The Art of Darkness

Making Moist Potpourri

April 21st, 2016 by Cobwebs

Antique Cricket CageSpring is sproinging (at least in this hemisphere), which means that flowers will soon be blooming. If you grow roses, consider using some for moist potpourri: What it lacks in beauty, it more than makes up for in scent.

The method is easy: Partially dry the rose petals (they should feel sort of leathery, but not be fully dried). In a large nonreactive crock or bucket, layer 3 C petals with 2 Tbsp coarse or kosher salt. Mix thoroughly, then weight with a plate. Let sit in a place that’s not too warm for a month or so, stirring every few days then replacing the plate on top. If you gather more petals, you can add them (along with more salt) to the already-started mixture; just age for a month after you’ve finished adding petals.

You’ll wind up with a crockful of caked, brown petals. Crumble them into a bowl and either use as-is or add other fragrant dried ingredients: Powdered spices, dried citrus peel, or dried herbs are common. To maximize the longevity of the fragrance, you can also add a fixative such as powdered orris root; about 1/4 C per quart of potpourri. After adding other ingredients, the final mixture should continue to be cured for another two weeks so the fragrances blend and mellow.

Here’s a sample potpourri mixture to get you started:

1 1/2 gallons cured rose petals
6 oz dried orange peel
1 oz powdered orris root
1 oz powdered cinnamon
1 oz powdered allspice
1 1/2 oz powdered cloves

The main drawback of moist potpourri is that it ain’t attractive: The finished product is a mass of brown muck. Instead of displaying it in a glass jar, keep it in an opaque container with a perforated lid (like the antique cricket cage pictured above). Historically, this kind of potpourri was put in a ceramic jar with a perforated inner cover and a solid outer cover; the outer cover was removed to let out the fragrance when it was wanted, then replaced to keep the contents fresh. If you can get your hands on some small sachet holders (like this wicker one, they make attractive Christmas tree ornaments.

The salt-cure method can also be used with lavender, or a mixture of lavender and rose.

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