Pot Pourri for Beginners

Potpourri by George Dunlop

Potpourri by George Dunlop

Now I’m aware that the very word potpourri conjures up images of cellophane bags full of what look like wood chips and which generally smell a good deal worse. This is because I suspect that a good deal of what passes for pot- pourri has been made in China and is wood chips, frequently dyed improbable colors such as turquoise, and other bits and bobs that ought properly to have ended up in the trash but in a bag, with a ribbon can be sold for $4.95 in some mall to some luckless shopper looking for something to take along with them to Thanksgiving dinner. The less said about this kind of potpourri the better.

Mine is a combination of roses, mint, lavender, cracked peppercorns, thyme, vanilla pods, and cinnamon sticks. Plus as a fixative, my cherished cedar oil that I dole out in droplets because it is fifteen years old and fantastic. The results, though I say so myself, are really very nice. But I had to improvise here because this was my very first batch. (Years ago an experiment with the old “rotten pot” method resulted in brown stuff that smelled like gingerbread after six weeks- but I digress.)

The recipe I started with was in French and I did not have all the ingredients. Also, I got a bit overconfident in substituting fresh mint for dried powdered mint. For the record, I’d go for the powdered mint in future, and although my recipe did not say so, you’re best off spreading everything on a wide cookie sheet or an old screen in a dry room for a good two weeks.

However I didn’t do that. Instead I cheated and after three days put everything in the oven on a cookie sheet on the lowest possible setting. Bingo! This works. You must keep an eye on what you are doing, since you’re not cooking the potpourri, just drying it all the way out, and then you have to put the mixture in a jar with a lid you can screw on tightly. Some large pickle jars are ideal for this if you can find them.

Then when fall rolls around and potpourri’s sweet slightly spicy smell goes with the season, you’re all set. If you can find an old pot pourri china pot with a perforated lid, better yet. Best of all, the results are completely bio degradable, can’t spill on a carpet like diffusers (short anecdote, long cleanup) or get knocked over like a candle.  They can be tossed out on the mulch pile when you are done, or put in a cellophane bag with a ribbon on it, and given to unloved ones at Christmastime.  Waste not, want not and who knows they might even like this stuff.

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