Making You Own Seasonal Scents With Potpourri

Simmer a pot of potpourri on the stovetop to fill your home with some of winter’s most wonderful aromas

Scents have power: the power to instantly improve your mood, to call up memories of people or events important to you, to refresh or relax you after a long day.

That’s why a whiff of lavender growing along the sidewalk, the aroma of fresh-baked bread or the scent emanating from a pot of stew bubbling on the stove can instantly evoke smiles or nostalgia.

And that’s why simmering a pot of potpourri can be so wonderful, particularly on a cold or dreary winter day. Whether you’re trying to chase away lingering aromas from last night’s dinner, unwind with soothing smells or simply want to freshen up the house before guests arrive, stove top potpourri is the answer.

Stovetop potpourri offers a multitude of benefits over other fragrance options. It’s a natural alternative to air fresheners, candles, or diffusers filled with not-so-nice chemicals — and particularly beneficial if you suffer from allergies or fragrance sensitivities. And simmering a pot of potpourri on the stove can increase the humidity in your home, which is a boon on dry winter days.

Unlike making dried potpourri, which requires gathering a variety of flowers and aromatic foliage to toss with essential oils and dry for at least six weeks, making stove top potpourri is quick, easy, and inexpensive — odds are, you have the ingredients to get started in your kitchen right now.

The Basics

Fruit: Apples or citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit are top picks.

Berries: Juniper berries or cranberries are pretty to look at and to smell.

Essential oils: Cinnamon, citrus, mint or floral oils are all great options, just make sure you wait until your potpourri is simmering to add the oil.

Extracts: Vanilla, almond, coconut or peppermint extracts all add extra zing to your potpourri.

Spices and seeds: Nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, allspice, coriander, cardamom, star anise and ginger are particularly popular.

Herbs: Try mint, rosemary, lavender, sage, tarragon or anything lemon-scented.

To get started, simply throw whatever you have on hand into a small pot and fill it with enough water to cover all of the ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil for a few minutes, then reduce the temperature to low. If you plan to keep your potpourri simmering for a few hours, check it periodically and add more water as needed.

One of the most basic stovetop potpourri combinations is a mixture of citrus and spices. To get started, combine one sliced orange (or the peel of one orange), one sliced lemon (or the peel of one lemon) and two to three cinnamon sticks.

Warm Up to Winter

Think about the scents that remind you most of winter. Odds are, baking spices play prominently in your memories of this season. That’s why potpourri recipes that combine citrus fruits or apples with whole cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole allspice and freshly ground nutmeg are so popular this time of year.

You might toss in a couple of bay leaves, too. Or try combining two cinnamon sticks with two sprigs of pine and two drops of peppermint extract for a seriously seasonal combination.

Want your house to smell like you’ve been baking all day? Mix two sliced apples, two cinnamon sticks, one lemon slice and a dash of vanilla extract for the aroma of apple pie. Or replicate the smell of fresh-baked gingerbread by simmering 10 slices of ginger with one cinnamon stick and one teaspoon vanilla.

Another particularly delicious combination includes two cinnamon sticks, one tablespoon vanilla extract, one tablespoon almond extract and one tablespoon nutmeg.

Think Spring

If you’re looking for scents to help lift you out of the winter doldrums, skip the heavy spices in favor of lighter combinations. Add a sliced orange and a sliced lemon for an easy, refreshing option. Or combine two sliced limes with two sprigs of fresh mint.

Simply simmering a variety of herbs—try a half cup of each of parsley, thyme, rosemary, and sage—can have a particularly enjoyable effect. Or mix two tablespoons vanilla extract, three sprigs fresh rosemary, and the peels or slices of two lemons for a fresh, welcoming scent.

Aroma-Making Ideas

Try these tips to make the most of your potpourri-making time.

  • Mix a large batch of potpourri ingredients and then place single servings in plastic bags or jars (without water) so you have ready-to-simmer potpourri on hand whenever the mood strikes or company is coming. They also make great gifts.
  • Heat your potpourri in a crockpot or fondue pot, on a warming plate or in an essential oil diffuser instead of on the stove.
  • Reuse your stovetop potpourri a couple of times before you toss it. You can pour the mixture into a sealed container and place it in the fridge until you’re ready to use it again.
  • Updated August 9, 2017
  • DIY
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