Pomanders. The smell of spices and citrus.

During the Middle Ages, people didn’t bathe much. But they still wanted to smell nice otherwise it became increasingly difficult when trying to pick up a date for Friday nights.
The word Pomander comes from the French pomme d’ambre or apple of ambergris (nothing says “wow, you smell good like a bit of dull grey or blackish solid, waxy, flammable substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales). Originally made from gold, silver or ivory, the small filigree balls were filled with fragrant spices and ambergris; which was used as a fixative. The pomanders were then worn either on a long chain around the neck or at the waist.

A modern version of a pomander is made by studding citrus fruit with whole cloves and a mixture of ground spices containing orrisroot instead of the ambergris. Orrisroot will dry out the fleshy inside of the fruit so that it doesn’t rot. What you’re essentially left with is a light, hollow ball.
Now, keep in mind that I do bathe. Quite regularly. So I don’t need to wear one of these around my neck or waist. Instead, I use them for decoration or gifts. When studding the citrus, I leave about a 3/8 inch space all the way around. When the fruit has dried, I then wrap a long ribbon around in the space and then tie it in a double knot with a bow at the top. The long tails I then tie together to form a loop to hang the whole thing in the Christmas tree or from a chandelier in the dining room (the warmth of the lights really bring out the smell of the spices).  You can also cover the whole surface and then display them in a pile in a pretty bowl as a centerpiece with candles.

Pomanders also make a great hostess gift. When placed in closets, the help scare away the moths.

I choose small, round oranges with thin skins, or nicely shaped lemons. Once studded with the cloves and allowed to cure, the scent will usually last for several years. When the spicy scent starts to wane, I dip them is warm water and then roll them in fresh ground spices with a drop or two od cinnamon or clove oil. I then leave the pomander in the spice s for a couple days to dry.
Want to make your own? Here’s how:

6 to 8 assorted thin skinned oranges, lemons and limes (some people say apples, but I haven’t tried these)
½ lb (8 oz or 1 cup)              whole large-headed cloves

¼ cup                                    ground cinnamon
¼ cup                                    ground cloves

¼ cup                                    powdered orrisroot (the pharmacy / health food store should have this)
2 Tbsp                                   ground nutmeg

2 Tbsp                                   ground all spice
I find having a slim nut pick or a large needle handy for piercing the skin very handy. Holding the fruit firmly, insert cloves at ¼ inch intervals; either in rows or at random over the surface. The fruit will shrink as it dries, closing up the spaces between the cloves. Repeat with all fruit.

Combine all the ground and powdered ingredients and mix thoroughly. I place my mixture in a large Christmas cookie tin. Begin to roll the fruit in the spice mixture until completely covered. Leave fruit in mixture, and spoon additional mixture over fruit, covering as much as possible. Leave in open container for 2 days (more or less).

Turn fruit in container and recover with spice mixture. Repeat this process, turning fruit every couple of days until fruit is hard, light and completely dried out. This should take about 2 weeks.
Once the fruit has dried out, remove from spices and shake off the excess. Tie on the ribbon if you plan to hang these, or place in a decorate bowl for on the table.

After the holidays, you can either store them in the remaining spice for next year, hang them in the closet (just be sure they don’t touch your clothes or the coats) or leave them out on display.
PS: If you’ve made these and have suggestions or questions, please drop me a note and I’d be happy to help. And don’t’ forget the voting buttons below to let me know what you think.

Happy Holidays

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