Ring a Ring ‘o Roses

In my mum’s garden in Mombasa, she always grew roses. Not roses like you’d buy in the florists shop that smelled of cold, but ones whose fragrance would seduce you into smuggling them into the house and spending hours sniffing them under the bed. Mums roses were like currency in my world. I would pick them and take them into school to give to my favourite teachers as a child. It was my way of telling them i loved them in my little girl way. Mum would pick the blooms and carefully pick off the petals, threading them onto cotton interspersed with jasmine and wear them in her hair. My aunties would ask to take some of the blooms to sew corsages for weddings. And when I had a wonderful pet lamb called Riziki, it wasn’t the fact that she was more of a sheep by that point than a lamb that got her sent back to the farm. It was when she developed a taste for mum’s rose bushes. I think Riziki might have been on to something.

Roses taste amazing. Not all roses mind! They taste as good as they smell. So if they sell of nothing, they’ll taste of nothing. And not only do they taste good, they’re also so good for you.

Dried rose petals are what give my heavenly balm hand cream its scent and I infuse them into glycerine to make a rose petal glycerite that I use as a facial toner and food flavouring.

Roses have been used for their skin healing properties for millenia and are an important component of many ayurvedic preparations. They are balancing and emotionally uplifting, helping to alleviate the symptoms of PMS and menopause by balancing your hormones, reducing irritability and menstrual cramps. It’s one of those medicines that all women should use.

Here is a simple recipe you can make to take advantage of this amazing summer bloom. It’s stupidly easy to make and the results are well worth the effort.

Rose Petal Syrup

3 pint jugs stuffed full of highly fragrant rose petals (each one of mine weighed approx. 100g)

2 kg sugar

1.5l water

When measuring out your petals, be sure to push them down in your pint jug so they’re tightly packed. They should pop back up if you let go and form a pile on top.

 

Put your sugar and water in a heavy based pan and bring to the boil. Boil for 2 minutes and remove from the heat. Allow to cool to 90C or below.

 

Add your rose petals. There are a lot of them and they will float. Just keep pushing them under the hot syrup until they shrink down.

 

 

 

Cover your pot and leave the syrup to steep for 3 days, by which time they will look spent and your syrup will be a rich ruby colour. On the third day, strain out your petals in a jelly bag, squeezing to remove as much syrup as possible. Pour into hot sterilised bottles.

This is the bit where it’s up to you how to preserve the syrup. You can just keep your bottles in the fridge (the mixture filled three 750ml bottles and one 300ml bottle for me) or you can pasteurise them to make sure they don’t go off. Lots of people say that flower syrups made in this way will last yonks without pasteurising but I’m a belt and britches kinda lass so I tend to pasteurise them now. I used to boil them for a minute and bottle hot but I’ve found that this can change the flavour of the cordials if they’re made with flowers as the flavours are so much more delicate than fruits. I place my filled bottles into a tall pot and fill it with water to reach at least the level of the syrup. Don’t cap your bottles at this stage. Bring your water to the boil, turn your flame down and simmer for 20 minutes. Cap your bottles and leave thema heat proof surface to cool. Remember to leave room for the syrup to expand in your bottles on heating or it will overflow. In the picture below, the bottles have been out of the pasteuriser for a couple of minutes and the level has started going back down to where it was when it was cold. When the bottles were filled, the syrup was at the level of the circles embossed in the glass.

 

Pasteurising the syrup in this way rather than heating directly helps to preserve its colour. If you boil it, it will change colour and go greenish. The marvellous things is that if you add a few drops of lemon juice and give it a swirl it’ll turn pink! The only thing is it will then taste lemony and I wanted to keep the deeper colour and 100% rose fragrance and flavour.

 

You can do all sorts with your rose syrup. Last night I made some scrummy gluten free yeasted doughnuts and glazed them with rose petal sugar and icing.

 

To make them, once I was done frying the doughnuts, I dipped them in a glace icing I made by mixing icing sugar with the rose syrup and then dipped them in rose petal sugar. To make the sugar, I took the petals from one medium sized rose and placed them into a food processor with about 1 cup of granulated sugar and blitzed it until the petals were chopped very finely.

They look stunning and the flavour just blew me away! I actually preferred them to the cinnamon sugar coated doughnuts I made and I never thought that could happen!

Muhaimina Said-Allsopp