In my previous life I used to trap smells. As a profession.
I used to collected the elusive aroma of plants with complicated glass vessels and solvent washes. I used the resulting extracts to test their behavior modifying effects.
Capturing scents is science and art at the same time. A scent has to be collected at the right time which can be based on season, time of the day or developmental stage of plant or animal. Scents come in very tiny amount and if badly handled will turn bad or disappear altogether.
Even the definition of the word perfume (a pleasant scent) is evanescent. From the Latin “per fumus” it means through smoke.
So it is that every spring I make a few walks with my daughter Tea to pick wild rose petals. Umbria is covered in wild flowers right now.
Rose essential oil (attar) is still the most widely used ingredient in perfumery. Hindus produced it as early as the 7th century AD. Tea likes the perfume on butter and bread. I only get help to pick if I use the harvest to make rose marmalade.
Only then I am allowed to use some of the bounty to make one bottle of rose liqueur. It’s delicate and subtly sweet. I keep it for a few months to mellow and age. When opened – generally in the fall – it’s quickly gone, it tastes like the perfume of spring.
- 100 gr / 3.5 oz wild rose petals
- 500 ml / 2 cups 95 % alcohol or very strong vodka
- 400 gr / 2 cups sugar
- 500 ml / 2 cups of water
Clean up the petals from leaves and insects and place them in a clean jar, add alcohol, close and keep in a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks. If you forget it for 6 months it’ not a problem. Once extracted, the scent will just stay there, happily dissolved in alcohol.
When ready to bottle, prepare the sugar syrup. Bring the water and sugar to a low boil until the sugar dissolves completely. Cool. Filter the alcohol mixture and reserve the petals. Transfer the infusion in a bottle. Add syrup to the infusion. Stopper the bottle and keep in a cool dark place at least 2 months before using. It does improve with time, so if you can resist you’ll be rewarded.
The left over petals have a lovely taste. Place them in a pan with same weight of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Cook on low heat until dark amber and transfer in a jar. Use like a jam.