Olfactory Offerings: Use the Oven to Cook up Some Homemade Potpourri

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Gone are the days when you could freely leave your windows and screen doors open for soft summer breezes. It’s time to shut the windows and seal up the cracks to hide from the cold. But closing up your home can quickly make it feel musty and dusty, and keeping away the stink that comes from living can be a challenge. There’s a natural alternative for when you’re sick of those aerosol ocean breezes: potpourri.

You may imagine potpourri as the weird dead plant matter your grandma kept in a bowl around the house or stashed in little baggies in cupboards and cabinets. However, it’s actually a great alternative to scented candles or electric wax burners, and it can be highly personalized to suit individual tastes.

Classic potpourri is typically comprised of fruits, flowers and spices that are dried by pressing or baking them to remove moisture and prevent mold. You can choose any number of these items for your personal blend, but you should keep in mind how the aromas of these different ingredients will play together. Some popular ingredients include jasmine, lavender, allspice, cinnamon, vanilla bean, apples and roses, but you can also use coffee grounds, pine needles, sage and even some essential oils. One quick and easy recipe is citrus and cinnamon. You’ll need:

  • 1 orange
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Ground or whole nutmeg
  • Whole cloves
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet
  • An oven

First, prepare your oven and baking sheet set the oven to 200 F. Cover your baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent direct contact between the metal and ingredients. Next, peel and slice the orange as thinly as possible so that the pieces will dry easier in the oven. Don’t throw away the peel, though! Slice that as well and add it to your baking sheet. Next, add the cinnamon sticks, cloves and nutmeg. Once you have an even mix and you’re satisfied with your concoction, it’s ready to go in the oven.

Place the full baking sheet into the oven and set a timer for roughly two hours. You should notice an immediate change in the smells in and around your kitchen. Once those two hours are over, you’ll need to check your potpourri to see if all your orange peels and slices have dehydrated enough. If they haven’t, put them back in for another half hour and check again. Once the potpourri is good and dry, it’s ready for use. Pour your potpourri into a bowl or mesh pouch and place it in the stinkiest room in your house, like the bathroom or your roommate’s room.

Potpourri is perfect for dorm rooms and small apartments, especially if you or your roommate have trouble with scented candles or intense aromas. It can also make a great gift for the holidays. If you throw it in the oven before your family comes over, they’ll be so impressed with the smells they won’t even notice that dirty laundry in the corner.