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Making Rosewater in Iran

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September 3, 2016 / Iranian/Persian / By
Rachael

 

 

Rose water is used in Persian and Middle Eastern cooking and is used to flavour baklava, nougat and other sweets. Most famously it is used to give some types of Turkish Delight its distinctive flavour. Rose water is also used to flavour tea, ice cream and many other delicacies. Just travelling around Iran the scent of roses is in many major cities.

Kashan is one of the most famous towns in Iran that makes rose water. There are shops everywhere with jars of rose water, dried rose petals and food flavoured with roses. One of the features of these shops is the huge copper distilling vat used to make the rose water. What I hadn't realised was the distilling of flower petals had originated in ancient Persia in Sassanyd times (2nd -6th century AD). So for hundreds of years this process had been providing the flavouring to sweet food and was being traded on the Silk Route which ran through the region. Damascene roses are used in the process where the petals and sepals are distilled.

The process of distilling rose petals by steam was refined by Avicenna, a Pesian chemist in the medieval Islamic world. This use of steam in the distilling process made rose perfumes a lot cheaper. The main product from the distillery is rose oil or attar which is used to make fragrances, however rose water is a by product in the process. It was this that found its way in to flavouring sweet foods like the baklava.

Another famous sweet flavoured with rose water is marzipan. This originated in the Middle East and was taken to Western Europe on the Silk Route during the middle ages. Today it is very common to see marzipan in cakes. European cooking used rose water at one time but with the advent of vanilla this went out of fashion.

All along the street in Kashan there were jars of rose oil, bottles of rose water, ointments, perfumes, petals, and more. Rose water was very popular with the locals as it is used so much in cooking. When I taste rose in sweets now I think of those metal distilleries in Kashan and the way in which the rose water came to the West via the famous Silk Route.

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Country: Iran

Province/State: Esfahan

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