I love to make pomanders at this time of year so that by the time Christmas arrives the house is gloriously perfumed with their rich, spicy scent. When I was a child, making pomanders was just as much a festive ritual as Stir-up Sunday.
Originally, pomanders were silver or ivory filigree balls filled with spices, their scent fixed with ambergris, civet or musk. In the French language they were called ‘pommes d’ambre’ and used from medieval times to freshen the air against unpleasant smells.
These pretty clove-studded oranges are easy to make and look pretty hanging from silky scarlet ribbons or piled into a shallow bowl with festive greenery and placed on a coffee table.
You will need:
whole cloves – it may be less expensive to buy these in bulk online
scarlet, silver or gold ribbon
To make the spice mix, stir together the following:
4 tablespoons ground cloves
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons orris root
2 tablespoons ground allspice
2 tablespoons ground nutmeg
The only ingredient here that isn’t readily available in the supermarket is the orris root but you may be able to buy this from a health shop. You can easily find it online. Alternatively, you could use 16 drops of sandalwood oil.
Now comes the fun bit.
Roll the oranges gently between your palms to soften the skin, then stud the fruit with the cloves, forming patterns of stripes or swirls. Leave unstudded where you intend to tie the ribbon when the pomander has dried and mind your fingers as cloves can be sharp! You may find it helpful to pierce the orange skin with a cocktail stick before pushing in the spiky stalk end of the clove. When you have finished, roll each studded orange in the spice mix so that it is evenly covered.
The oranges now need to be wrapped loosely in tissue paper and dried – the airing cupboard or the back of the Aga is ideal. It will take two or three weeks for the oranges to dry and they will be hard when they are ready.
Brush off any surplus spice and tie up with a decorative ribbon.
Your pomanders will continue to fragrance your home for months, even years, if you refresh them occasionally with some clove oil and a little of the reserved spice mixture.