Orange flower water is an ingredient for many Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes and is also used by bakers for cakes and scones. While most recipes don't call for more than a tablespoon of the flavoring, its strong citrus and floral taste can really enliven food. Orange flower water retails in gourmet and specialty food stores for between $2 and $8. But don't let the price tag lead you to believe that it is difficult to make. While orange flower water is usually distilled, you can create your own by mixing distilled water and fresh orange blossoms.
Distilling Orange Blossoms
You must first gather the blossoms. Traditional orange blossom water is extracted from the essential oils found in Seville orange blossoms. But if you happen to be blessed with any type orange tree in your garden or live near a grove, consider yourself lucky. If you live in a cold climate, obtaining the flower will prove more difficult. Head to your local nursery and talk to someone who can point you in the right direction. For safety purposes, only use flowers that are free from pesticides and other chemicals.
Rinse the orange blossoms in cold water to remove any traces of dirt. Discard blossoms and petals that have been chewed through or are rotten or dry. Lay them in the sun or on a paper towel to dry for an hour or so.
Pick the petals off the blossom and grind them using a mortar and pestle. If you don't have a mortar and pestle, you can improvise with a blunt tool and a bowl. The point is to crush the petals into a paste. This will help allow the essential oils to release into the water.
Fill a glass jar with distilled water and add the petals. The amount of water you will use depends on how many blossoms are available to you. A good rule of thumb is to use 1/2 cup of water for every dozen blossoms. When in doubt, use less water. If the orange flower water ends up being too strong, you can always add distilled water later. Let the jar sit in the sun for about a month.
Strain the blossom water into a bowl using a cheese cloth. You can then transfer the liquid into a smaller sterilized container using a funnel. Clear jars or empty bottles of vanilla and almond extract work well. If you store the orange flower water in the cabinet it should last for a year. When stored in the refrigerator, the essential oil will be usable for up to three years.