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Christmas Orange Pomanders

Our Christmas Kitty Roxi eyeing up my pomanders!

Today I find myself reminiscing about Christmas Past.

As a young kid growing up in the 1970’s, besides seeing what Santa had brought us, we used to love checking out our Christmas stockings. Back in those days, we didn’t have the fancy stockings you see in the shops nowadays. You certainly wouldn’t want to hang our stockings up on the fireplace as they were simply our socks … the longer the better!  Besides, growing up in the new town of Glenrothes, our house was all electric and we didn’t have a fireplace per se.

Our presents weren’t wrapped individually in those day either but they were ‘delivered’ in a large Santa sack besides which we’d find our magically stuffed stockings.  We would spend time on Christmas Eve making and decorating name plates so that Santa knew exactly where to deposit his loot.

There was a firm rule in our house that none of us kids were allowed into the living room before 8:00am, I assume because our parents quite sensibly valued their sleep.  The other rule was that we all had to enter the living room at the same time, no sneaky peeking allowed. I remember quite clearly the three of us sitting side by side on the bottom stair eagerly watching the kitchen clock ticking painfully slowly until it was time. As the eldest, this lead to much wicked fun years later as I reached my teenage years. I remember the excitement of my younger brother and sister, anxious to see what Santa had brought us … and them having to frantically drag me out of bed (often by my feet!) because they couldn’t enter the living room without me. I know, teenagers are so cruel aren’t they.

It was always an exciting morning as dad got on with the turkey feast preparations and we pulled out one gift after another from our Santa sacks and then demolished the wrapped presents under the tree from aunts, uncles and grandparents.

Then there was the stocking. Our stockings were always filled with traditional gifts rather than toys and included: bananas, pens, chocolate, coins and satsumas. It is for this reason that I always associate that wonderful scent of orange with Christmas. We always had lots of satsumas at Christmas time.

In thinking about it some more, I suspect this may have been a tradition experienced by my own parents whose childhoods were during the Second World War and therefore at a time when fresh fruit may have been scarce.  Waking up on Christmas morning to find a fresh orange in your stocking would have been considered a luxury.

Last year I decided to have a go at making Orange Pomanders as Christmas decorations. I put mine in a bowl in the living room but they can be strung with ribbon and placed on your tree as well.

Pomanders have always been seen as a symbol of good luck and health. They would make a lovely hostess gift if you are heading out to enjoy a Christmas Dinner with friends or family.

The name Pomander comes from the French term “pomme d’ambre” which roughly translated means “apple of perfume.” Pomanders originally took many forms, not just the clove and orange variety, which is the most common today. The practice of carrying or wearing a ball of perfume was popularized in Europe around the late Middle Ages. At this time, pomanders were used for protection against infection, pestilence, and disease (or simply the smell of sickness). Nowadays, they are a great way to scent your living space naturally and can last for months. And of course they look amazing too!

In the end, I didn’t dry out the pomanders you see in my photos. I made the pomanders as a fun Christmas activity to last just for the festive period.  It took me a few hours but it was a lovely relaxing experience and definitely worth it. The house smelled absolutely amazing but I should warn you … this is a very sticky activity!

I’ve included the recipe below in case you would like to have a go at making your own pomanders.

Ingredients:

  • 6 oranges (or lemons)
  • Whole cloves (lots of them for decorating)
  • Decorative ribbon (if hanging)
  • Tooth pick
  • Paper bag(s) (for mixing the spice and drying purposes)

The Spice Mix:

  • 4 tablespoons – ground Cinnamon
  • 4 tablespoons – ground Cloves
  • 2 tablespoons – ground Nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons – ground Allspice
  • ¼ cup – Orris Root powder (as a preservative)

Orris root is used as a fixative and preservative, a sort of medieval superglue to help the aromatic cinnamon and cloves stick to the orange, and to prevent the orange from rotting. 

Directions:

  • Combine the spice mix ingredients either in a paper bag or on a sheet of greaseproof paper
  • Wash the oranges
  • Gently knead the oranges in your hand to soften the skin
  • If desired for design purposes, use a sharp knife or vegetable peeler to remove a thin layer of the orange rind to form a pattern being careful not to go through the pith
  • Pierce the skin of the orange with the cocktail stick and insert the whole cloves in a decorative pattern (stripes, swirls, whatever you like)
  • Roll the cloved oranges in the spice mixture on the greaseproof paper or shake them in the paper bag along with the spices
  • Wrap the oranges in tissue paper or leave them in a paper bag and store them for a few days in a dry, warm place
  • Pomanders are completely dry when they are hard
  • Once they are dried, remove the pomanders from the spice mix, dust them off a little
  • Tie with decorative ribbons to hang or place them in a bowl as Christmas ornaments

Have fun and Happy Holidays!

Looking good enough to eat!

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