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Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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This flower water can be made from any sweet scented roses. The most famous is the ancient damask rose, but the cabbage rose, French rose, and musk rose are also used. Eglantine flower water from a wild rose, sometimes called sweet briar, is particularly popular in Tunisia. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans extracted fragrance by steeping rose petals in water, oil, or alcohol. Although water distillation is still traditionally used in many Eastern countries, nowadays steam distillation is often the preferred method. Here, for instance, is how rosewater is made in Afghanistan today: The blooms are picked fresh in the cool, early hours of the morning. A large copper pot or cauldron is filled with water. The petals are added (the amount of water is usually about twice the weight of the petals), and the water is brought to a gentle boil. The pot is covered with a type of copper dome from which an attached pipe or tube leads to a glass bottle, into which the pipe neatly fits. Everything is sealed with dough to prevent the fragrant steam from escaping. The steam rises into the dome, and as it travels down the pipe, it is cooled by cold water, causing the steam to condense into droplets. The droplets travel along the pipe, and slowly the fragrant rosewater drips into the bottle. (Sometimes this rosewater is poured into another pot and slightly warmed again, then left to stand until a thin film of oil forms on the surface. The oil is skimmed off to make atr [attar], or oil of roses.) Orange flower water is traditionally made in much the same way.