Rotten Pots and Sweet Jars

Did you know that the word potpourri is French for rotten pot?

You can make authentic Victorian moist potpourri–sometimes called “sweet jar”–by thickly layering fragrant blossoms with salt in a wide-mouthed ceramic or opaque glass jar. Use blossoms of rose, carnation, peony, lilac, honeysuckle, or lavender and the leaves of scented geraniums and other fragrant herbs (margoram, rosemary). You may also add dried orange and lemon peel, cloves, broken cinnamon sticks, and allspice berries. Any kind of salt will do.

Add a splash of brandy or vodka to each blossom-leaf layer, and press down firmly. You can add more blossoms as the summer wears on. When the jar is full, add a little more brandy and (if you wish) 2 teaspoons of orris root as a fixative and stir. Store for six weeks, then place in one or more opaque, non-metallic containers with lids. The potpourri isn’t pretty, but it is fragrant. Perforated lids allow the flowers to scent the room. Victorian ladies kept their sweet jars tightly covered until they were entertaining guests.

When the scent finally fades, a few drops of essential oil will renew it.