Rosewater recipes

From Le Menagier de Paris, trans. by Janet Hinson:


"TO MAKE ROSE WATER WITHOUT A LEAD ALEMBIC, take a barber's basin, and fold a kerchief longwise across the opening like a drum, and then put your roses on the kerchief, and over the roses set the bottom of another basin containing hot ashes and live coals.

TO MAKE ROSE WATER WITHOUT ALEMBIC OR FIRE, take two glass bowls, and do as said earlier, and in place of ashes and coals, put it all out in the sun: and the heat of the sun will make the rosewater form.

TO MAKE DAMASK ROSEWATER, add mashed roses to the rose petals. Or thus: pour the first distillation of rosewater into the second and the third and the fourth; and thus, having gone through four times, it will be red.

TO MAKE RED ROSEWATER. Take a glass flask and half fill it with good rosewater then fill it up with red roses, that is petals of young roses from which the white bit at the end has been cut away, and leave nine days in the sun and at night too, and then strain it."

From Hugh Plat's Delights for Ladies

14. To distill Rose-water at Michaelmas, and to have a good yeeld as at any other time of the yeare.
In the pulling of your Roses, first divide all the blasted leaves, then take the other fresh leaves, and laie them abroad upon your table or windows with some cleane linnen under them, let them lie three ofr foure houres, or if they bee dewy, untill the dew be fully vanished: put these Rose leaves in great stone pottes, having narrowe mouthe, and well leaded within, (such as the Goldfiners call their hookers, and serve to receive their Aqua fortis, bee the best of all others that I know) and when they are well filled, stop their mouthes with good corkes, eyther covered all over with waxe or molten brimstone, and then set your pot in some coole place, and they will keepe a long time good, and you may distill them at your best leasure.  This way you may distill Rosewater good cheape.  If you buy store of Roses, when you finde a glutte of them in the market, whereby they are sold for 7 pence or 8 pence the bushell: you then engrosse the flower.  And some hold opinion, that if in the midst of these leaves you put somebroken leaven, and after fill up the pot with Rose leaves to the toppe, that so in your distillation of them you shal have a perfect Rose vinegar, without the addition of any common vinegar.  I have knowne Rose leaves kept well in Rondlets that have beene first well seasoned with some hot liquor and Roseleavs, boiled together, and the same pitched over the outside, so as no ayre might penetrate or pearce the vessell.

15. A Speedy distillation of Rosewater
Stampe the leaves, and first distill the juice being expressed and after distil the leaves, and so you shall dispatch more with one Still than others doe with three or foure stils.  And this water is every way as medicinable as the other, serving in all sirups, decoctions, &c. sufficiently, but not altogether so pleasing in smell.

17. How to draw the true Spriti of Roses and so of all other hearbs and flowers.
Maccerate the Rose in his owne juice, adding thereto, beeing temperately warme, a convenient proportion either of yeast or ferment: leave them a few daies in fermentation, till they have gooten a strong & heady smell, beginning to incline toward vinegar: then distill them in balneo in glasse bodies luted to their helmes (happily a Limbeck will do better, and rid faster) and drawe so long as you finde any sent of the Rose to come: then redistill or rectifie the same so often till you have purchased a perfect spirit of the Rose.  You may also ferment the juice of Roses only, and after distill the same.

18. An excellent Rosewater
Upon the top of your glasse bodie, straine a haire cloth, and upon that lay good store of Roseleaves, wither drie, or halfe drie: and so your wagter will ascend verie good both in smell and in colour.  Distill either in balneo or in a gentle fire in ashes: you may reiterate the same water upon fresh leaves.  This may also bee done in a leaden Still; over which, by reason of the breadth, you may place more leaves.

19. An excellent way to make the extract of all Vegetables.
Expresse a good quantity of the juice thereof, set it on the fire, and give it only a walme or two, then it wil grow clear; before it be cooled, poure away the cleered filter with a piece of cotton, & then evaporate your filtered juice, till it come to a thick substance; and thus you shall have a most excellent extract of the Rose, Gilliflower, &c. with the perfect sent and taste of the flower; whereas the common way is to make the extract either by the spirit of wine, faire water, the water of the plant, or some kind of menstruum.

23. Rosewater, & yet the Rose-leaves not discoloured
You must distill in balneo, and when the bottom of your pewter Still is thorow hot, put in a few leaves at once, and distill them: watch your still carefully; and, as soone as those are distilled, put in more.  I know not whether your profit will requite your labour, yet accept of it as a new conclusion.

24. How to recover Rosewater, or any other distilled water, that hath gotten a mother and is in danger to be musty
Infuse your water upon fresh Roseleaves, or upon Rose cakes broken all in peeces, and then after maceration for three or four hours with a gentle fire, redistill your water.  Do this in a Limbeck, take heed of drawing too long for burning, unlesse your Lymbeck stand in balneo.

25. To draw both good Rosewater, and oyle of Roses together.
After you have digested your Rose leaves by the space of 3 moneths, sicut ante, num. 13. Either in barrels or in hookers, then distill them with fair water in a Limbeck: draw so long as you can find any excellent smell of the Rose, then divide the fattie oyle that fleeteth on the top of the Rosewater, and so you have both excellent oyle of Roses, and also good Rosewater together, and you shall also have more
water than by the ordinarie way; and this Rosewater extendeth farther in physicall compositions, and the other serveth best for perfumes and casting bottles.  You may also distill the oile of Lignum Rhodium this way, saving that you shall not need to macerate the same above 24 houres in your water or menstruum before you distill; this oile hath a most pleasing smell, in a manner equall with the oile of Roses.

Source: Delightes for Ladies to adorne their Persons, Tables, Closets, and Distillatories with Beauties, Banquets, Perfumes & Waters.  Sir Hugh Plat, Printed by Humfrey Lownes, 1609.

(Thanks to Terri Spencer for the transcription)