What makes for a more wonderful holiday scent than baking apple pies, cloves, cinnamon and other spices? If you love the aroma of baking holiday pies, you owe it to yourself to make citrus pomanders for the holidays. Late autumn and into the winter holidays is the perfect time to make these wonderful decorations.
Pomanders were originally made from ambergris (“pomme d’ ambre”, or “apples of amber”) along with musk and spices and made into a ball or sometimes bracelets or prayer beads. I tried making one once…the resin sticks to everything and I don’t recommend it unless you like 3rd degree burns from trying to roll molten hot labdanum and benzoin into beads! Citrus pomanders are much easier, safer and less painful to make.
Citrus pomanders are usually fruit studded with cloves and rolled in spices. If they are made correctly and left to cure, they will be fragrant and last for years. While orange is the traditional fruit to use, other citrus fruit, apples and even pears will also work.
Materials needed– oranges (firm, no soft spots, fragrant through their skins), whole cloves, sticky or masking tape, a few yards of ribbon, a few tablespoons of ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, ground allspice and/or ground ginger. You will also need skewers or toothpicks to make holes in the fruit skins/peels, and some crafters add powdered orris root as a fragrance fixative as well.
Begin by putting tape on the exact path where you plan for the ribbon to go on your finished pomander, so that you don’t accidentally put cloves in that area. You will probably want to have two sections of ribbon going around the fruit, like a gift wrapped present with a bow on top.
Then use your skewer or toothpick to pierce the orange skin prior to inserting the cloves. You should make a relatively small hole (so the cloves don’t fall out!) but make it all the way through the peel. You’ll probably find that if you don’t make the holes first, the cloves will fall apart as you try to push them in. Either way, cloves can be rather pointy, and wearing gloves or a thimble will make this step easier.
Next, put your spice mix in a bowl and roll your pomander in it, making sure to cover it completely with spices. The spices are essential for curing and preserving the fruit so that it doesn’t mold or spoil. Leave your pomanders in the bowl of spices and roll them every day. As the fruit goes through the curing and dehydrating process, it will shrink and lose weight. After about a month, it should be fully cured, half the size it originally was, and it will feel light and sound hollow. At this point, you will know that your pomanders are finished.
Then remove the tape that you had placed to specify where your ribbon should go, tie the ribbons around your fruit, and put them in a bowl or hang them up for decoration. They will have a wonderful fresh holiday scent and should last for years if kept in a cool, dry collection. Or make new ones each year as a special holiday tradition. Enjoy!