Magic water made with fresh organic roses
An Age-Old Flavoring for Dinner and Dessert and Beauty
Rose water has left an indelible mark on human history. This clear, sweet-tasting, aromatic liquid has been used in perfumery, cosmetics, and medicine for many centuries. In Middle Eastern and West Asian countries, it has long been used as a flavoring in cooking.
Rose water is basically an aqueous solution of some of the odoriferous constituents of rose flowers. One low-tech way to make it is to soak rose petals in water for a couple of weeks, with some alcohol added as a preservative. A speedier technique, developed by the ancient Persians, is to distill the flowers with water or steam.
One might call rose water poor man’s attar, the highly prized—and highly priced—essential oil of roses used in fine perfume. Indeed, commercial rose water is a byproduct of the steam-distillation process used to isolate attar. It’s what’s left of the distillate after the attar is skimmed off the top.
Rosa ‘Arkansas’ (Brooklyn Botanic Garden)
That’s not to say that it isn’t fabulous stuff. Ancient Romans used rose water to freshen the air in their homes. And it is said that the sails of Cleopatra’s cedarwood ship were scented with rose water—”the very winds were lovesick,” Shakespeare wrote.
Rose water, it seemed, could sweeten any activity, even one as heavy-handed as construction. In the golden age of the caliphates of Baghdad, mosque builders mixed rose water (along with musk) into the mortar paste, so that the noonday sun would release the scent.
During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, rose water was a popular remedy for depression. It was fine for bathing in, too, and as a “handwater” for rinsing.
The Persians were probably the first to explore the culinary potential of rose water, infusing mutton fat with it to season their food. They also invented one of the most enduring confections around—marzipan, which is made from ground almonds and sugar and traditionally flavored with rose water.
The earliest written recipes using rose water come from the glory days of the Arab Empire (8th to 11th century A.D.). Picking up a taste for rose water from the Persians, the Arabs used it to make sweet drinks and desserts and for seasoning savory dishes such as makhfiya (a lavish meatball concoction, described in detail in Reay Tannahill’s wonderful Food in History).
With the migration of Islamic culture eastward, rose water became a popular flavoring for Indian desserts such as gulab jamun (fried milk balls in syrup) and the sweet yogurt drink lassi.
Other culinary highlights include lokum, or Turkish delight, a rose water–flavored candy dating back around 500 years to the early days of Turkey’s Ottoman Empire. In the 19th century, American Shakers produced a double-distilled rose water flavoring that was almost as popular then as vanilla is today.
Therapeutic Benefits of Roses
Aside from providing an aesthetic appeal, which contributes to the overall pleasure and feeling of well being, roses have a genuine practical use in our regimens of good health. Rose oil and rose water are derived from the flowers and rose hips have many valuable properties.
It is suspected that the rose was probably the very first flower from which rose oil and rose water were distilled; possibly in the 10th Century Persia. Today, most of the rose oils are still produced in that region of the world. A very large quantity of rose petals is needed to produce a very small quantity of oil. Thus, it is very costly. Thankfully only a small amount of rose oil is needed in therapeutic preparations. It is not used in its concentrated state, but rather in a carrier oil such as almond, jojoba, and grapeseed.
Generally rose oil and rose water (a by-product of distillation) are used topically rather than internally; with the exception of aromatherapy.In this case the rose essence may be inhaled, via steam or diffusion. Three varieties of rose are used in commercial production of rose oil and rose water: Rosa Centifolia, Rosa Damascena and Rosa Gallica. The product will vary slightly in colour between these species but the therapeutic benefits are the same.
The use of the rose is far and varied. It has a long history in its use in folk remedies, especially in the area of skincare. It is suitable for all skin types, but it is especially valuable for dry, sensitive or aging skins. It has a tonic and astringent effect on the capillaries just below the skin surface, which makes it useful in diminishing the redness caused by enlarged capillaries. It is important to ensure that the product contains the genuine natural rose oil. Many manufacturers label their products containing rose essence but it could be synthetic. Synthetic rose ingredients have no therapeutic value at all! Remember, with authentic rose oil, a little goes a long way.Certainly rosewater is a less expensive way to provide skincare. It is very soothing to irritated skin.It is also a tonic and antiseptic. Rosewater has been shown to be very valuable as an antiseptic in eye infections.
The rose also offers a soothing property to the nerves and emotional /psychological state of mind. It is regarded as a mild sedative and anti-depressant. It is increasingly used in treatments for conditions of stress: nervous tension, peptic ulcers, heart disease, among others. There is indication that rose essence may also positively influence digestion, bile secretion, womb disorders and circulation. In addition, a tea made with rose petals (pour 150 ml of boiling water over 1 /2 grams of rose petals) often soothes a mild sore throat.
Rose hips (the flowers which have swollen to seed) are an excellent source of vitamins A, B3, C, D and E. They also contain bioflavonoids, citric acid, flavonoids, fructose, malic acid, tannins and zinc. Taken in the form of tea they are good for infections, particularly bladder infections. Rose hip tea is also used in the treatment of diarrhea. It is an especially good source of vitamin C.
To best use rose oil for topical purposes (i.e. skin care), use approximately 8 drops of essential rose oil for every 10 ml of carrier oil. Apply directly onto skin. Rosewater may be used with abandon. There is no such thing as too much of it. For emotional wholeness and wellness, rose oil may also be used in a room diffuser, aromatherapy ring (a brass ring placed atop a hot light bulb will work to evaporate the essential essence throughout the room) or in steaming hot water on the stove. Whatever works!
To brew rose hip tea, which by the way is truly delicious, roughly chop up entire rose hips. Cover with distilled or purified water and boil for 30 minutes (longer if desired). Strain through a fine strainer or cheesecloth and add a bit of honey if desired. One can also find Rose Hip Tea in the local health food stores. The essence of rose need not only be used to treat ailments. Whether inhaled and enjoyed from a freshly cut bouquet of sumptuous blooms or splashed on as rosewater after a shower or bath, it is simply a pleasure to be enjoyed by all!
Rose water is relatively easy to make at home, and you don’t need approval from the USDA or miles of special tubing to do it. In Herbs for Natural Beauty, Rosemary Gladstar outlines a home-brewing method that’s simple and fun and takes about 45 minutes.
For ingredients, you’ll need two to three quarts of fresh rose petals, clean water (distilled, if possible), and ice cubes. For equipment, you’ll need a large pot with a convex lid, a quart-size heat-safe stainless steel or glass quart bowl, and a chimney brick.
First, place the brick in the center of the pot and the bowl on top of the brick. Then arrange the rose petals around the brick, adding enough flowers to reach the top of it. Pour in just enough water to cover the roses.
Place the lid upside down on the pot. Bring the water to a rolling boil; then lower the heat to a slow, steady simmer. As soon as the water begins to boil, empty two or three trays of ice cubes into the inverted lid. Ta-da—your home still! If it all goes right, condensed rose water will flow to the center of the lid and drip into the bowl.
It’s important not to simmer the pot too long or your rose water will become diluted. When you’ve collected about a pint, it’s time to stop—and taste the rose water.
The best rose water comes from the freshest, most fragrant petals. When I tried petals from commercially grown roses, the result was timid at best; grow your own or try to locate a garden source with pesticide-free old garden roses. Damasks, centifolias, and gallicas are the varieties most commonly used in the industry to brew the sweetest rose water draught.
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup ice cubes
1-1/4 cups diced mango (yellow-skinned)
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon rose water
Blend all ingredients except the yogurt in a blender for 30 seconds on high speed. Add the yogurt and process until frothy. Serve the lassi strained or unstrained over crushed ice. Garnish with a rose petal.
1 qt. distilled water
1/2 pt. 70% proof alcohol (not Isopropyl)
2 c. rose petals, red or pink – old fashioned variety chemical free, freshly picked & clean
1 tbsp. orris root, powdered
10 drops rose oil
1 gallon clear jar
Place rose petals and 1 cup of distilled water in blender and blend until fine. Pour into one gallon jar and add remaining ingredients. Cover tightly and set in sun to steep for two weeks. Strain into clean large bowl or container. Pour into small glass containers or antique perfume bottles. Use to scent bath water or as an after bath splash.
ROSE PETAL JAM
1 2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 1/3 c. water
2 c. firmly packed fragrant rose petals from pesticide-free blossoms (about 15 lg. roses), washed
1 tsp. rose flower water (available at gourmet food stores)
1 (1 3/4 oz.) box pectin
Red food coloring (opt.)
In a large stock pot, combine sugar and water over medium-high heat; stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Stir petals and rose flower water into syrup. Bring to a rolling boil. Add pectin; stir until dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil again and boil 1 minute longer. Remove from heat. Skim off foam. If desired, tint with red food coloring. Store in sealed jars in the refrigerator.
How To Make Rose Water: Recipes & Tips
Rose water (also spelled Rosewater) can be used in cooking as well as a rich beauty aid.
Try some as a facial toner or astringent, in your bath water or as a facial splash (refresher).
Notes on Preparation:
- Rose petals must be freshly picked and have no pesticides or chemicals used on them.
- Pick the roses just after the morning dew has evaporated, about 2 to 3 hours after sunrise.
- Use only the petals, not the stems or leaves.
- Wash the petals quickly to remove any bugs or specks of dirt and immediately process with one of the methods below.
- If you don’t grow your own roses, ask at the local florist or Farmers Market for organic roses.
See Recipes Below For How To Make Rose Water…
Old Fashioned Recipe for Distilled Rosewater
Fresh rose petals (3 to 4 quarts)
Enamel canning or stock pot with lid
Deep, heavy heat proof bowl
- Fill the bottom of the pot with the rose petals and pour water over them until the petals are just covered. Place the bowl in the middle of the pot. The rim should be at least a couple inches higher than the water. If you have a canning rack, you can set the bowl on top of that so the bowl doesn’t sit directly over the heat. A pyrex loaf dish underneath the bowl would do the trick too. Set these in place first before adding the rose petals and water.
- Cover the pot with its lid, but position the lid upside down so that you have a dipped “container” to hold the ice on top (to be added later). Now turn on the heat and bring the water to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, fill the top of the inverted pot lid with ice cubes. Turn the heat down and keep at a bare simmer for about two hours.
- Top up the ice as needed and quickly peek occasionally to see that the petals don’t boil dry.
This process will enable condensation to form on the top inside of the pot lid. The condensation will drip down into the bowl inside the pot, the liquid inside the bowl is your rose water.
Old Fashioned Rose Water Recipe
Enamel Pot (any size)
- Fill the bottom of an enamel pot with the rose petals a few inches deep. Pour distilled water over the petals until they are just covered.
- Turn on heat for the water to be steaming hot, but do not boil. Let the water steam until the petals have lost their color, the water has taken on the color of the rose petals and you see rose oil skimming the surface. This will take approximately 60 minutes.
- Strain the water and squeeze out the liquid from the rose petals, this is your rosewater.
Homemade Rosewater – Quick & Easy Recipe
- For every 1 firmly packed cup of rose petals, pour 2 cups boiling water over top. Cover and steep until the liquid is cool. Strain, squeeze out the liquid from the petals, and refrigerate the rose water in a sterilized jar.
Oven Recipe for Rosewater
- Preheat oven to 450°. Line an enamelware roaster a few inches deep with rose petals. Fill with distilled water until the petals are just covered. Place the roaster uncovered into the oven and bring to a boil.
- As soon as it starts boiling, turn off the heat and cover the roaster. Leave in the oven until the water is cool (several hours). Once cool, strain the water and squeeze all the petals to remove the liquid. Store the rose water in the refrigerator.
- After preparing the rose water with your recipe of choice, refrigerate in a sealed, sterilized jar.
- Use in recipes that call for rose water, but make sure to use fresh batches. Although the water is refrigerated, my notes have vast discrepancies in shelf life. Some state several days, some say a year.
Homemade Rose Petal Vinegar Recipe
Uses for Rose Petal Vinegar:
- Salad dressing or vinaigrette*
- Facial splash and skin freshener (dilute with water)
- Headache soother (soak cloth with vinegar, squeeze out, then place on forehead)
- Shampoo rinse
- Bath soak (approx 1 cup per full bath)
Rose Petal Vinegar Recipe
2 cups white wine vinegar (heat to near boil)
1 cup rose petals
3 or 4 whole cloves
- Gently wash and drain rose petals thoroughly. Carefully remove the white/yellow part of the petals (just snip with scissors). Gently crush the petals to bruise a bit.
- In a sterilized jar, place the rose petals and cloves. Pour hot vinegar over top, roughly mash the petals a bit with a wooden spoon and seal immediately.
- Set aside for 10 days (room temperature and dark). Shake occasionally.
- Strain vinegar and discard the cloves and rose petals.
- Using small decorative jars (sterilized), pour the vinegar and seal.
Tip: If possible, use the freshest petals you can by picking the flowers on the day you’ll be making this recipe.
*Do not consume if chemicals or pesticides were used on the rose bush