Saturday, March 21, 2009

How I Make Potpourri

One of you read something here about my drying orange peels for potpourri and expressed an interest in the recipe. I will gladly share what I know. But first, a disclaimer:

I am no Potpourri Goddess. What follows is not so much a recipe as some general guidelines that I have distilled from the millions of potpourri recipes out there. You know how when you first started cooking and you wanted to make chicken soup you had to know exactly how much chicken to use, and how many quarts of water, cups of vegetables, and teaspoons of herbs to add? But now you just bung the whole mess into a pot and keep adding stuff until it feels right, and the soup is better than ever? That's how potpourri works.

I make potpourri with herbs and flowers that I grow myself. The only foreign objects in my mix are the dried orange peel and some essential oils. You should know that this kind of potpourri will not smell as strong, and the smell will not last as long, as the stuff you get in those candle shops in the mall. But it won't make your nose run and your eyes water, either.

To make potpourri you need:

1. Some dried scented herbs and flowers. I use lavender, three or four kinds of mint, rose petals, and scented geraniums.

2. Something called a "fixative," whose job is to absorb the scent and keep it from evaporating too quickly. The most widely used fixative is orris root, but it's expensive. Ditto for Tonka beans. This is where the dried orange peel comes in. Rosemary leaves work as a fixative as well.

3. Some essential oils. Unless you're into distilling these yourself--in which case you won't be reading this--you do have to buy these. But they are widely available and some, such as lavender, are not terribly expensive.

4. If you want your potpourri to look colorful, you can add the dried petals of flowers such as calendula, geranium, nasturtium or whatever you happen to have on hand.

I use about a cup of fixative (orange peel and rosemary leaves combined) for every three cups of scented flowers and herbs. I mix these in an earthenware bowl (the books all say not to use metal--I'm not sure why) and then sprinkle lavender oil over the whole, mixing it in with my hands (I love this bit) and adding more until the whole things smells wonderful. If it looks a little dull, I add some flower petals for color.

I pour the mixture into a glass jar and set it on a shelf where I can admire it. Once a week or so, I reach in and give the mix a stir.

Then I let it sit...not long enough. A couple of months is ideal, but I inevitably forget and only start my potpourri, which I intend for Christmas gifts, the day after Thanksgiving.

But guess what: so far, nobody has complained.

2 comments :

  1. mmmmm i can smell it. and you make it sound so easy.

    of course, you make raising goats, training dogs, and gathering eggs (and caring for hens) sound easy too.

    actually you also made making chicken soup sound easy.

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  2. None of these things in itself is very hard (with the possible exception of dog training). My problem is figuring out what to do when. I tend to bite off way more than I can chew.

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