mjgradziel.com    michael j. gradziel
anacapa island, cherry burl, sierra nevada, spacecraft parts, joinery, wyoming, california
A decade and a half long record of life as I know it.

     Mike, most recently:
Last weekend I felt proud of my successful search for bottled rosewater, which led me (accompanied by sir Norman, in the stroller) to a little Indian grocery on a side street over near the train station. It came from Pakistan in a small glass bottle, and it was concentrated enough that I used just a quarter teaspoon in a Saudi Arabian semolina cake recipe. The cake is basically the Middle East's version of cornbread doused with maple syrup: semolina flour, baking powder, and clarified butter, baked till golden and then drizzled with a lemon and rosewater sugar syrup and left overnight. The cake gets cut into little diamond shaped pieces decorated on top with slivered almonds, and is served with whipped cream. It's coarse, heavy, sticky, and nice though not something I'm likely to crave. This means I am not likely to use up that bottle of rosewater, unless I find some other ways to use it. However before gulping it down in tea or a smoothie I was anxious to know more about pesticide residues: most flowers are heavily sprayed, there being little incentive not to do so, and I wonder how well the Pakistani rose petal supply line keeps their sources clean and honest. In my research into the mostly undocumented and therefore probably insignificant dangers of tainted rosewater, however, I discovered plenty of instructions for making good clean rosewater at home. It turns out that no special distillation equipment is needed. I made several ounces in less than ten minutes using petals from my back yard! It is not quite as intense as the bottled stuff, but has the same flavor and is actually more appealing being less industrial-strength. Here's how I made it: 1) gather a couple fistfuls of petals from the most fragrant roses, from fully opened flowers. 2) Put an inch of water in a big pot. Set a metal measuring cup in the middle with water in it so it won't float. Get this boiling. Have ready the pot lid upside down with ice cubes and some cold water in the lid. Put the rose petals in the hot water, set a small bowl on top of the measuring cup so it sits up above the boiling water, and set the ice filled pot lid on upside down. Simmer for five minutes. The ice will melt, the condensed rose vapors will drip down the underside of the lid into the central bowl, and when five minutes has passed there will probably be lots more rose essence to extract if you add more ice to the lid. Surely there is an optimal combination of time and temperature. There is probably also a way to make other amazing distillates like bay laurel and douglas fir. This is tempting to try, but I do not need another project! I will, however, start hoarding petals from the choice roses to make tasty rosewater icecubes!

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Photos and Commentary . . . follow the links:

Mexico to Canada on the PCT, Dad's account from the trail in 1978.
New York to New Orleans by bicycle and riverboat, 1944. Grandma's story.

Questions or comments? email mike-at-mjgradziel.com

Most photos are mine or Joy's (credits to others are in image captions); please credit us where appropriate.