Saturday, October 16, 2010

Make your own Pomander Ball

Pomander Balls were the deodorant of the Medieval times, and also believed to be a form of protection. During the Tudor times, townspeople believed "bad smells" carried illnesses and hence carrying a something "good smelling" would protect them from death. Some pomander balls were made primarily out of oranges and cloves, and tied to the undercarriage of women's dresses and/or in closets, and other smaller ones were sometimes in the form of beads made out of spices held together by gum.

I think today they combine some of the best scents of the season, and make nice gifts. For about $15 you can make a few aromatic additions to your home that last a long time.

You will need:

* At least 1 ounce of whole cloves, usually found on the spice isle. These run about $8-$10 for a jar of around 50 grams
* Thin-skinned oranges, on the small side
* Ground cinnamon, or other spices like Nutmeg (just a little will do, a small container is fine)
* Some sort of poking needle to pierce the skin of the orange (I used a tiny screw driver)

*Ribbon (optional)

Gizmo can't resist the ribbon


1. First start by deciding if you want to make a hanging ball or one you will sit in potpourri or a bowl. If you opt for a hanging ball, you will want to attach the ribbon first. I have seen others use tape first to reserve the area where the ribbon can be tied after everything is complete (so that the ribbon doesn't get dirty) so if you want to take that extra step that's fine too. I prefer to tie the ribbon first so that I don't take the tops of the cloves off trying to do so at the end.

2. Next, pierce the skin of the orange using the needle to make inserting the cloves a little easier. You will want to leave the cloves with a little distance between them because once the orange dries up it will shrink, bringing the cloves in tighter (the drying process for the orange takes several weeks.)

3. Start by filling in the cloves one portion at a time, stem side down.
The bulbs should stick out of the orange, with the sharp ends inside.

It's important to get the Whole Cloves, so that the pointy stems are still attached

I sprinkled cinnamon onto the cloves first so that when the stems are inserted into the fruit, the juice from the orange holds the scents together and acts as a natural glue once dry.

4. Continue to insert the cloves, rotating it as you go, until the entire orange is covered. Sometimes when the tops fall off of the clove stems, they can be sharp, so be careful if you are doing this activity with kids. You can use a thimble if the skin is too tough and you have to really shove them in there to get them to stay. If you use the needle first though, it should make it a lot easier.

When you are finished, tie the end of the ribbon into a bow, using the leftover string to form a circle that can be hooked onto wherever you hang it from.

Completed Pomander Ball

5. Experts say you are supposed to let the orange dry out in a dark area for 2-4 weeks before it is completely ready. I think you might as well enjoy it while it is curing, so if you don't put it in your closet you can also stick it in your kitchen, or bathroom. If you decided to make one without the ribbon, you could also opt to make several and put them out in a bowl. If they start to loose their scent you could then toss them in more cinnamon or a mix of your favorite dried herbs to spice them up again. (I have also heard using Orris Root powder in your spice blend, in addition to coating the orange with lemon juice before starting will help preserve the Pomander Ball even longer.)

Although a primitive tradition, Pomander Balls are still useful today and make great festive gifts from October through December. It's also a fun alternative to carving pumpkins with your family and friends.

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