Simmer pots or simmering potpourri are one of my favorite ways to make our home smell cozy and warm throughout the year, but especially so during the holidays. They truly bring out the best of the season with very simple natural ingredients such as spices, rinds, sliced fruit or fruit skins and water. Simmer pots are affordable, sustainable, and an easy way to make your home smell like something good is cooking!
I prefer simmer pots over the many scented candles available on almost every store shelf because most of them are petroleum-based paraffin with dubious artificial scents. Since it is my preference to steer clear of petroleum-based products in my house as much as possible, I turn to what my grandmother did: simmer a pot of spices.
Grandma used her stove; I use a small crockette originally designed for warm dips as there is little chance of me getting distracted and ‘boiling the pot dry.’ Because the crockette does not boil, I start the processes by bring the mixture to a boil on the stove and then pour it into the crockette to simmer as long as desired. To simmer on the stovetop, bring the ingredients and water to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer. Water should be added about every 30 minutes to prevent ‘boiling the pot dry.’ A slow cooker can also be used to create a simmer pot. To do so, fill the crock with water to at least half full, add the ingredients, put on the lid, and heat on high. When steam rolls off the lid, take the lid off and set the slow cooker to a low or simmer setting. Add water as needed to keep it at least halfway full.
Simmer pots are also a great way to recycle rather than compost or throw away orange rinds, lemon and lime peels, and apple and pear skins. They can be used fresh or dried. (And, it is also possible to refrigerate the ingredients for a few days and reuse for simmering a 2nd time.)
Simmer pot combinations are more of an art than a science. There are lots of potpourri combinations but really it boils down to personal preference or what you have on hand to work with. Experimenting with combinations is fun. Some of my favorite holiday combinations include apple skins, orange rinds, cinnamon sticks, and whole cloves along with bay leaves, whole nutmeg, fresh or dried rosemary, and fresh or dried ginger. Sometimes I use a drop or two of pure vanilla or an essential oil and even a little apple cider if there is some on hand.
A simmer pot recipe can also be great when someone is sick as long as the smell does not upset their stomach. The combinations of citrus, rosemary, clove, cinnamon and eucalyptus are germ-fighting as well as comforting, soothing, and healing to the body as the vapors are breathed in.
Simmer pot ingredients make wonderful hostesses gifts, gifts for a teacher, friend, or neighbor, and lovely party favors for guests, too. They are cost effective and everyone can use it. To gift, start with dried ingredients. Simply add the chosen ingredients to a clear treat bag or Mason jar, tie with a bow, add a gift tag and you’re ready to give a little a bit of the holidays to that special someone.
There’s nothing like the smells of the holiday to create a warm and welcoming home. With a simmer pot ingredient gift, you can give beautiful gifts that will help friends and family deck their halls, too.