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Monday, December 17, 2012

holiday project: pomander balls with chef joy

The email from Chef Joy was very simple:

I make Pomander Balls every Christmas as Little Hostess Gifts.

I made one for you….  
And then it occurred to me, you’d have fun making one too.
And then it occurred to me, your readers would like to make a few.
So I’ll be over at 2 to walk you thorough, a Pomander Ball rendezvous!

And as promised, at 2pm Chef Joy showed up at the studio with a wicker basket of oranges, lemon and cloves. On a cold, rainy day she was was like a spot of bright, warm sunshine.

Chef Joy spread out the citrus and cloves in the center of the table and I added some of our limes. I offered her a drink. Coffee? Hot Chocolate? Diet Coke? Half-jokingly I offered tequila and it seemed like a semi-ironic thing to drink a shot of tequila while making Pomander Balls and that is what we did. 

As she showed me how to press cloves into soft Valencia oranges, Chef Joy taught me the meaning of Pomander. A Pomander was a ball or vase carried in the Middle Ages which contained perfume or oils that would mask the scent of bodily odor or carried to keep away infection. Typically a Pomander would be carried or tucked inside clothing. Recipes for ancient Pomanders included ingredients like Deer Musk and ambergris (from the digestive system of sperm whales). Today, Pomanders are most often made from oranges and studded with cloves to use as a centerpiece, hostess gift or to fragrance an area. This is the Pomander we were making.

Ingredients needed:

Whole Cloves
Skewer (to help poke holes in Citrus if the rind is tough)
Citrus scorer (if you want to get fancy)

How to Make a Pomander

Decide on a pattern for your orange. 

Chef Joy chose a circular pattern and I chose striped. If you'd like you can score your citrus first using a citrus scorer or you can just start by pushing the pointy end of the whole clove into the fruit.

The cloves can be sharp and in a few minutes my thumb was getting a little sore so keep a paper towel handy and use that to push in the clove. You can also use a skewer to pre-drill a little hole before you push in the clove. 

That's it, really. Just keep going by pushing cloves into the orange until you're pleased with what you have. This project was definitely a case of the journey being as fun as the destination. Just sitting with Chef Joy listening to Christmas standards and talking about our favorite holiday memories and disasters was as rewarding as the little fragrant balls of citrus and cloves.

The Pomander Balls turned out so well that I will be using them as placeholders for our upcoming holiday brunch. I think they'll be swell as monogrammed oranges. 

This is a craft project to enjoy with or without libations.

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