Don’t you love the burst of aroma that hits you as you brush past, and inevitably become ensnared upon, a blooming rose? Don’t you just wish you could bottle that sensation (minus the sting of the thorns)? Well you can, it’s called Gulqand (or Gulkand) and it’s really, really easy.
This clever and simple preserve is common in India and Pakistan, and the name has Persian and Arabic roots so I suspect it is familiar to people further afield too. It’s considered a tonic and is valued in Ayurvedic medicine, as described at All Things Healing.
To begin, simply take a clean glass jar (I sterilised mine in the oven) and pick as many fragrant, pesticide-free, rose petals as you can get your hands on. It’s best to do this first thing in the morning, when the roses first become full.
Traditionalists will insist upon a particular variety or colour of rose, but i believe that the fragrance is the key factor for success.
Dry the petals for a few hours or overnight, remove any that are blemished and if you are patient, trim the white or yellow tip which may add bitterness to your gulqand.
Into the jar, layer the rose petals with alternate layers of sugar. Every recipe I have seen specified that gulqand should be stirred with a wooden implement but I’m not sure how essential this is.
(I added a few cloves and the seeds of some cardamom pods).
Next, simply put the jar into the sun every day for a few weeks, stirring regularly.
See how the petals shrink! This jar was originally er… jam-packed with rose petals.
This is NOT traditional: I added more petals for a few days as more roses bloomed in my garden, and stirred them through. I didn’t want to waste the roses and that jar seemed awfully empty.
My jar has been “brewing” for about 8 weeks now, and while it’s no longer very photogenic, I have tasted my gulqand. At first I thought it was weird, but then the taste and the scent sort of came together and I now think it’s delightful.
Since my roses continued to bloom vigorously and voluptuously, I also made some rose jam inspired by the very evocative Venetian recipe described by Emiko Davies. You can see it simmering below; it took many, many roses to create a single jar of rose petal jam.
Now that the roses in my garden are dwindling, the rose-hips are ripening (I resisted all advice to “dead-head” my flowers). I wonder what wonders I can make with them?