How to Make Simmering Potpourri

How to turn fruit scraps into simmering potpourri.


When the leaves fell off the apple trees last fall, I found a couple of green apples on one late-ripening tree that I'd missed when I harvested the ripe ones.

Since there were only a couple apples, and they weren't in prime condition, I decided I'd use them to make some homemade simmering potpourri. 

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Back when I was a teenager, potpourri was trendy. My best friend and I loved shopping in little gift stores that displayed jars of potpourri ingredients, sealing wax and French milled soaps and so on.

But that dry potpourri didn't really give off much fragrance. More than anything, it was the textures and colors of a bowl of potpourri that were intriguing.

Simmering potpourri is different. As the ingredients are gently simmered on the stovetop the fragrance is released into your home. The scent is stronger and has more "body" than that old-fashioned potpourri in a dish.

Dry the fruit and make up a batch of homemade simmering potpourri to give as gifts

How to make your house smell amazing with simmering potpourri

Making a batch of stove top potpourri is easy. Just gather your ingredients, add them to water in a small pan and simmer gently on the stove. 

Instead of a pot on the stove, you can use a small slow-cooker to warm the potpourri and water. Put the lid on the slow-cooker and set it on high until the water gets hot, then turn it to low and remove the lid.

Be sure to keep an eye on the pan (or slow-cooker) and add more water when needed. Don't let the water all boil away or let your potpourri burn, because that wouldn't smell good at all.

Potpourri ingredients

To make this spur-of-the-moment fall potpourri, I used what I had in my kitchen:

  • green and red apples
  • fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • whole cloves, about a teaspoon
  • cinnamon sticks

Other great additions to your fall potpourri mix would be:

  • orange peels, fresh or dried
  • star anise
  • cardamom
  • cranberries
My motto is always "use what you have."

How to make DIY potpourri

To make fresh potpourri that you can simmer right away, slice the apples, oranges and ginger, and combine with the other ingredients in a small pan on the stove or a slow-cooker. 

Add 4 or 5 cups of water, and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer uncovered. (That's important, or you won't be able to smell the smells!)

Your house will smell amazing!

Remember to add water when needed.

How to make potpourri to give as gifts

If you'd like to give a jar of potpourri as a gift, you'll need to dry the fruit first so it won't spoil. It isn't hard. 

I peeled the apples and dehydrated the peels and apple cores in my L-Equip dehydrator, but you can slice the apples and dry the slices instead. 

Dry the fruit for DIY stove top potpourri in a dehydrator or oven.

In fact, slicing them across the core - so that you can see the seeds and the "star" in the middle of the slice - is very pretty.

If you don't have a dehydrator, you can dry the fruit in your oven. 

Preheat the oven to 250°F.

Slice the apples in 1/4-inch thick slices. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 4 or 5 hours, until the slices are dry and crispy. 

Peel the oranges and cut the peels into strips. Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 2 hours until they are dry. 

Let the fruit cool, then combine with the spices and other ingredients in a large bowl. Stir daily for several days, making sure the fruit doesn't feel tacky or sticky.

Citrus fruit can be tricky to dry - they may need to be baked longer if there's moisture present.

Divide the potpourri into jars or plastic bags. Add gift tags with instructions for simmering.

Isn't that easy?

This homemade stove top potpourri would be a wonderful teacher gift, housewarming gift or hostess gift. Or for a Secret Santa exchange, or to tuck in a holiday stocking.

Try these fragrant combinations

Don't stop with this autumn fragrance combination. There are so many more to try!

How about:

  • Lemons with cinnamon sticks, rosemary and nutmeg
  • Pears with vanilla bean and cardamom
  • Apple, some canned pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice
  • Pine cones, or pine needles, with cinnamon and apples

What other combinations would you like to try?

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How to turn fruit scraps into DIY simmering potpourri.

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