Here’s how to make pomander balls, which are simply oranges pierced by cloves. As the fruit dries, it releases a lovely fragrance. Pomanders make beautiful centerpieces, gifts for friends, tree ornaments, and air fresheners.
What Is a Pomander?
Medieval herbalists used pomanders—mixtures of fragrant, dried herbs in cloth bags or perforated boxes—to ward off illness or bring strength and good fortune.
The word “pomander” derives from the French pomme d’ambre, meaning “apple of amber”—a reference to the round shape of the object and the occasional addition of ambergris (an aged substance from the bile duct of a sperm whale). Strongly scented pomanders of ambergris were used in Europe during the time of the Black Death to (unsuccessfully) cover up and purify “bad air.”
Today, pomander balls are usually a lot simpler; most consist of an orange or other citrus fruit studded with cloves and dusted with other spices. See our own recipe below!
How to Make Orange and Clove Pomander Balls
Take firm oranges and stud them with whole cloves. That’s it!
You can also use a toothpick to make pre-made holes; this is helpful for children because the cloves can hurt their little hands (and ours).
Be creative and arrange the cloves in diamonds, circles, or other patterns. As the orange dries, it will release a delicate, spicy fragrance.
For a stronger aroma, cover the entire orange with cloves, and then roll it in a mixture of spices such as: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, 1 tablespoon allspice, 1/4 cup powdered orris root. Leave the orange in the mix for a week, turning once a day.
To hang your pomander, run a long wire through the orange; make a knot at the bottom and a loop at the top for hanging. Or, you can tie red ribbon around your pomander for a festive look!
How to Make It Last
If you want your pomanders to last, store in a paper bag for a few weeks. Use lots of cloves which are a natural preserving agent. The cloves will draw out the juices and they’ll shrink in size. Dusting with cinnamon helps, too, as cinnamon functions as an anti-fungal.
Ideas for Using Pomanders
Arrange the cloves in special shapes and patterns. For Halloween, make a jack-o’-lantern; for Thanksgiving, try a turkey; for Christmas, a Christmas tree!
Create a centerpiece for your next holiday meal.
Give to friends, teachers, and neighbors in a plastic bag with a red ribbon!
Try putting an orange pomander at the bottom of your Christmas stockings.
Use small oranges (or other small citrus) to create a fragrant ornament for the Christmas tree.
Once dried, hang pomanders in your closet or add to your drawers like a sachet.