If you’re interested in making your own hydrosols, you can start with a simple stovetop method. After you fall in love with the ancient alchemical process, you may consider graduating to a still, which can be made from copper, glass, or stainless steel and will result in a more efficient distillation. Copper is the top choice for many home distillers, because the metal binds with sulfur and yeast to form a sweeter hydrosol that doesn’t need to age before being used.
For this recipe, use a 12-quart lidded saucepan and a convex lid (a glass lid is ideal, so you can see what’s going on inside the pot). You’ll also need 2 small, sturdy, heat-safe bowls, such as ramekins or ceramic or glass cereal bowls — if you only have a single bowl, a heat-safe glass measuring cup will work well for the second bowl. This recipe is specifically for making rose water, but you can use this method to create hydrosols from a wide variety of fresh flowers or herbs, such as orange blossom or lavender.
• 6 cups fresh rose petals
• About 6 cups water
• Large resealable plastic bag filled with ice cubes, plus more ice cubes as needed
1. Gently shake the flowers to remove any dirt or insects.
2. Place 1 heat-safe bowl upside down in the center of the saucepan.
3. Arrange the rose petals around the sides of the bowl.
4. Pour just enough water into the pan to cover the rose petals; the water level should remain below the top of the bowl.
5. Balance another bowl (right-side up) on top of the first bowl; this is what will catch your rose water.
6. Cover the pot with the lid flipped upside down.
7. Bring the water to a simmer over medium heat. After it starts to simmer, put the bag of ice on the center of the inverted lid.
8. Adjust the heat if necessary to maintain a gentle simmer.
9. When the ice cubes in the bag melt, pour out the water and add new ice cubes before replacing the bag on the saucepan lid. As the steam rises inside the pot, it will condense on the underside of the cold lid and drip into the open bowl.
10. Peek inside the pot occasionally; when you have about 1 cup of rose water in the bowl (which will take approximately 1-1/2 hours), turn off the heat. Let cool.
11. Uncover the pot, and carefully lift out the bowl of rose water.
12. Using a funnel, transfer the rose water to a sterilized bottle. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Watch videos, listen to podcasts, and get more inspiration for your hydrosol ventures at All About Hydrosols.
These instructions are excerpted with permission from Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han. Courtesy of Fair Winds Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group.