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Sunday, 27 May 2012

The First Rose of Summer

The weather has been glorious for the last few days and the late Spring flowers are busy scenting the garden.  But it was this first rose that was the surprise and makes it feel even more like summer has come early to the Pell Wall garden.

It won’t be long before I’ll be able to start making some more of my pink-tinted tincture from the petals of the roses, as an ingredient for  Pretty in Pink and Jacinth, enhancing both the scent and the colour of these feminine fragrances.  Just as well as last year’s batch is almost gone: if you want to know how it’s made you can read about it after the jump.
Rose petal tincture isn’t hard to make: essentially all you need to do is collect the petals from as many roses as you can.  I like to take them when the flower is fully open, but before it starts to fade: don’t use petals that have gone brown at the edges or the tincture will be yellow rather than pink.  You get the best colour from deep-red roses, but you can include pink ones too.  The more scented the roses the more your tincture will smell, but don’t expect much in the way of odour: for that you need rose otto or rose absolute.

Ensure the petals are all separated out and lay them on a sheet of kitchen paper to dry: if you can keep them warm and dark, so much the better, but a dry clean place is essential.

When they are withered and shrunken they are ready to use: you can wait until they are completely dry and crisp but that isn’t vital.  You can’t use them fresh though or the ethanol will end up too dilute to be useful as all the water in the petals will migrate out into it.  Weigh the petals as accurately as you can once they are dry enough to use.

Next, pack the petals into a sealable container - I use reagent bottles with wide necks that I buy from a laboratory supplier but a clean, new jam-jar is just as good - don’t press the petals down too hard, but give the jar a good shake as you fill to keep it as tight as possible.  

Now fill the container with ethanol to about 50 times the weight of the petals (if your scales won’t handle that much weight, you can do it by volume as long as you remember that with ethanol you need to divide by 0.8 to get from weight to volume: so 800grams is about 1 litre).  It should be enough to cover the petals completely.

Let the jar sit somewhere out of direct light, but convenient for you to notice and give it a shake regularly.   You’ll need to leave it for at least a week, probably longer before you will be able to see that the colour has all faded from the petals and the ethanol has gone pink.

Finally pass the ethanol through a filter - I use a laboratory filter paper but a coffee filter paper will do at a pinch - into a clean container.  Resist the temptation to squeeze the last of it out of the petals as that tends to cloud the liquid and release unwanted colours too.  

And that’s it: you have a 2% tincture of rose petals that’s perfectly pink! 

It’s essential to store the tincture in the dark because this natural colouring isn’t UV stable and will fade away very quickly if you leave the jar on a sunny windowsill.