Simple and Wonderful Do-it-Yourself Pomanders

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Christmas. Perhaps it’s the inheritance of the December baby, whose favorite birthday celebration for five years in a row was to go see The Nutcracker wearing a gargantuan taffeta hair bow and sporting a fur muff (some things never change… Sweetheart is taking me to see it at BAM on Tuesday, and maybe I’ll wear my Samantha muff). My holiday love, though, probably comes from growing up in Colonial Williamsburg, where, every year, the season starts with a bang at the Grand Illumination celebration- where the streets of the colonial town are lined with bonfires and it is mandatory for every household to put white candles in the windows. Oh how wonderful to go to the Raleigh Tavern Bakery and get one of the amazingly dense and spicy gingerbread cookies and walk the streets of Williamsburg in the clear chill and look at the decorations. Every railing and lintel festooned with magnolia leaves and pineapples, boxwood and pine roping, and, of course pomanders. For inquiring minds, here’s a full history of pomanders (from the french pomme and ambre, meaning, literally, apple of amber), but in short, in the absence of giant inflatable snowglobes for the yard, colonial households would stud the thick skins of precious oranges, lemons, and other fruits with a design of cloves to fill their houses with the heavenly scent of bright citrus and pungent-sweet spice. Ah-Mazing.Last week I had the girls over to drink wine, talk about what we’d missed in our whirlwind lives since we last saw each other, and to make pomanders. You just need:

-A large container of cloves; each pomander will use 100 or so cloves depending on your design, so you want to be sure to have enough
-Fruit; this year I used oranges, lemons, and pomegranates but you can also use limes or apples… anything you want, really.
-A poking utensil; I used this moustache corkscrew, but also on the table was a meat thermometer and one side of a corn-on-the-cob holder. This is not an exact science.

Decide on a design- stripes, lines, and swirls work wonderfully as do harlequin and argyle patterns, or even random polka dots.

Poke a hole in the skin of the fruit in the shape of the design you envision and put a clove in each hole. The cloves are incredibly aromatic, but they can be kind of sharp.

If your fingers start to hurt from pushing the cloves into the fruit try using a thimble.

It’s incredibly easy to make these yourself, and unbelievably satisfying to end a night with a belly full of wine and root vegetables and a bowl of beautiful, fragrant, and timeless pomanders that will keep for weeks, looking lovely and smelling wonderful whatever your holiday season may bring. They gave my apartment the feel of a gingerbread brownstone for my holiday party- incredibly festive.

Landmarked Gingerbread Brownstone, Floor-Through, DFP, Original Moldings

Today is the day that the Christmas season officially starts! Sweetheart and I are getting our tree today and the girls are coming over tonight for some hometown Colonial Williamsburg crafting (O it’s marvelous to be from Virginia, you can embrace pioneer spirit and make complicated decorations out of fruit and vines totally unironically), I’ve got Vince Gauraldi cued up, and also a strange and wonderfully joyous new-to-me collection of Swedish Christmas Carols I stumbled on delightedly from Door16 (free downloadable! God Jul!). With all of this in the works, how utterly perfect was it that my friend Renee posted this staggeringly lovely, utterly pitch perfect Gingerbread Brownstone on her wonderful (aspirational) food blog Kitchen Table Scraps. It’s like a scale model of my house! I can just picture Sweetheart and I carrying a miniature tree in through the basement door under the stairs… and I can almost see Nipsey Russell peeking through the spun sugar windowpanes through the gingerbread “window guards” (a nice gentle Brooklynese way of saying bars), in fact the giant “Whisk” installation might be right next door in the to-scale-Pratt-Sculpture-Garden. Bike Parking to the side.