Distilling Blood Oranges for Hydrosol
I am a believer in “everything happens for a reason.” Recently I was gifted some organic and locally grown blood oranges. This gift was not just an ordinary gift – it was a message to get distilling. But when? My week prior was completely occupied by my youngest who fell ill and missed an entire week of school and my oldest missed the first day of this week.
With the occurance of the full moon that just happened to be a Blue Super Moon that would be fully eclipsed, I found the gift of these blood oranges no small gift. Because I learn by doing, I decided to pull out my small still and do a distillation the same day we had a full blue super blood moon on January 31st, 2018.
After playing catchup on Monday and Tuesday for the business, I carefully recorded photos and video of the process. In my mind noting important things like the aroma of the blood oranges after cutting, during distillation, and even the weather.
I found the act of preparing for the distillation quite enjoyable. My still had not been used for almost a month so I needed to clean it before preparing the fruit. Once I felt I had sterilized it adequately, I then began washing and cutting the fruit.
Once I had loaded the fruit into the bell of my still, Patience, I realized I was going to be completing my first Hydro distillation. Hydro distillations are different than Steam distillations. In Hydro distillations, the plant matter is packed with enough water to not burn the plant matter during distillation and does not use the column. In Steam distillation, the column is packed with plant matter and attached between the belly of the still and the neck so that the water is void of plant material and rises up through it in the column.
I decided to let the fruit sit in the water from about 9:30 am until about 2:00 pm when I turned the still on. The aroma wafting from the still as I put everything together during setup was soothing and uplifting. I wanted to start earlier, but the timing of my daily errands and business affairs just would not allow for it.
Once I was in a position to sit by the still, I quietly worked to create an equilibrium in the coil tank so the water would not need constant adjusting. With the water needing to cool the coils in order to condense the steam again, it is important that they are covered by water. As water leaves, if enough isn’t pumped in to match the rate it leaves, the water will continue to drop. If too much is being pumped in that it cannot leave fast enough to keep up, the water will rise. Once I achieved equilibrium for the water in the tank, I proceeded to turn on the propane burner and begin the boiling of the water.
The sound of the boiling water and the water tank around the coils was so relaxing, I almost lost track of time! Thankfully, I heard the quiet and slow pitter pattering of hydrosol beginning to drop into my collector about 35 minutes later. The entire process for obtaining a little over 325 ml of Blood Orange Hydrosol took about an hour to an hour and half.
Unfortunately, this hydrosol finished with a cloudy appearance and had to be tossed. It is likely that there was a small amount of acid wash left in the still, based on a conversation with a hydrosol distiller.
Despite this distillation being a loss or failure, I learned a tremendous amount of information! Of all my distillations, I think this one was my favorite! From the aroma, to the sounds, and the excitement of doing something a little different and new, I was completely engaged and able to document key points for my notes. After completing this distillation and learning what I have, I am already wanting to distill more Blood Oranges (Citrus x sinensis) and can’t wait to sit down with the local organic grower to do so.