Monday, June 10, 2013

The Rose Jar

Whether bright crimson, golden-tinged pink, or delicate yellow, roses are a delight to the eye. They are also a treat for the nose, with their delicate and woodsy scent  --  unless you are allergic, of course! Our rose bushes may fade by the end of the summer, but if you are as enamored of their perfume as I am, you might like to attempt to preserve their scent in order to breathe summer's air in the midst of winter.

A Find

The Rose Jar
Our Victorian Era ancestors did so by means of a rose jar. I found one in the old house, in the room where my sister and I used to sleep when we visited Grandma as children. Lifting the glass lid, I inhaled the scents of rose and lavender, not quite as fresh as when they bloomed, who know how many years ago.

I don't know how long ago someone concocted this pot pourri, whether Minnie or her mother Kittie, or one of Minnie's daughters, but I found a recipe for a rose jar in Kittie's book of household hints, The Queen of the Household, and decided to refresh this old one with this summer's bloom. As the recipe indicates, "It is said to remain fragrant in open bowls for two years if occasionally stirred, but in the closed pot pourri it will remain fragrant much longer."

The Recipe

From the pages of The Queen of the Household:

"An old recipe, warranted to be good, and which calls for great care in the gathering of the leaves. It is said to remain fragrant in open bowls for two years if occasionally stirred, but in the closed pot pourri it will remain fragrant much longer. Pluck the rose leaves early in the morning; with them have an equal quantity of lavender blossoms, and put them all in a large earthenware bowl; add 1/2 pound crushed orris root, and then to every 2 pounds add 2 ounces each of bruised cloves, cinnamon, allspice and salt; let the whole stand for about 2 weeks, thoroughly mixing it every day with your hands, and then it will be ready for use. As pot pourris are charming gifts, it will be wise to arrange a number in order that one's city friends may have odors of the land of roses."

Bruised cloves

Making the Rose Jar

Rose petals
It was not difficult to find rose petals and lavender blossoms; I had some in my own garden, and was able to purchase more to complete the quantity I needed (full disclosure: I preserved the roses from my Mother's Day bouquet  --  merci cheri!). And it was easy to find cloves, cinnamon, and allspice at my local grocer.

But I had never heard of orris root and had no idea where to find it. My research revealed that it is a term used for the roots of the iris flower, which bloom profusely in my very own backyard. When dried, the root of the iris plant is used as a fixative for perfumes and pot pourri. I tried digging up a rhizome from one of the iris plants in my flower bed and left it to dry on a rock. The next day, it was gone, probably a dessert for one of the wild creatures that visit my domain at night.

Lavender blossoms
Further research indicated that I could probably purchase some orris root on the Internet, or I could use lavender oil as a substitute fixative. I decided on the latter course.
The results give off a heady fragrance of rose, lavender, and clove. After enjoying its scent in an open bowl for a time, I will pour it into the rose jar at the old homestead to freshen the aroma of the antique rose jar.

Rose pot pourri

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