Start a new holiday tradition with your family this year by making orange pomander balls. They can be hung on your Christmas tree as ornaments, attached to garlands, or used in a holiday centerpiece with live greenery. These delicious-smelling, clove-studded oranges will fill your home with a festive spicy fragrance.
Pomanders first originated in the late Middle Ages to use as protection to ward off diseases or dispel foul smells. During the 1700s in America, citrus was a luxury, but wealthier colonial homes would use pomanders to cover up nasty odors.
Many of our holiday traditions date back to the Victorian era in the mid-1800s when Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, introduced decorating with live greenery and Christmas trees. Pomanders soon became popular as holiday decorations in many American homes.
- Oranges, Lemons, or Limes
- Wooden Skewers or Toothpicks
- Whole Cloves
- Paper Towels
Use a marker to make the design pattern on your choice of citrus fruit. Designs can be simple or complex, so use your imagination to create a multitude of patterns. I prefer to use a wooden skewer to make the holes in the fruit as it is longer and easier to use. The hole should only be deep enough to pierce the orange’s skin. As children’s hands are smaller, a toothpick may be easier for them to use. After making the holes in the fruit, insert a whole clove into each hole. Have plenty of paper towels on hand as this can be messy. If you decide to use the pomanders as ornaments, tie the ribbons for hanging before starting the design. That way, you are not attaching the ribbon on top of the cloves or weaving it around them.
Fresh pomanders will last about a week. Rotate the fruit often to prevent mold and discard if they become moldy. By refrigerating them at night, you will prolong the life of the fresh fruit.
To make the pomander balls last longer, you can dry them. There are several methods to choose from for drying. The easiest and fastest way is to use a dehydrator. Dry the pomanders on low to medium heat, about 100° to 115° until the fruit is hard. The dried pomander ball will feel light and sound hollow when you tap on the fruit. Another way is to place each pomander in a separate paper bag with 2-3 tablespoons of ground orris root and shake the bag gently to coat the fruit. Check the pomander often to make sure no mold has formed. This process takes about 3 to 6 weeks. Dried pomanders can be used and enjoyed for years.
For more holiday decorating ideas, see HGIC 1753, Holiday Decorating with Fresh Greenery or Creative Ideas for Holiday Decorating.