How to distill BorrageWater

This is a post about what happens when you leave your A&S project at home on the counter, but you have borrage petals and a hotel room with a stove.

Artifacts of a Life was an event where contestants were judge by a body of work in a given area and persona.  My persona is that of a 16th century grocer/confectioner. My entry was breadth of knowledge across this discipline. One recipe called for borrage water to be added at time of service to help with stomach issues. Since it was added later and not at the time of crafting, I had it on the counter ready to pack up to take on the road trip to the event. I packed the dried borrage flowers so people could see the raw ingredients.

When I got to the hotel that night, I realized I left the water at home. The hotel had pots, pans, and a stove in the room. I had borrage flowers and distilled water.  So… the night before the event, I distilled borrage water, like you do when you forget things at home.

My water ended up less than water colored. My pan was not deep enough for the bowl I had placed as a condensation vessel. So there was a little bit of borrage tea water that got into the distillation as I removed the bowl.  This gave it a beautiful faint purple color and a slightly stronger borrage flavor. The hotel did not have ice and I didn’t think to bring any. This meant I needed to do the condensation portion without the addition of an external cooling agent. Turns out, that it’s not really needed. As long as I kept the heat low and the water at a constant rate in the pan, I got condensation in my collection bowl. It took twice as long, but it did work.

This is something I would not have discovered without my forgetting the original water at home. I was able to make new water, learned some new science, and people at the event were able to try the citrus syrup as it was written in Mrs Corlyon’s book.


How to distill RoseWater

This is an experiment in creating floral waters, or sweet waters. These are waters that are distilled from flowers, but do not use alcohol as a distillation base. Two different waters were made Borage and Rose. Rose water is the base for many confection recipes including the Manus Christi. Borage water is needed for a syrup recipe I will be making later this month from Mrs Corlyon receipt book.

The basic principle of distillation is creating vapor, that is cooled and condenses into a containment vessel. I have a glass still and an improvised “basic still”. This weekend since I was traveling and didn’t want to risk the science kit, I used the improvised still.

Equipment needed:
1 large pot
1 large steel bowl that will act as a pot lid
1 brick1 smaller steel bowl
4 gallon zip top bags filled with ice

Still set up:

  1. In the center of the pot, place your brick.
  2. Add 1-2 cups of flower petals (fresh or dried)
  3. Add enough distilled water to cover the flowers, but not completely cover the brick (it should not be submerged).
  4. Bring this mixture to a boil.
  5. Place the smaller bowl on top of the bricks and turn the heat down to low.
  6. Place the larger bowl over the mouth of the pot. It should form a lid. The bowl gives the water a low point to drip into the smaller bowl.
  7. Add one bag of ice to the bowl (keep it in the baggie, makes clean up easier).
  8. Set timer for 15 minutes and walk away.
  9. Repeat the ice, timer, walk away 3x more.Do not be tempted to lift the lid. You will let out steam that way.
  10. At the end of an hour, rescue your flower water and clean up.

As you can see the water ends up water colored. I can tell the difference between the two jars, by scent only. Many distillation recipes call for the use of a lead still. Given that the end product will be used in food, I have opted to use a safer still option for food production.

“Stampe the leaves, and first distill the juice being expressed and after distil the leaves, and so you shall dispatch more with one Still than others doe with three or foure stils.  And this water is every way as medicinable as the other, serving in all sirups, decoctions, &c. sufficiently, but not altogether so pleasing in smell.”[1]

[1] Plat, Hugh “Diuers Chimicall Conclusions Concerning the Art of Distillation: With Many Rare Practices and Uses Thereof, According to the Authors Own Experience” 1594