Orange Pomander Balls

Source: Holly Funk

One of my favorite holiday traditions is to sit by the fire and make orange pomander balls. Pomander balls go back to the 15th century, when they served as natural air fresheners for closets or drawers. We hang them on the outside of our front-hall closet for decoration—and, of course, for that beautiful citrus-spice smell that warms the room.

Each year, around Thanksgiving, we fill a large bowl with whole cloves and another with fresh oranges. Without fail, anyone who happens by will pick up an orange and either begin or add to an already started pomander ball.

I went years before actually finishing a ball, but once I did and put on the finishing ribbon and rolled it in the traditional spice mixture, the results were so beautiful that I have started giving them as gifts. You can also use the same technique for apples, lemons, or limes.

To make 2 balls, you will need:
2 oranges (or try apples, lemons, or lime)
Toothpick or pin to ease the cloves into the orange
Whole cloves, at least 1/4 cup, depending upon your design. (I buy mine in bulk as they tend to be expensive.)
Spice mixture (see recipe below)
4 feet of Ribbon

For the spice mixture:
3 Tbs. ground cinnamon
3 Tbs. ground cloves
3 Tbs. ground nutmeg
3 Tbs. ground ginger
3 Tbs. orris root powder (the dried and ground root of certain iris used as a fixative)

Making a Pomander Ball is easy, but can take some time! Simply stick a clove directly into an orange (or any of the other fruits listed above). You may want to use a toothpick or pin to make the first punctures so that the cloves are easier to insert. It seems that everyone has his or her own method when it comes to filling a ball! You don’t have to fill the entire ball though—try a pattern or design if you feel inspired.

Once the ball is completely studded with cloves, roll it in the spice mixture and set it aside for a couple of weeks in a cool dry spot so that it will dry. Once dried, tie a ribbon around the ball for hanging. Multiple pomander balls also look beautiful displayed together in a large decorative bowl.