This is where I note my efforts as I try to recreate some old recipes. Most are taken from my small collection of handwritten recipe books which date from the late 1700's to around 1922. I also have a collection of old tatty old recipe books, well thumbed and heavily splashed from years of use. I love them all!

The old-fashioned very stylised handwriting writing is sometimes difficult to decipher, measurements and cooking instructions are minimal, no tin sizes given. Luckily I enjoy a challenge. Just to complicate things I cook and bake on my wood-fired Rayburn, which can be... unpredictable.

I suspect this blog is less about the food and more about my passion for these lovely old books and the wonderful women who wrote them.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Violets - Give them a Bruising and Pound them to a Pulp

I live in Tennyson country so please indulge me..

"From the meadows your walks have left so sweet
That, whenever a March wind sighs,
He sets the jewel-print of your feet
In violets blue as your eyes.."        taken from Maud Part 1 by Tennyson

A tiny jug with some beautiful violets, but these are Dog Violets, not the perfumed Sweet Violets which were so often used in recipes.      We have a few tiny patches of Sweet Violets growing in our little Owl Wood,  I would never pluck them and cook with them.

All violets are beautiful, but not all violets are blue.   They can be white, indigo, violet or pink.   Just along the road I know where there are several large patches of white violets growing and a few dog violets.

So far I have not tracked down any other patches of sweet violets.

Yes, I am the crazy woman who you may catch on her hands and knees, trying to get down far enough to sniff the violets.

Once you have stopped falling about with laughter, I'd be grateful of a hand to help me back to my feet!

Violets signified modesty and faithfulness in the Victorian language of flowers.

The scarce sweet violets have been used throughout history, in herbal remedies, beverages, syrups, conserves, pastes, salads, pastes and  pottages.     Mind-boggling, given how relatively rare they are today, you will see what I mean in a moment, when I give you a couple of old recipes.

They were made into things like:

Violet Vinegar
Violet Jelly
Syrup of Violets - Weigh out 1 lb of freshly gathered violets...
Violet Marmalade - Put 4 1/2 lb violet petals....
Violet Ice - Put 1/2 lb of cleaned violet petals...
Sirrop of Violets - First gather a great quantity of violet flowers...

Can you imagine finding enough violets to be able to pick so many?   The combined scent of them must have been pretty powerful and the sight of a carpet of violets quite wonderful.

I'll finish with a couple of old recipes.

Violet Cakes

Wet double refined sugar and boil it until it is almost come to sugar again; then put into it Juice of Violets, put in juice of Lemons this will make them look red; if you put in juice and water it will make them look green.

If you will have them all blue, put in the Juice of Violets without the lemon.
John Middleton, 1734

How about some violet marmalade for your breakfast toast?

Violet Marmalade

Put 4 1/2 lb violet petals, with the base nipped off, into a mortar, and bruise and pound them to a pulp.

Clarify 6 lb loaf sugar and boil to the blow.  (240F-245 F)
Add the pulped flowers.   Mix them well in and stir in 3 lb apple marmalade.

Let it boil up a few times.   Stir and mix well.

Put into pots and cover airtight.
Florence White

Many thanks to Blogosphere Magazine and Dominic Franks (Belleau Kitchen) for featuring the wonderful women who wrote the recipe books which feature so heavily in this blog.

They could never have imagined that so long after their deaths, they would still be 'remembered' - and not just by me, for a change!

Well done those women!


  1. No wonder those violets are a bit scarce now! That's a helluva lot of violets to make the cake.
    Haven't seen violets in many years though you can find them here in small pots. A very-pleasing-to-the-eye flower

  2. Ooooof, meant marmalade, not cake

  3. Hello Linda, Difficult to imagine, isn't it. The hedgerows and woodlands must have been amazingly fragrant and colourful, if they really were so plentiful!

  4. Never knew that violets were popular in cooking. You have an interesting take on old recipes.

  5. Violets are springing up all over the gardens right now - but definitely not in the quantities which any of these recipes would require!

  6. such a lovely thought... never really though about it like that... all those women! and your amazing blog x

  7. Every now and again when I read those books I try to imagine the person who wrote the recipes down. No doubt some were written by the person who cooked them, but one or two of the books look much more like recipes collected by a 'lady' for her cook to produce.
    Thank you for letting me give these women a bigger platform than they would otherwise have had.