Thursday, December 18, 2008

Herbal Christmas Decorations--Pomanders (UPDATED)

Nothing is cheap these days. I was hopeful that this craft would be something that would be inexpensive to make for the holidays. I still think it might be. These dusty things are actually dried oranges studded with cloves called pomanders. I made them many years ago (more than ten years) and actually they still have some scent to them. I just happen to be reading the December issue of Good Housekeeping magazine yesterday while getting a haircut and came across an article using clementines and cloves. The decorated clementines as shown in the magazine may last for a little while. I still think they make a very natural decoration if you like that look at the holidays. Click on the Good Housekeeping link above and it will take you to the page. I think it is a beautiful presentation. I just did one so you can see. A box of clementines is $6.99 at our grocery store. The Herbal Husband said, "How many of my clementines are you going to use?" "Only the moment.!"

The word pomander comes from the French pomme for apple. It refers to the round shape of the early scented balls, and amber from the fixative, ambergris. Pomme d'ambre became pomander. They were traditionally medicinal and worn to counteract odors. I found Valencia oranges which have a thinner skin than navel oranges were easier to decorate with cloves. The clementines would be equally as good as the Valencia oranges. If you are doing this with children, using an apple may be easier for them to learn at first.

I did have to buy navel oranges which have a thicker skin (which may take longer to dry) and I will use an awl to poke holes in the orange to add the cloves. Everything Adelma tells you not to do! I use masking tape to tape the middle stripe off and then take my awl and put the cloves in. Once all of the cloves are inserted, I remove the masking tape. I have a plastic bag full of spices which hopefully still has the right amount of scent. Adelma talks about using 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of powdered orris root for each pomander. Orris root is a fixative that holds the scent for a longer period of time. If you have allergies, you may not want to use orris root. You might try using pieces of corncob or cellulose fiber along with clove or cinnamon essential oil instead of the orris root. I would place that mixture (corncob and essential oil) in a glass jar. Shake it until the pieces have absorbed the oil and no longer stick to the sides of the jar. I would combine the spice mixture with the essential oil mixture. You want to place the finished pomanders in a bowl or container (I use a glazed bowl or dish.) open to the air and roll them in the powdered spices for about a week. Change their positions each day. For 6 to 8 apples or oranges you will need:

1/2 pound whole long-stemmed cloves
1 cup (about) ground spices, including:
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1/4 cup ground cloves
1/4 cup ground nutmeg and allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup powdered orris root (or 1/4 cup of corncob and 5 to 10 drops clove or cinnamon essential oil mixture)

Next week is Christmas so they may not be finished, but your house will smell wonderful at the very least. While they are drying, you do not want to store them in a closed container. They need to be in that open bowl. I use gold ribbon to add additional decoration. I will add a picture or two to this post to show you the finished product. Adelma says you can refresh your pomanders by washing them in warm water, rolling them in a fresh spice bath and adding a drop or two of clove or cinnamon oil and tying them with fresh ribbons. I think the only issue I would have is that after washing them, be sure they are dry before putting them in the new spices.

The finished pomanders can be given to guests on New Year's Day as a good luck wish. They can be used as a moth chaser also.


Rosemary said...

Kumquats are cute as pomanders also! Nice and tiny, and available this time of year.

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

Very good idea, Nancy! Thanks.