Friday, April 23, 2010
Swizzels Matlow Parma Violets
While most candy is fruit or spice flavored there are a few that are floral. Parma Violets, made by Swizzels Matlow, are probably one of the best known, perhaps because they’re widely available in the UK and pretty cheap.
They come in little rolls of tablets, similar to another Swizzels Matlow product, Swizzels Fizzers. (Those in North America are probably more familiar with Ce De Smarties, also known as Rockets in Canada.)
The name Parma Violet is for the city of Parma in Italy. Starting in the 1500s the violet plants (possibly originating in Africa or East Asia) were grown, hybridized and traded by the ruling elite. They spread through Europe in manicured gardens as well as greenhouses and sunporches in cooler climates. The flowers themselves, besides being cut and used in bouquets, were candied and used as decorations and eaten. Violet flavoring was common in candies like chocolate creams, fondants and dragees through World War I when it eventually fell out of favor. Of course it’s still around, but certainly not as ubiquitous.
Parma Violets a compressed sugar tablet flavored like violet. The roll holds 14 little tablets that are 1/2 inch in diameter. They’re a soft lavender color and are now made with all natural colorings (since 2008).
The big difference I noticed in the ingredients is that they’re made with sugar (sucrose), not dextrose. Dextrose or glucose is the sugar of choice for Smarties and SweeTarts in the US, it’s a monosaccharide that is actually less sweet than sucrose (which is a disaccharide). Parma Violets are made from sucrose. So they’re quite sweet, sweeter than I expected from a “chalky” candy. The texture is the same as most other compressed sugar candies, it’s soft on the tongue and has a slow and sugary, slightly grainier melt.
Of course the overriding flavor of the candy is violet. Yes, the flowery kind. A honey-sweet smell of violets - cloying and definitely not nuanced. Violet for me is a humid flavor, moist and sticky like syrup. Part of this is probably because I gathered bouquets of violets in the yard as a kid and associate the smell of the real thing with dewy grass. These are dry and don’t stimulate a whole lot of saliva from me.
The aftertaste is mellow and long-lasting. For folks who like jasmine, rose or orange blossom over mint as a breath freshener, violet might be for you.
The good news (at least for me) is that the package contained the smell adequately. Since I tend to carry around a lot of candy at once, it would have been a travesty to contaminate my Mast Chocolate Bars with violet.
They’re a curiosity for me, I ate three packages without complaint but only because they were in front of me. I can’t see buying them again, but I guess I’ll have to see if a craving kicks in. I prefer the panned layering of Anis de Flavigny.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.