When visitors drop by, one of the sweetest compliments they can give us is, “Your house always smells so good!” Pleasant aromas have the power to alter our mood, so it is not surprising that the practice of using scent imaginatively in the home is centuries old. One ancient and delicious way to do this is with potpourri.
The word “potpourri” means a medley of things–exotic blends of herbs, spices, and dried flowers set out in pots or jars to scent the surroundings. The idea is still a charming one, and it’s so easy to make fragrant all-n/atural potpourris that can actually make a positive difference, improving the atmosphere in our homes on every level, relaxing us, helping us to feel more clarity and calm. Gathering the ingredients is fun for the whole family, and the results are sure to please.
Here are the simple, easy steps to creating your own delicious potpourris:
Potpourris can be made moist or dry and their main ingredient is traditionally roses. In Colonial times, the most popular form of potpourri was a moist mixture, consisting of wilted flowers, mainly roses, layered with salt, bay leaves, brown sugar, and brandy.
After the crock was filled, a weight was placed on top of the mixture and it was stirred periodically. The finished potpourri was kept in a rose jar, and when a room was cleaned, the jar was opened to perfume the air because ventilation was considered unsafe.
Here are two old historical potpourri recipes, and one that is more New Age:
COLONIAL ROSE POTPOURRI
This is a typical moist potpourri based on historical recipes. The rose petals and lavender should be partially dried before you begin making this potpourri.
- 10 cups rose petals
- 2 cups lavender buds
- ½ cup orrisroot, powdered
- 8 bay leaves
- 2 cups sea salt or kosher coarse salt
- ½ cup allspice, crushed
- ½ cup crushed cinnamon sticks
- ½ cup cloves, crushed
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup brandy
1. Mix the rose petals, lavender buds, and orrisroot powder together.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the bay leaves, salt, allspice, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar.
3. In a large crock, layer the flowers with the spice mixture until all are used up.
4. Pour the brandy slowly over the top and put a weight such as a brick on top of the petals and cover the crock.
5. Stir every few days for 4-6 weeks until the scent pleases you. If desired, add 1 or 2 teaspoons of rose fragrance oil and additional spices.
6. Keep covered except when you remove the lid to scent the room.
7. Each year, add ½ cup of brandy and stir to renew the fragrance. It should last for many years.
COUNTRY KITCHEN POTPOURRI
This potpourri has a warm “welcome home” aroma that’s pleasant any time of year.
- 1 tablespoon aniseed
- 1 tablespoon allspice
- 6 nutmegs
- 6 cinnamon sticks, coarsely broken
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- ¼ cup whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1-2 vanilla beans, cut into 1″ pieces
- 1 cup coarse salt such as kosher salt
1. Crush aniseed and allspice in a mortar and pestle.
2. Use a hammer to crack the nutmeg and cinnamon sticks.
3. Mix all of the ingredients together and fill a lidded container of your choice. Old Mason jars work well.
4. Open whenever you want to freshen the air.
COTTAGE ROSE POTPOURRI
- 1 cup cellulose
- 1/8 ounce rose fragrance oil
- 30 drops essential oil of lemon verbena
- 20 drops essential oil of sandalwood
- 4 cups rose petals and buds
- 2 cups lemon verbena
- 2 cups patchouli
- 2 cups lavender buds
1. Mix the oils with the cellulose and store for two days in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
2. Combine the dry potpourri ingredients with the oil/cellulose mixture and store for two to four weeks to allow the potpourri to age and develop. Do not use metal utensils, containers, or bowls as a reaction with the oils can adversely affect your final fragrance.
Adapted from Perfumes, Splashes & Colognes, by Nancy M. Booth. Copyright (c) 1997 by Nancy M. Booth. Reprinted by permission of Storey Books.