There are so many ways to introduce enticing fragrances into your home, and not just during the holidays. The methods range from very simple and short-lived to somewhat time-consuming and enduring. It all depends on how much time and raw materials you have available.
Collecting the raw materials for your fragrance source will depend on whether you are using wet potpourri (aka simmering pot), pomanders, or dry potpourri. The wet potpourri is the easiest and quickest to pull together, pomanders require a little more effort, and dry potpourri is the most labor intensive, often involving the collection of dried flowers, seed pods, and leaves. Since we’re already deep into the holiday season, let’s focus on some easy fragrance generators first.
In wet potpourris, simmering whole cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, and citrus peels in water provides powerful, warming fragrance. Whole citrus fruit studded with whole cloves and even subsequently rolled in ground spices to enhance their fragrance make decorative pomanders. Wet potpourris have a relatively short lifespan, but can be refreshed and simmered for up to a week. The lifespan of a pomander depends on how well the fruit is dries out before it can start molding. Properly dried pomanders will last for up to a year.
If you have a crockpot, especially one of those small ones meant for simmering spices, grab that baby and get ready to load it up with a mixture of spices and fragrant plant materials. You can also use an old stainless steel pot that you no longer treasure. Wet potpourri simmering deposits an oily, waxy scum on the inside of whatever vessel you use for said simmering. While the scum can be scrubbed off with an abrasive soap pad, you certainly don’t want to use your $300 braising pan for simmering bits of pine branches and juniper berries. You can even simmer your wet potpourri blend in a warm oven. However you decide to simmer your potpourri, be sure to check on the water levels frequently to prevent drying out and burning. You certainly don’t want the aroma of a burnt pan or a kitchen fire interrupting your festive dinner.
For pomanders, select fresh citrus fruit and have a large supply of whole cloves on hand. It will take hundreds of whole cloves to cover an orange completely. Various websites offer advice on how to prepare the designs for inserting cloves into the fruit, but the easiest seems to be using rubber bands to lay out straight lines that can be used to guide the piercing of the skin with a nail to ease the insertion of the cloves. Some designs incorporate the removal of the outer layer of skin to produce designs which are then accentuated by the addition of cloves.
Once you’ve inserted all the cloves into your citrus, there are several ways to encourage drying out without rotting. Some sources recommend rolling the fruit in mix of ground spices and orris root powder (which aids dehydration). Attaching ribbons to the fruit allows you to hang them, which will facilitate even drying.
Take a look at these sources for more detailed information on the making of dry potpourri, which is a topic unto itself. There’s also more information on simmering potpourris and a video demonstrating how to make pomanders among the links below. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can certainly add a spicy welcoming fragrance to your home with ease.
(Image: Christmas oranges @ Maksim Shebeko – Fotolia.com)