Perfume Your Home With DIY Holiday Potpourri

This fragrant mix makes a great gift or a fragrant way to set the holiday mood in your own home.

Potpourri in Copper Mug

Potpourri in Copper Mug

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Potpourri is the French name for a Spanish stew of myriad meats and other ingredients and translates literally to “putrid pot.” Sounds delicious, non? Though potpourri has been used since ancient times, those original lifestyle gurus, the French, perfected the use of dried herbs and flowers to perfume the air beginning in the 17th century. And their porcelain potpourri pots are exquisite marriages of form and function. The French often incorporated spices into an existing blend of potpourri—constantly added to and stirred— in the winter months, enriching the aromas to suit the season. 

a2004505

a2004505

A 1756 ceramic French potpourri vase from Sevres.

Photo by: DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI

DEA / G. DAGLI ORTI

A 1756 ceramic French potpourri vase from Sevres.

Making potpourri is a fun wintertime and holiday-related activity that will perfume your home as you slowly dry the orange slices and cranberries in the oven (a dehydrator, if you are lucky enough to have one, works too). The holidays also mean that spices and bags of mixed nuts are easy to find at grocery stores and specialty markets. These various scents and textures give your potpourri a pleasing appearance and items like juniper berries, whole nutmeg and allspice, cloves and cinnamon sticks lend a wonderful holiday scent to the air when blended together.

I set my oven at its lowest temperature, 200 degrees, and dried the orange slices and cranberries on a parchment-lined cookie sheet for 6-8 hours, taking out the individual orange slices that had sufficiently dried as I went. You will need to watch your drying fruits closely and check them every hour or so to see if they have sufficiently dried. Some thicker orange slices I used required up to 8 hours. While the orange slices caramelized and turned brown, I thought that only added to the rustic look of the mix of nuts and spices in my potpourri. If that darkness bothers you, and your holiday to-do list is already long enough, you can order bags of dried orange slices from Amazon and other online sites.

Assortment of Nuts and Fruit

Assortment of Nuts and Fruit

You can use a variety of fragrant spices like nutmeg, juniper berries, cinnamon, star anise, allspice and other ingredients to make homemade potpourri.

You can use a variety of fragrant spices like nutmeg, juniper berries, cinnamon, star anise, allspice and other ingredients to make homemade potpourri.

Christmas Potpourri

  • 3-4 oranges dried in the oven
  • 12 ounce bag of cranberries dried in the oven
  • Small bag of chestnuts
  • Medium bag of mixed nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts)
  • 2 ounces of whole cloves
  • 2 ounces cinnamon sticks
  • 1 ounce juniper berries
  • 1 ounce whole nutmeg
  • 1 ounce whole allspice
  • 2 ounces star anise (I had a hard time locating this, but it adds a wonderful scent and look, with its spiky star appearance, to your blend)
  • Optional: 6 drops each of balsam fir needle and clove essential oils, or other spicy essential oils to intensify or prolong your potpourri’s scent
Drying Orange Slices

Drying Orange Slices

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to dry fruit in the oven.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper to dry fruit in the oven.

After ensuring your orange slices and cranberries are completely dry, mix with all above ingredients. Note: Don’t worry if you can’t find any of the above ingredients. You can use different amounts and different ingredients according to your taste. These amounts and ingredients are just general guidelines.

If you want a completely unadulterated, subtle, spicy-scented potpourri you can just leave your mix as is. To intensify the fragrance, or reboot the scent so it will last longer, add essential oil and mix. Gently stir your potpourri occasionally to distribute the fragrance, whether you use essential oils or not.

You can package your mixture in small cellophane bags tied with a pretty ribbon for gift-giving. I packaged my potpourri in festive copper Moscow Mule cups that really played up the rich tones of the potpourri and give your recipient a pretty container to display their potpourri in.

Gift-Wrapped Potpourri

Gift-Wrapped Potpourri

Package potpourri in a pretty copper mug or bowl wrapped in a cellophane bag with a colorful ribbon to play up the rustic colors of your blend and to give your gift recipient an instant way to display their potpourri.

Package potpourri in a pretty copper mug or bowl wrapped in a cellophane bag with a colorful ribbon to play up the rustic colors of your blend and to give your gift recipient an instant way to display their potpourri.

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