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22 April 2013

Orange flower water

Orange blossoms are painstakingly harvested by hand in the spring and sold in markets for the traditional annual distillation of orange flower water.  The aisles in the markets devoted to the selling of blossoms known in Arabic as flower or  زهرة  are highly scented and are buzzing with activity as discerning shoppers try and buy the freshest blossoms at the best price.  Many Tunisians still prefer to distill their own orange and geranium flower water even though commercially made brands exist.  They use an apparatus for home distillery called a "kattar".  The leaves which are mixed with the blossoms are removed until only the blossoms remain.  The blossoms are then placed in the lower section of the kattar with some water then, cold water is placed in the upper section which is the condenser and the kattar is heated until the mixture in the lower section starts to boil. Once boiling point is reached the temperature has to be kept constant. The plant + water solution in the lower section begins to vaporise and is led into the condenser where the cold water allows it to cool (note that the cold water in the upper section or the condenser and the vapour do not come into contact) and once the vapour cools it reverts back into water and travels down the long spout of the kattar and is allowed to trickle into glass bottles.  It is exactly the same method which is used for the distillation of geranium flower water. 
During my research, I came across this Tunisian website explaining the annual orange blossom harvest and the consequent distillation process http://allafrica.com/stories/201204201219.html .

Harvested orange blossoms on sale at the local markets



The above equipment is called a kattar and is used for distillation



A top-down photograph looking into the condenser section of the kattar. Note that the cold water in this section does not come into contact with the vapour. The vapour upon cooling reverts back into water and trickles down the long spout and is collected in the receiving container which in this case has to be a glass bottle. Plastic bottles would taint the fragrant orange  flower water obtained at the end of the distilling process.

Exactly the same method is used for obtaining geranium flower water.

Orange flower water has many uses culinary and cosmetic.
I am including a link to a website explaining distillation for people who would like to gain a better understand of the process involved. 
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