You must be careful when purchasing rose water to buy only the 100 percent pure form. Often what is available in pharmacies and even some natural food stores is synthetic rose oil and water with preservatives added. Pure rose water is the distilled water of roses. It is usually made by stream distillation, and it smells heavenly and tastes delicious.
Availability: Besides health food stores and herb stores, you can often find rose water in delicatessens; it is used as a flavoring in fancy Greek pastries, puddings, and cakes.
This recipe is the more traditional way to prepare rose water. Though it’s a little more involved, its fun to do and the results are outstanding. You can make a quart of excellent-quality rose water in about 40 minutes. However, if you simmer the water too long, you will continue to produce distilled water but the rose essence will become diluted. Your rose water will smell more like plain distilled water, rather than the heavenly scent of roses.
Be sure you have a brick and heat-safe stainless steel or glass quart bowl ready before you begin.
2-3 quarts fresh roses or rose petals
Ice cubes or crushed ice
1. In the center of a large pot (the speckled blue canning pots are ideal) with an inverted lid (a rounded lid), place a fireplace brick. On top of the brick place the bowl. Put the roses in the pot; add enough flowers to reach the top of the brick. Pour in just enough water to cover the roses. The water should be just above the top of the brick.
2. Place the lid upside down on the pot. Turn on the stove and bring the water to a rolling boil, then lower heat to a slow steady simmer. As soon as the water begins to boil, toss two or three trays of ice cubes (or a bag of ice) on top of the lid.
3. You’ve now created a home still! As the water boils the steam rises, hits the top of the cold lid, and condenses. As it condenses it flows to the center of the lid and drops into the bowl. Every 20 minutes, quickly lift the lid and take out a tablespoon or two of the rose water. It’s time to stop when you have between a pint and a quart of water that smells and tastes strongly like roses.
Adapted from Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbs for Natural Beauty, by Rosemary Gladstar.