Rose water is said to come from Persia, and is readily found in any Persian grocery. It is also said to be a wonderfully natural astringent cleanser for the face. In France, the essence of the beloved Rose is incorporated into subtly-flavored desserts and perfumes. If you ever get a chance, visit the city of Grasse in the South of France, the original Perfume & Fragrance capital of France and possibly the world. For ages, this town supplied the best fragrance houses in France. There is even a Perfume Museum, where you can see an enormous old copper contraption which distilled all types of flowers in the day. Perfumers such as Chanel are said to still use distillations of fresh flowers from Grasse rather than synthetics, which is one of the reasons the price is so dear.
While I love fancy desserts and French perfumes, my goal was much more simple. How can I make Rose Scented Ice Cream? It was one fragrance that I wanted that was not found in David Liebovitz’ Perfect Scoop, which I highly recommend. I immediately ruled out buying rose water at the Persian Grocery when I have so many fragrant roses in the garden. That would be too easy! Homemade rose water seemed the place to start, so I gathered a small group of my favorite roses, early in the morning as they say that’s when the flowers have best retained their oils and fragrance~
By distilling the petals, the traditional perfumers’ method, you can capture the oils and essence, and therefore a purer fragrance with less volume. But how to distill the petals? Harking back to high school chemistry class, I took a kitchen pot with a small amount of water, then added the rose petals and a small bowl in the center~
To capture the vapors, I used a domed lid, which I inverted over the pan of water and petals so that the vapors would condense on the lid and drip into the little white bowl~
Here is the steamy little pot of petals and the first bit of distilled rose water~
I came away with a small volume of rose water, which had a slight sheen of oil on it. You can not really see it here, but this was indeed a very pure fragrance of rose, though I was disappointed the color was green…green? I was hoping for pink~
The next iteration found me just plain boiling the petals in a very small amount of water. This was indeed pink! The fragrance was different from the distilled petals but the volume was greater. I think the distillation was still the best way to go.
How would you use rose water? I invite you to give it a try with some of your own roses. Next up, how to make Rose Ice Cream and details on rose scented desserts.