Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Crafting, Part 2

Making pomanders for the holidays is an easy and fragrant craft to do.  It is traditionally done with an orange studded with whole cloves and then rolled in spices and left to dry.  Once dried, it can last many years, and can be put out with your Christmas decorations year after year.  Many people associate the smell of orange and cloves with Christmases of their past, remembering that smell from Grandma's house.
Pomanders are relatively easy to make, and don't have to be limited to oranges.  You can make them out of oranges, lemons, limes, or even apples or pears.  The fruit is studded with whole cloves.  You can push the stems of the cloves right through the fruit skin, or make it a little easier by piercing the skin first and then pushing the stem of the clove into it.  I like to use bamboo skewers to pierce the skin.  It makes it go a little easier - although I still end up with sore fingers when I'm done.  Some people prefer to use a thimble to protect their fingers.  Maybe I should try that next year.
Here I have started an orange and also a lime.  I stud the fruit with whole cloves.  I like to do it in rows, so my cloves are fairly evenly distributed.
The cloves need to be placed evenly around the fruit, leaving a little space between them.  The fruit will shrink as it dries, so you need to have some space between the cloves.  As the fruit shrinks, the cloves with get closer together.  The cloves themselves will actually start to dry the fruit.  Within a day or so, you can actually see the skin of the fruit change color as it starts to dry.
I try to do the whole fruit in one sitting.  It can be done in less than an hour.  But don't fret if you get interrupted, you can put it aside and come back several hours later - even a day later - and finish it up.  It also goes much faster if you have some help.

My daughter Grace helped finish up the orange.  She did a really great job.
Once you have the whole fruit studded with the cloves, you need to make a spice mixture to roll the pomander in.  This will help to dry the fruit out completely and preserve it for a long time.  Here is the mixture I use:  3 Tblsp. ground cinnamon, 3 Tblsp. ground cloves, 3 Tblsp. ground nutmeg, 3 Tblsp. ground ginger, and 3 Tblsp. ground orris root.  Now don't panic........I have also seen recipes using only the cinnamon, or cinnamon and cloves.  I like this recipe because it combines a variety of spice fragrances and does a lovely job of preserving the pomander. Orris root?????  You wonder what orris root is?  Orris root is actually a type of iris.  Its roots are dried and then ground into powder.  It is a 'fixative' for fragrances.  That will absorb the fragrance of the other spices and 'fix' or hold the fragrance for a long time.  It is frequently used in potpourri.
Here is the completed orange being sprinkled with the spice mixture.
When your fruit is complete, I like to put it into a small brown paper bag - a lunch bag is a great size.  I put the pomander in with about 2 tablespoons of the spice mixture and then I shake the bag once a day to coat the fruit with the spice mixture.  It will be dry in about 10 days to 2 weeks - depending on the size of the fruit. 

Here is the pomander down in the bag with the spice mixture.
You can then tie some pretty ribbon around it and hang it in the doorway, or on your tree.  You can display several pomanders in a bowl on the table.  Or find your own creative way to display your pomander.  I hope to do 1 or 2 a year and have a variety of shapes and sizes to display and make the house fragrant!
If you are interested in doing your own pomanders, but don't know where to get the supplies, come on down to my shop.  I have the spice mixture already blended and can sell you a few tablespoonsful.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Crafting, Part 1

Well, since I can't do much gardening right now, I thought I'd focus on crafting for the holidays.  You can make many of your own decorations as well as nifty gifts - which can also save you a lot of money (unless you get tooooooooo carried away in projects!).
In the month of November, I do lots of Make-It, Take-It projects.  I do it for my herb group in Greenfield, and I do it for our Master Gardener group in Rushville, and then I do it again at the shop Thanksgiving weekend.  One of the projects we did this year was Holiday Potpourri.  It is so easy to do - and you can probably gather the ingredients without too much cost.
I do a lot of potpourri making for the shop, so I do buy many of my supplies in bulk.  You can find them online at Atlantic Spice Co. ( and also from San Francisco Herb Co. (  But you can also gather many of these things in your own backyard.
Holiday potpourri can consist of any combination of the following items:  dried pine needles or cedar, pinecones, acorns, nuts (hickory nuts, walnuts, or even buckeyes), dried roses, dried cockscomb, sweet gum balls (from the sweet gum tree), dried orange or lemon peel, dried orange slices, dried apple slices, and any of the whole spices such as cloves, cinnamon sticks, allspice, ginger.  I know, I know, you probably don't have a cinnamon or clove tree.......but these are just some suggestions for items that could go into potpourri.
At the shop, we put together a combination of cedar, bay leaves, sweet gum balls, pinecones, dried orange peel, dried orange slices, and dried apple slices and also some nuts.  I also had a couple of other pods that I had purchased.  These were all put into a quart jar and then we added some fragrance oil.  We put on the lid and then tied a pretty strip of fabric around the neck of the jar.  They turned out beautifully!
It is very easy to dry your own apple or orange slices.  I used up some apples that I had in the refrigerator for awhile that were starting to get a bit mushy.  I took the apples and sliced them thin, and then dropped them into a bowl with about 2 cups water and 3/4 cup lemon juice.  This will keep them from browning.
Here are my apple slices as I put them on the trays of my dehydrator.
I have a dehydrator that I purchased years ago and have used many, many times.  I have dried apple slices, orange slices, flower petals, and it is really great for drying herbs.  It took the apple slices 8 - 10 hours to dry completely.
Here are the apples after they were dried.  See how much they shrunk?
When they are dry, the apples are still a little flexible - they feel a lot like a hard piece of leather.  You can also dry apple slices in your oven if you don't have a dehydrator.  Keep the oven low, around 100 degrees if possible.  And it might be a good idea to prop the door open a bit to let the moisture escape.  You can put the slices on a baking sheet, or even right on the racks (but the racks will leave marks on the slices).  If you use a baking sheet, you might want to line it with parchment paper, or turn the apples occasionally so they don't stick to the pan.
The apple slices can be used in a varieties of ways.  They are great added to potpourri because the red peel adds a dash of color.  They can also be used as ornaments for the tree.  Simply make a little hole in the apple slice and then run a piece of ribbon, jute, yarn, or raffia through it to make a hanging loop.  They can be tied onto wreaths for festive color, strung together to make a garland, or even tied onto a package.  You could sprinkle them lightly with cinnamon before drying to make them very fragrant.
Orange slices can be dried in the same manner, but they usually take longer to dry and are messier to work with because of their higher moisture content.  But they are really beautiful and very fragrant when dried.
Later this week we'll talk about making pomanders for the holidays.