Herbal Apothecary: Making Rosewater

This year our rosa mundi rosebushes are starting to fill in nicely and have come into bloom now that we've finally had a little warm sun:


They smell wonderful, and look great, so I am somewhat ambivalent about the next step:


Yesterday morning I picked al the petals off of all the open flowers to use them to distill some rosewater. I collected this bowlful, but there look to be many more flowers waiting in the wings, so I am hoping to repeat this process once or twice more this spring.

Once the petals are gathered, I put a brick in our tall stock pot, and filled the space around it with the rose petals: 


Then I covered the petals with enough water to reach the top of the brick (they float, so I had to push them under as much as possible).  A small glass bowl sits on top of the brick to catch the rosewater: 


The idea here is that when the heat is turned up and the water with the rose petals starts to boil, the essence of the roses rises with the steam. To collect the vapor, add the lid upside down:


This way the concave surface of the top of the lid aims the condensation (rising from the boiling water) down the handle and directly into the glass bowl inside the pot. Putting ice on the top of the lid (which is now like a little bowl) helps the condensation form on the lid more efficiently.

I check the progress pretty much every time the ice in the lid melted, when I had to pry up the lid (a pain, since it was hot and full of water). I think I let it go for 30 to 40 minutes and ended up with a pot full of mushy, bleached out rose petals, a lovely-smelling kitchen, and just shy of two cups of rosewater:


I think I let it go a bit too long, which probably diluted my rosewater with regular old distilled water. It is clear (normal) and smells like roses, but not quite as strongly as I think it could. It doesn't taste like much of anything either, so I feel like I may have diluted it accidentally. It should still be fine for making soaps and scrubs, though.

I will try again with the next batch of roses when they open up, and next time I won't let it go for as long to see if that helps with the potency at all. But this isn't too bad for a first effort, I guess.

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