My roses are blooming like crazy right now and while many petals are destined for rose elixirs and rose vinegar, I like to put up a little vanilla-rose sugar every year to pull out when friends come over for tea. I know other people who like to sprinkle the sugar on grapefruit. You can use the sugar for baking, too. It makes wonderful shortbread. If you are the type who thinks ahead, make up a couple of pounds, so that you can include a small decorative jar in gift baskets.
This recipe is a variation of the very old practice of making conserve of roses. There were as many different methods as their were receipt books but I like the following for its simplicity.
TO MAKE A CONSERVE OF RED ROSES
Let your roses be gather’d before they are quite blown, pound them in a stone mortar, and add them to twice their weight in double-refined sugar, and put them into a glass close stopt up, but do not fill it full. Let them stand three months before you use them, remembering to stir them once a day. ~ The Receipt Book of John Nott 1723
It’s really a simple task. First you want to harvest some organically grown rose petals. I like to enjoy my blooms. The center of the R.rugosa variety are bright yellow when they first open and then they turn brown. As soon as they turn, I harvest the petals. If I were working with a less potent variety, I would harvest them sooner.
After you’ve picked a good couple of cups of petals, assemble your other ingredients; organic sugar and organic vanilla beans. These vanilla beans are some that have already been used for making vanilla, but they are perfectly potent enough for this use.
Now perhaps you’ve tried rose sugar before and not had much luck, but there is a trick to it. Like the recipe above advises, you need to bruise the petals before using them. Just pound them up in a mortar and pestle or whatever you have on hand. You can grind them but I find if you just get them to the point where they are darker colored, they work fine and they are harder to sift out when ground.
Now you want to put a layer of sugar about an inch deep in the bottom of a jar. I like to use Fido jars because they are airtight. Cover this sugar with an inch of rose petals and a few vanilla beans like this:
I measured this once and it turns out that an inch of sugar weighs about twice as much as an inch of flowers. Keep layering like until you’ve made as much as you want but be sure to end with a sugar layer and be sure that all of your rose petals are covered in sugar. I also don’t fill the jar because Mr. Nott advises against it and who am I to argue with the experts?
Put this in a dark place for a minimum of 3-4 weeks-shaking it often. (It really is better if you let it sit for the whole three months.) At that point , if you like, you can sift the rose petals and vanilla beans out. Store in a pretty jar and bring it out for special treat when serving tea.