet so that it’s completely covered. Discard the stem. Your scissors will get really gummed up after a few dozen violets, so you may have to stop and rinse them from time to time.
—Remove the violet from the sugar with a fork and lay it carefully on a wire rack to dry completely. Repeat until remaining violets are gone, or you are ready to scream, whichever comes first. Allow violets to completely dry at room temperature for several days before storing in airtight containers.


Fresh violets
Granulated sugar
Gum arabic [at pharmacy or candy making store]
Small paint brush
Waxed paper

Wash violets gently; dry. Leave 1″ stem. Mix the powder gum arabic with water to consistency of thin syrup. Coat violets [both sides]. Sprinkle with sugar. Pinch off stem. Dry on waxed paper thoroughly. Cover tightly to store.


ROSES ARE RED: Two Original Versions



THE WRITING LIFE: There’s a World Out There?






SITE LINKS:    Ligonier Calendar front




  1. uses your copy in her post or perhaps you’re using her copy in your post. One of you is plagiarizing. The other person’s post is not dated so it is not possible for me to tell who is copying who. This is unethical on someone’s part.

    Comment by Signe — May 3, 2009 @ 2:15 am | Reply

  2. Signe, I plead guilty. I neglected to list my sources in this article, although I can provide them upon request. Of necessity, I did need to locate recipes for candied violets, even though I had made them in the past, so I searched the web. Thank you for pointing out my error.

    Carolyn C. Holland

    Comment by carolyncholland — May 3, 2009 @ 3:35 am | Reply

  3. Hello there,
    In case anyone is in Paris and wants to buy a nice gift-sized pack of candied violets, Denise Acabo sells them at her chocolaterie/confiserie A l’Etoile d’Or for 10 euros. You can also buy them individually, sold by weight. The address of her amazing shop is 30, rue Pierre Fontaine – 75009 Paris. The phone number is +33 Hope this helps (and saves tedium!

    Comment by Nicole — December 22, 2010 @ 1:43 pm | Reply

  4. Wonderful!
    Candied violets are one of the symbols of the city of Parma (Italy).

    Mario Grazia
    Chef of Accademia Barilla

    Comment by Mario Grazia Italian Chef — April 12, 2011 @ 5:30 am | Reply

  5. This is a touching post, thanks for sharing such personal and delicious recipes with us.

    Comment by Dessert Recipes — June 7, 2011 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  6. Are you sure your facts are correct? Saintpaulia is the genus Saintpaulia. Dog violet is the genus viola.

    Comment by Zaffy — December 27, 2011 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

  7. I think you mean dog tooth violet.

    Comment by Zaffy — December 28, 2011 @ 6:23 am | Reply

  8. […] CANDIED VIOLETS: Remembering My Mother on Her Birthday […]

    Pingback by He Never Says I Love You and Walks Away | Carolyn's Online Magazine — February 12, 2015 @ 9:34 pm | Reply

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