Hydrosols are typically a by-product of essential oil production. But if you (like me) do not own a still (wah!), you can still make hydrosols at home! I call them smelly water, but Mountain Rose gives a much more elegant, in-depth explanation:
Hydrosols, also known as floral waters, hydroflorates, flower waters or distillates are products from steam distilling plant materials. Hydrosols are like essential oils but in far less of a concentration. When a distiller brews plant material with water in a large cooker the steam fills the pot and, as it rises, it causes the glands of the plants to burst and release the oils and essence of the plant into the steam.
The next step in this explanation explains how the steam is condensed to make essential oil and you are left over with the smelly water, aka hydrosol. However, for us the journey ends here. It is still very much worth it to make hydrosols at home, as they are typically expensive in the store and you end up with a lot of product- making it the perfect item to make for gifts!
My favorite uses for hydrosols: pillow and linen spray, bathroom spray, face mist, and cocktail mist. That's right.. Give your drinks a different nose by spritzing across the top, or the lip of the glass. This lady also has a very extensive and specific list of her favorite hydrosol uses. My favorite one being using lemon balm and lavender hydrosol ice cubes for a summer tea party!
So put on the song "That Smell"(on repeat) by Lynyrd Skynyrd and let's go!
A few items of note: Chose a pot with a domed lid that has no holes and doesn't have a knob like handle. Delicate materials like petaled flowers can end up smelling like a cooked vegetable if you leave them on too long, so ignore the boiling step and just simmer for less time. You will get less hydrosol, but you will get more hydrosol that doesn't smell like an artichoke.
What you need:
• A large stock pot with a lid. I like to use my big metal canning pot.
• Two heat resistant bowls that fit inside the pot, but do not fill the entire width.
• 2-3 cups of whatever plant material you are using, roughly chopped.
• Ice. A 2 lb bag should suffice for a small batch... mo' ice=mo' hydrosol.
• 1-2 oz. amber colored spritz bottles
1. Gather and rough chop your herbs.
2. In the large stock pot, place the smaller of the two bowls upside down on the bottom.
3. Place plant material around the bowl.
4. Fill with water until plant material is almost covered. The goal here is to have it mostly covered, but not add so much water that you resulting product is diluted.
5. Place other bowl right-side up on top of upside down bowl.
6. Place lid on top of the pot upside down. If your lid doesn't fit snugly, use a smaller bowl.
7. Bring materials to a boil, then immediately turn down heat to a low simmer. Add a few handfuls of ice to the lid. You are going to be dumping the water off the lid and replacing it with more ice frequently. I like to put all the water in a bucket in my sink and then later use it to water my houseplants.
8. As the steam hits the icy lid it will condense back to liquid into the top bowl. This will be your product.
9. Keep going until you run out of ice, or you have a sufficient amount of hydrosol.
10. Funnel into spritz bottles, or put in a jar in the refrigerator and enjoy!