Thursday, December 6, 2007

chestnuts roasting on an open fire - the scents of Christmas

In France in the wintertime they actually do sell roasted chestnuts on the streets. And to be perfectly honest, the smell didn't make me crazy for the holidays or anything, but it was fun to see chestnuts roasting, if for no other reason than it reminded me that Jack Frost was nipping at my nose, or would be in the near future.  There are other smells I prefer for the holidays.

Potpourri was invented for Christmas.  Alright, I don't actually know that for a fact, but if it wasn't it should have been, because it makes perfectly good sense that potpourri and Christmas go hand in hand. The lovely blend of smells that are synonymous with the holidays can go a long way to helping you forget about all of the presents you still have left to buy, and wrap, and send out.  Okay, well maybe that's not a good thing, but it can at least bring a few relaxing moments into your day.

I like to toss a few whole cloves, whole allspice berries, some cinnamon sticks and some orange slices (peel and all) into some boiling water and let it simmer on the stove.  I keep and eye on the water level so that I don't have to deal with burnt cinnamon smell which, let's face it, isn't as pleasant.

If you want to be practical about the whole spicy thing then you can do as I also often do during the holidays: make wassail in bulk.  Yum, wassail.  I find as I get older, it had become my preferred drink on chilly mornings or afternoons or evenings, even more than gourmet cocoa.  (A really good cocoa can catch my attention, don't get me wrong- but it can get to be too much for me).  Wassail has become a tradition for my family in the last few years, and the other night when getting ready to mix up a batch I called to ask where the recipe was.  My mom directed me to the correct cookbook and my sister, heading up stairs, called out "page ten!"

So I present the following recipe for your consumption.  I always double this and put it in the refrigerator for a few days and just heat up a cup in the microwave whenever I feel like it.

Combine 2 cups water and 1/2 cup sugar in large pot.  Bring to boil, stirring occasionally, so that the sugar combines with the water and doesn't get stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Let boil 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add 5 whole cloves, 4 whole allspice berries, 1 cinnamon stick , 1/2 piece of crystallized ginger (a good reason to double this, if you need one, just drop in one whole piece - all done) and a partridge in a pear tree.  Just kidding on that last one.
Cover.  Let sit for one hour. Strain mixture (a.k.a. remove all spices, with a slotted spoon if you like).  Add 4 cups apple juice, 2 cups orange juice and 2 cups lemonade (some recipes call for lemon juice - I prefer lemonade).  Reheat.  Serve immediately in cozy holiday mugs to people standing outside your door wearing turtlenecks, scarves, earmuffs, and singing carols to you, preferably in tune.

I know there are other recipes.  I ran across one that called for cranberry juice and it looked delicious, but the whole spice combining was too complicated for my simple soul, so I probably won't try it, but if you have a good wassail recipe, share and share alike!


  1. I love to have pumpkin spice candles going all the way from Halloween through Christmas. My hubby just bought me a candy cane candle, which smells good, but I wish was a lot stronger.

    I also love egg nog. Do you think that boiling egg nog on the stove would give the whole house a nice Chrismas smell?

  2. My favorite Christmas scent from France was the clementine oranges that had been covered in cloves. My host mother, actually almost all the homes I went to, had a bowl of them sitting in the living room around Christmas time. They let off the gentle aroma of citrus and cloves and cinnamon, that combined with the pine-y scent of the Christmas tree was irresistable. It was like hot mulled wine, candy canes, chocolate orange slices, and Christmas trees all rolled into one - delicious!