Summer Potpourri Recipes

Potpourri recipes keep a winter's home smelling spring fresh. Includes basic potpourri recipe, Aunt Wimpy's floral bouquet, essence of musk and spice and everything nice.

| July/August 1975

  • Potpourri
    The idea of mixing potpourri is to concoct a pleasant, not overpowering fragrance from sweet smelling flowers, herbs, spices, and oils.

  • Potpourri

The summer I turned 10, I spent two months with my grandmother on a 180-acre Iowa farm. I was a prissy little girl from the city brought up to sneer at anything unfamiliar or unclean, and the simplicity and strength of rural life did much to open my eyes and jolt my prejudices. Soon, thrilled and awestruck, I was watching for hours as horny bulls jumped cows in the smelly barnyard.

It's just as well that farm life had a gentler side to balance the earthiness I found so fascinating. An important part of Grandma's daily blitz on the farmhouse, for instance, was the uncorking of a potpourri jar for half an hour in each room, and she and I spent most of one month collecting flowers and herbs for the annual renewal of the container's sweet scented contents. I enjoyed the ritual so much that years later I still prepare batches of potpourri for myself each season using Grandma's potpourri recipes. I've even sold some jars to others, and come to think of it, the sale of potpourri mixes might be a good way for MOTHERS brood to unload all those pots left over from the last craft fair.

The idea of mixing potpourri is to concoct a pleasant, not overpowering fragrance from sweet smelling flowers, herbs, spices, and oils. Fixatives — gum benzoin and gum storax, available at drugstores — are added to preserve the colors and scents, and the mixture goes into whatever container is handy,  traditionally, a tightly closed vessel of china, pottery, or glass. (Clear receptacles must be kept away from light.) The potpourri jar is then allowed to stand open whenever you want to perfume a room.

Rose petals are the main ingredient of potpourri and you'll need about four times as many of these as of other flowers. Gather the blossoms in the morning, after a rainless period of at least 24 hours. Loose buds, not yet past their prime, are the most fragrant.

Carry your treasures indoors and spread the petals to dry in a dark, well ventilated place. A screen, or a piece of cheesecloth suspended between two chairs, makes a convenient rack. In a day or two, pack each variety of blossom into its own screw trip canning jar with orrisroot sprinkled between layers. (If you have trouble obtaining orrisroot locally, the powdered root can be ordered from Indiana Botanic Gardens, Hammond, Indiana. — MOTHER.) To keep the colors from fading, stare the jars in a dark place until you have time to mix the brew.

Basic Potpourri Recipe

1 quart rose petals
1 cup mixed flowers, some fragrant
1 tablespoon each of one or two herbs
2 or 3 tablespoons crushed spices
Several drops, added 1 drop at a time, of 1or 2 oils
1 tablespoon each of gum benzoin and gum storax

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