In order to pick the best tasting rosewater for different purposes I thought it best to look at all the easily available rosewaters in Australia at supermarkets and over the internet. I have analysed them based on flavour and fragrance.
To make it fair, I considered their taste and odour before cooking them into Rosewater Syrup (Cordial). I also smelled their fragrance during cooking. Each taste test had at least a half hour break between so I could cleanse my palate.
This is my subjective analysis and opinion.
Cortas (Ingredients: Rosewater)
Overall winner was Cortas, but a good runner-up was Al-Rabih.
or food as entertainment
Subtleties, or food made to look like something else, was a type of entertainment at feasts. Here I have shaped almond macaroons and marchpane into mushrooms and painted them with a coloured sugar paste made of icing sugar, rose spirit and food colouring. This bowl of mushrooms were served at a feast and much enjoyed.
Gluten Free. Dairy Free. Vegan.
This recipe has been around since the 12th century. It is completely scalable. Also, it is an easy way to use up lemon juice when you are making candied lemon peel.
Syrup of Lemon
“Take lemon, after peeling off the skin, press it [to a pulp] and take a ratl [1 ratl=468g/1lb] of juice, and add as much of sugar. Cook it until it takes the form of a syrup.
Its advantages are for the heat of bile; it cuts the thirst and binds the bowels.”
Source: page 18 Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook Kitab al tabikh fi-l-Maghrib wa-l-Andalus fi `asr al-Muwahhidin, li-mu'allif majhul. The Book of Cooking in Maghreb and Andalus in the era of Almohads, by an unknown author.
 To make Syrupe of Lymonds. Take your Lymonds, and cut them in halfes, and betwixt your fingers juyce them, and the liquor that runnes from them wil be very cleare, then take to a pint of juyce, a pound and a quarter of hard suger, which is very white and boyle it to a Syrupe, and it will keepe excellent well.
A Closet for Ladies and Gentlewomen (1608) London: Printed [by F. Kingston] for Arthur Iohnson,1608
Gluten Free. Dairy Free. Vegan.
I don’t know where I got this recipe. I feel like I have always known that the ratio of stone fruit/berries to sugar is 2:1. We have a glut of top quality cherries right now (just $30 for 5kg of grade A). I can never find really good cherry jam, the really dark and treacly kind, and this way I know exactly what is included. Also, this recipe is completely scalable up and down. The proportions stay the same.
Historical preserves of cherries used less sugar and would likely preserve the shape of the fruits with an end product being cherries in light syrup than jam.
“To preserue Cheries.
TO euery pound of Cheries take a pound of suger, that done take a fewe Cheries and distreine them to make your syruppe, and to euerie pound, a pound of Suger, and Cheries, take a quarter of a poūd of syrrup, and this done take your syrrup and Suger, and set it on the fire, then put your Cheries into your sirrup, and let them boyle fiue se∣ueral times, and after euerie boiling skum them with the backeside of a spoone.”
Thomas Dawson (1587) Good huswifes jewell https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A19957.0001.001
Modern (with long history). Gluten Free.
I modified this recipe from Julie Goodwin's lemon butter recipe
Historical. Gluten Free. Dairy Free. Vegan.
Rosewater syrup has many modern and historical uses. I am using it as a cordial, but it has been used in sweets, pastries and all manner of dishes as a spice.
Once my Dad's roses bloom in August, I will be trying my hand at making rosewater from scratch. This is the quick version.
2 parts rosewater to 1 part sugar
e.g. 1 cup of rosewater to 1/2 cup of sugar
I use Cortas brand rosewater for this as it keeps its flavour when used in this kind of reduction.
Simmer on medium heat in small saucepan until a light syrup is formed. Pour into a sterilised glass jar or bottle. Keeps okay at room temperature.
Although not found in historical recipes, adding the juice of half a small lemon (make sure it has no 'bits' / pith) to each cup of rosewater enhances the flavour.
I have also added red food colouring to the modern version.
The following is a thirteenth century (13th C) for rosewater syrup.
The Recipe for Making a Syrup of Julep
Take five ratls of aromatic rosewater, and two and a half of sugar, cook all this until it takes the consistency of syrups. Drink two ûqiyas of this with three of hot water. Its benefits: in phlegmatic fever; it fortifies the stomach and the liver, profits at the onset of dropsy, purifies and lightens the body, and in this it is most extraordinary, God willing.
'Libre de Diversis Medicinis'
in the Thornton Manuscript (MS. Lincoln Cathedral, A.5.2). Edited by Margaret Sinclair Ogden. Published for the Early English Text Society by Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press. Amen House, E.C. 4. England. 1938. Text circa early 1400 CE. Page 60. Posted by "Crystal A. Isaac"
"Rose Syrup: Tak an vnce or twa of roses & sethe tham in water to the ij partis be sothen in. Than clene it thurgh clathe & do suger ther-to & sethe it to it be thikk as hony & vse as thu dose the tother."
Florilegium: Rose Syrup
Serop of Roses – Rose Jam
Elinor Fettiplace’s Recipt Book, 1604
‘To Make A Serop Of Roses. Take damask rose buds 6 handfuls,. & cut off the tops, and take a quart of fair running water, & put the roses therein. Put them in a basin & set them over the fire, that the water may be warm one day and night. The in the morning squeeze the roses hard between your hands out of the water, & put in as many fresh, & let them stand still on the fire. This do 9 times, then take our our roses, clean out of the water, & put in as much sugar as will make it sweet. Boil til it comes to a syrup; you must put to every pint a pound of sugar.’p234 The Tudor Cookbook: From Gilded Peacock to Calves’ Feet Pie by Terry Breverton.
Modern. Gluten Free.
This is the kind of recipe you can make your own with spices and toppings you might like. It doesn't use exact quantities and produces between 12-15 serves (based on 400-500ml per bowl). It is easy to freeze and is a flavourful, cheap meal at less than $2 Australian per serve.
Spiced shortbread. Gluten Free. Coriander/Cilantro Free.
These have a long history and are popular in my re-enactment group. Usually they are made with glutinous flour and coriander seeds, but as I am a celiac and allergic to coriander, I have replace them with gluten free flour and fennel seeds.
These come from Sir Hugh Platt ‘Delightes for ladies’, which is translated on page 48 of ‘A Miscellany’ (10th Edition) by David Friedman and Elizabeth Cook.
To Make Iumbolls
Take ½ a pound of almonds being beaten to paste with a short cake being grated, and two eggs, two ounces of caraway seeds, being beaten, and the juice of a lemon: and being brought into paste, roll it into round strings: then cast it into knots, and so bake it in an oven and when they are baked, ice them with rose water and sugar, and the white of an egg being beaten together, then take a feather and gild them, then put them again into the oven, and let them stand in a little while, and they will be iced clean over with a white ice: and so box them up and you may keep them all the year.
My recipe makes 4 dozen biscuits.
What I will try next time
The flavour was a bit too subtle for me, I would have preferred a stronger flavour of rosewater and spice. I don’t much like the flavour of caraway seeds, but the fennel is lovely. I think it would be nice to try cardamom and fennel seeds and double the rosewater in my next batch. I am sure each cook had their own version of a buttery spiced shortbread, so I would like to develop my own. More modern recipes, particularly in America, commonly have recipes for honey jumballs.
Also, it would be nice to try the icing next time from the Sir Hugh recipe.
Finally, 4 dozen biscuits is too many for my household so I would look to halve the recipe.
With these adjustments, that would mean my ingredients and change in method for the next batch will be:
Then a very thin layer of icing sugar and rosewater (only) would be applied.
Gluten Free. Modern.
French macarons are considered very difficult to do well. That is not really true. The main issue is that you need to do three or four batches to work out what you do right or wrong and how they work with your oven. You might succeed the first time, but you should pay close attention and take notes (and photos) before putting your biscuits into the oven, including noting:
Before I tried any particular recipe, I did my research. Looking at a number of sites, including:The Best French Macaron Recipe from Indulge with Mimi. The reason I chose this is because it had a lot of detail.
You can make the filling anytime. Be adventurous. Lemon butter. Ginger or glacier ginger. Vanilla buttercream. Ganache. As long as it is smooth and will set nicely, you can try your hand at anything.
I made two white chocolate ganaches for my macarons, one vanilla flavour and one ginger flavour. Ganache is roughly 1 part cream to 2 parts chocolate.
Day before you cook. Wash your jar or glass in soapy water, rinse thoroughly, spray with white vinegar and dry with kitchen towel. Separate out egg whites from 2-3 eggs and measure out 50g of egg white into your clean glass. Cover with plastic wrap, use a fork to put a few holes in the top and refrigerate for 24 hours (can be up to 72).
An hour before you wish to cook, take the egg whites out of the fridge. Wash all your bowls and utensils, dry, spray with white vinegar and dry with paper towel. This is absolutely critical.
On the shiny side of your baking/parchment paper, draw a circle 3cm in diameter. Allow 2cm between circles on your parchment paper. Make up enough parchment paper for three trays. You will be putting the baking paper shiny side down into the baking trays.
Set up piping bag and place in a tall glass. This will help you when filling the bag and if you need to refill or get a better grip on the bag.
Diagnose your problems
This is batter that was not folded enough, did not have enough fluid and was baked too long.
The bumpiness on top and lack of gloss, show these were not folded enough. They were also baked at 10 degrees too hot and 2 minutes too long. They were still pretty good though.
Just remember to keep a record of everything and you will be able to solve your problems quickly and start turning out top quality macarons in no time.
Modern. Gluten Free.
Delicious by itself or with fruit in the bottom of the dish, I have developed this recipe over years so I can't tell you my sources.
Dr. Nicola Boyd
I am trying to teach myself to be a medieval and renaissance confectioner. This has led to an interest in modern deserts too.