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not yet spring

Last week I was so sure that spring was on its way.  It has been a very warm winter and most of us have felt a bit cheated.  We haven’t really gotten that winter feel where we just want to curl up with a book or a project by the woodstove.  Our woodpile barely looks any different than when we stacked it in November.

Then on Friday I got to give my little boys the news they have been waiting for.  A cold snap.  Enough days for us to tap our trees for maple which we had thought probably would not happen for us this year.  In just 2 days we went from spring right back to winter.  So much happiness from my little Southern boys.  It isn’t that they love the cold so much as that they know we need a bit more winter so we can tap our maples and so we get some good fruit set on our plants.

So the winter coats are back out as well as scarves and gloves.  We aren’t minding the cold very much and we have as much time with the sun out as dreariness which truly I probably will always love though the cloud days aren’t so bad either.  We are all pretty excited about foraging season starting very soon and our walks in the woods are turning more into inspections to see what might be coming up out of the ground these days.  We are back to indoor games and projects and the chinese checkerboard has regained popularity with games going on in the kitchen at almost every meal.

Two weeks ago, I walked into Luckys and they had Florida strawberries piled so high that my heart just flew home which meant that I had to buy a bunch!  It isn’t strawberry season here for a while but my heart knew that back home in Florida, the festivals are starting and I would have been making jam in these days so I bought some and made a batch.  6 jars of jam did not last very long with kids using a big spoonful in their yogurt or on toast with butter.  So this time I bought slightly a bit more and made 12 jars of our balsamic strawberry jam.  I hope it lasts until we have our own strawberries ripening on the homestead but I have to tell you,  these strawberries were so good.  They tasted like home.

I should get on with planning the garden and starting some seedlings but this year I am doing winter sowing so I am giving myself some grace and time to procrastinate, a little, not a lot.  Are you planning a garden this year?  I will be using what is left of winter inside time to get my spring prepared and planned and perhaps get just one more winter hat finished which we will still be able to use for another month or two in the early mornings.   I had hoped to finish a sweater for Mateo but its not even worthy of mention yet so perhaps that project should be in my basket right now where I can see it.

We did actually tap trees two days ago and the task of collecting sap every day has begun.  I am looking forward to a few days outside boiling it all down but much more on that tomorrow yes?   So much spring coming but very little winter left so I better get back to it.

 

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Violet syrup – Wild edibles recipe

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IMG_9248 IMG_9251 IMG_9265 IMG_9268Violet syrup

Violets.  So much beauty in a little flower.  It is one of my favorite wild edibles and we are so lucky to live here where they are practically a pest.  I grew violets in Florida mostly for the greens and only got a few blooms in all the time I grew them.  The greens are a favorite salad green.  So mild and tasty and packed full of good stuff for our bodies but today (really this week) we will be giving some attention and praise to the bloom.

All winter long, I wait for spring.  The sun returns and so do the violets.  We love to forage as a family.  There is so much out there to find and use but many of the “weeds” you find in early spring will be gone in a flash.  Violets are one of them.  While the greens will stay most of the year, those precious blooms will only be around for a few weeks at most and then they return to the ground until next spring.

We are in the middle of all things violet this week.  Violet jelly, violet sugar, dried violets for our tea and violet syrup.  They may also grace the top of a cupcake or two but today I want to share how to make violet syrup.  We make it a bit thick and use it on pancakes and waffles, ice cream and to sweeten our tea.  It is not healthy but it is beautiful and we always need more beauty no?

Violet Syrup

1 cup violet blooms

4 cups water (boiled)

4 cups sugar (we use raw sugar,  if you want a more purple color you will need to use white sugar, otherwise the color will be closer to a blush wine like my pictures)

lemon juice

 

So to get started, we are basically going to make a big batch of violet tea.

Boil the water and pour over the violets.  Let them steep for about 30 minutes to over night.  You might be surprised that the water is either blue, greenish or dark and not the beautiful purple you were hoping for.  Do not lose heart.  The purple will happen later.

Strain and throw the blooms in the compost

Now measure out your water.  Add the same amount of sugar as water.  We use organic raw sugar which makes the syrup a more brownish color.  If you want bright purple, you will need white sugar but I am ok with giving up a little color to not use white sugar.

Next comes the magical part and my kids wait for this magic reaction.   Slowly add lemon until you get the purple you want.  As soon as you add the lemon, the tea will turn to purple.  Magic.

Now boil until it becomes as thick as you want it.  Be careful or you will get crystals or rock candy.  Do not boil it too long.  The best way to tell is when the syrup clings a bit to the spoon.

Pour into a sterilized jar and if you want it to keep for a while then process like you would jelly.

Enjoy anyway you like.

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