Time was when women spent much of the holiday season in their kitchens. And oh, the wonderful aromas that came wafting from those kitchens. No wonder family and friends gravitated to the room where the baking was done.
If you happened to get there at just the right time you might get a fruitcake cookie or a pecan tassie fresh from the oven. You had to wait until the festive dinner for sweet potato pudding and pumpkin pie, but boy were they worth waiting for!
Then a lot of us went out to work and the pumpkin pie came from Mrs. Smith. Or even if we made the filling, we got the crust from Pillsbury. Not that there’s anything wrong with Pillsbury and Mrs. Smith. Actually, they do a pretty good job. Trouble is, the kitchen just doesn’t smell quite the same.
Eventually the candle companies and room fragrance people figured out how to reproduce those wonderful smells. But candles and tabletop potpourri burners have to be carefully guarded from children and pets.
Here’s a recipe for a simmering potpourri you can use right on the stove top. Just keep the saucepan handle turned away from little hands and paws and your kitchen will smell like you’ve been baking for days!
IMPORTANT: This is not edible. Don’t even use it to season cider or wine.
HOLIDAY SIMMERING POTPOURRI (not edible)
3 or 4 pieces of dried orange peel (see NOTE)
1 teaspoon cinnamon chunks (available in bulk at Whole Foods
Market) OR 1 or 2 cinnamon sticks
1/4-1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
2 or 3 pieces of star anise (also available at Whole Foods)
1/4-1/2 cup whole fresh cranberries (optional)
If using cinnamon sticks, break up into 3 or 4 pieces. Then place contents in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover loosely (vent top of saucepan slightly). Add water as needed; don’t let mixture dry out. Be sure to turn off the heat before you leave the house. The fragrance will remain for awhile.
NOTE: To dry orange peel, score an orange in quarters, then remove peel and as much of white pith as possible. (Add orange sections to a fruit salad.) Place on flat surface, such as the kitchen counter, for several days.
© 2008 Helen Austin. All rights reserved.
Photo © Nicolás Batista/Dreamstime.com.