Summer has finally arrived here, with skies of the palest blue, brilliant sunshine and increasing levels of heat – which means that for me at least, outdoor activities are kept to a minimum during the heat of the day, and walks and herb gathering takes place in the evening instead. Recently I have been doing rather a lot with rose petals, with baskets of them drying all round the living room at present. I’m lucky, really, as I have access to both the highly scented Rosa rugosa and also several kinds of briar rose, from the lightly fragranced eglantine (Rosa rubiginosa) to the traditional, generally unscented dog roses (Rosa canina). I love roses, more and more as I grow a little older, but do tend to prefer the old, traditional varieties – hedging roses, and types like Rosa gallica, the Apothecary’s Rose. I thought I’d list a few rose recipes I’ve been playing with recently, with instructions, for any of you lovelies who might still have access to rose petals – act fast, as they are starting to go over, here in Lincolnshire! Their place is being taken by the delightfully fragrant Limeflower (Tilia europaea) which, like the roses themselves, is remarkably late flowering this year, but the bees are currently adoring it.
Rose Petal Wine
You will need:
4 Litres of water
at least 2 pints of loosely packed rose petals – more is good if you like a stronger rose flavour (which I do).
Approximately 1.5kilos of sugar if you want a fairly sweet wine. The last one I made turned out delightfully dry, which is lovely for summer, but I wanted the latest batch to be sweeter for drinking mid winter.
Rose flower water if preferred.
Dessert and High Alcohol wine yeast.
Yeast nutrient if preferred.
Rose petal wine is really very simple to make! Simply boil the first couple of pints worth of water, put into the pan with the fresh rose petals (you can use dried – you get a more intense flavour from those, so partly drying them first makes sense if you have time.) Stir up the petals and water, then cover with a teatowel and leave to cool. I like to keep adding rose petals over the course of the next two or three days, stirring regularly to extract the most colour and fragrance from them. This is good because if you heat the petals too much, the flavour will evaporate off and the resulting wine, while still pleasant, won’t be quite so lovely. Filter out the rose petals and return the liquid to the pan, adding the sugar and warming through just enough to dissolve the sugar – you should not need to heat it too much in order to do this. Cool down, activate the yeast and add to the liquid, along with yeast nutrient if preferred.
Decant the liquid into a clean demi john, add a bung and air lock and label. Leave to ferment to a finish. This tends to take anything between 3 and 6 weeks, I find – in the summer things ferment quite a bit faster because the temperature is warmer. I sometimes like to add rose water to my rose petal wine – add as much or as little as you like before you add the wine to the demi john. The last lot I made had none in, but I added a few rose geranium leaves instead. The batch before that had the equivalent of about 2 tablespoons of rose water in, and that really intensified the flavour beautifully!
Rose Petal Vodka
This is very simple indeed to make – simply mix rose petals with vodka and sugar to taste, put the whole lot into a kilner style jar and leave for a couple of weeks. If there is no air allowed to get to the petals, you should end up with a delightfully pink liqueur. If you want to make a tincture version of this, then simply omit the sugar and use plenty of extra rose petals. The tincture can be taken in doses of approximately 5mls up to three times a day. More on rose’s medicinal virtues in a forthcoming post.
Rose and Cider Vinegar toner
I have some trouble at times with redness and spots, and this toner clears things up beautifully! It is very simple to make, and you can make it up easily at this time of year using fresh rose petals. Simply put the rose petals into a jar and cover with home made cider vinegar, then leave to steep for a couple of weeks. Filter out the rose petals, and add an equivalent amount of rose water. This can be used after cleansing to tighten and even out complexion, reduce the appearance of spots and clear redness from the skin.