How to Make Simmering Potpourri to Make Your House Smell Good

orange slices and spices

Learn how to make your own simmering potpourri that will make your house smell like autumn.

The scents of autumn

Every season brings its own signature of smells and textures and feelings. Fall brings thoughts of coziness, spicy scents, soft blankets and warm colors.

Simmering potpourri is simple to make from easy-to-find ingredients that will make your house smell wonderful. 

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Dry potpourri and simmering potpourri

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 its fragrance for very long. The scents waned as time went on. 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 good 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. 

The scent will fill your home and lend a welcome, cozy feeling that surrounds you, your family and your guests. 

No fixatives or fillers or essential oils are required in simmering potpourri.


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.

Instead of simmering your potpourri in 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.

Of course, you'll still need to keep an eye on the water level if you use a slow-cooker.

Potpourri ingredients

To make this easy DIY fall potpourri recipe, start with the following ingredients:

  • 2 green and/or red apples
  • a one-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • whole cloves, about a teaspoon
  • a cinnamon stick or, broken in half

Other great additions to your fall potpourri mix would be:

My motto is always "use what you have," so be creative and don't worry if you don't have all of these ingredients.

How to make DIY simmering 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 spicy scents!)

Your house will smell amazing!

Remember to add water when needed.

How to reuse simmering potpourri

After using, put the covered pan of simmering potpourri in the refrigerator. You can reuse it by adding more water and reheating. 

Discard after one week, and make another batch.

How to make potpourri to give as gifts

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

Peel and slice the apples thinly. I include the peels for added color and texture.

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

You can also slice the apple core and dehydrate it. 

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

Cut the oranges in thin circular slices so the resemble wheels. Slice the orange peel from the top and bottom of the oranges in thin strips.

Don't forget the ginger. Slice it thinly or coarsely grate it. You can also purchase dried ginger.

Dry in a dehydrator until everything is dry crispy. The oranges may need additional time, dry them until they are no longer sticky.

No dehydrator? Use your oven

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, or cut them into circular "wheels." Bake on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for 2 hours until they are dry and no longer sticky.

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

Add the spices 

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.

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

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

Try these fragrant simmering potpourri recipes too

Don't stop with this autumn fragrance combination. There are so many more combinations 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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Autumn-scented simmering potpourri

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