Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rose Faery and her potpourri recipes

Cicely Mary Barker's Rose Fairy

I must admit that gardenias and tuberoses are my favorite flowers, but roses are high up on my list. I especially love the wild roses with their small flowers and intense fragrance - they bloom in May and June around here and the woods are utterly intoxicating as the roses blend with honeysuckle.

I was inspired by Mrs. B's comment yesterday that she was doing Hallowe'en crafts and I thought, "I need to do more of the crafts that I like!" A few years ago, I learned how to make cold process soap and did quite a few batches, all with different blends of essential oils. I want to start that again. I also made solid perfume pastes - those are fun and easy. I actually like the solid perfumes better than the perfumed oils or sprays - they're easy to put on at any time and you can carry around a small tin of the paste in your purse much easier than a glass bottle of perfume or oil.

However, I think my next foray into the world of scent will be wet potpourri. In 2000, I bought my Auntie Anne a set of rosary beads to commemorate the Roman Catholic Jubilee - they were made out of rose petals and the fragrance was to die for. She was a devout Catholic, but most of her devotions were to Mary - personally, I think she was a closet witch, thereby making her my favorite aunt. She was always very kind to me and I do miss talking with her - she died in May of 2005.

Anyway, the thought of making rose petal beads intrigued me and I scoured the internet looking for recipes. That's when I discovered recipes for wet potpourri, something I never heard of. So, I'm going to link to the sites I found so that anyone can easily find them if they are interested in this sort of craft.

Here's an excerpt from one site - and the other links are here, here, here, here and here (site is shut down and page doesn't load in alignment, but you can still read the recipes).

To make a dry potpourri, begin by mixing your flower petals to achieve the desired color effect. Put the mixture in a large bowl and for each quart of petals add about a tablespoon of fixative material (in crushed or ground form), which helps to keep the potpourri fragrant longer by retarding the evaporation of volatile oils. Then, carefully stir in a like amount of crushed or ground spices, and add any miscellaneous decorative or aromatic items your sense of artistry or of smell may suggest. Finally, stir a few drops of one or more aromatic oils into the mixture, but don't overdo it: too much oil or too many kinds of oil can unbalance the fragrance enough to ruin a good potpourri. To determine your own preferences, experiment by dividing your mixed petals into small batches and adding the rest of the ingredients (reduced proportionately, of course in various combinations. When doing this, keep a good record of each experiment so that you can duplicate the most successful ones.

When the potpourri mixture is complete, store it in a sealed container for about six weeks to let the various fragrances meld into a smooth, harmonious blend. Fill the container only half to two-thirds full, so that you can stir the mixture every few days by turning and shaking the container. After six weeks, divide the mixture into as many portions as you plan to make up into individual potpourris, making sure that all ingredients are equally well balanced in each portion. For the longest-lasting fragrance, put up each potpourri in a decorative glass jar that can be tightly stoppered. If you open it sparingly, the fragrance can last for years. Potpourris made up in baskets or otherwise continuously exposed to the air will fade much sooner. Adding a little flower oil or brandy can revive a potpourri when its scent begins to weaken.

Dry potpourri mixtures can also be made into sachets and bath potpourris. To make a sachet, put an ounce or so of mixture into a small bag and keep it in a closet or drawer to perfume clothing, linens, etc. For a bath potpourri, crush or powder all the dry ingredients, then mix with an equal amount of borax crystals. Age the mixture in a sealed jar for a week or two. For each bath, put a teaspoon of the aged mixture into a small bag, and hang the bag where the steam from the incoming hot water will pass over it to release the scent.

For the wet method of making potpourris, put a layer of partly dried petals in the bottom of a large, wide-mouth jar; then add a layer of un-iodized salt (or even better, bay salt-salt from evaporated sea water). Add alternate layers of petals and salt until you run out of petals. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon and compress it by putting a Weighted plate on it (you see why you need a wide-mouth jar). Repeat the stirring daily, adding layers of salt and petals as more become available. Keep the weight on between stirrings. Eventually, fermentation will produce a broth at the top of the mixture. When this happens, stir the mixture-broth and all-thoroughly, replace the weight, and let everything sit undisturbed for one to two weeks. The result should be a caked mass that you can remove and break up into small bits. To complete the potpourri, combine the crushed cake with spices, oils, and fixatives as in the dry method. Because its appearance is not one of its appealing qualities, keep this potpourri in an opaque container. The best ones have two lids, a solid one to retain the scent and underneath it another with holes to release the fragrance when the solid lid is removed.

There are innumerable recipes for potpourris, but ultimately your own nose and eyes are the best guides. Keep in mind the general proportions of one tablespoon each of spices and fixatives per quart of petals. Add flower oils a few drops at a time until the fragrance is what you want. Whatever you add, always err on the side of caution: you can always add more.


Jasmine said...

Flower fairies have never been far from my heart, especially Cicely Mary Barkers. Rose petal beads, a lovely idea. You must let us know how you get on with those and give us a picture of the end result :)

Delphyne said...

Sorry! Mercury retrograde has made posting a real challenge! Basically what I said was to thank you for your post and that I would let you know how the beads turned out.

I really hate Mercury retro....