It is an orange and clove pomander. Pomanders originated in the middle ages; I first became enchanted with them when I was very young and read about them in the books by Cynthia Harnett. Pomanders are balls containing scented herbs and perfumes, which were carried around to ward off bad smells and diseases. They were originally made from filigree silver or gold, and hinged to allow you to open them up and put the perfumes inside. These seasonal versions using oranges and cloves have been around for years too. For me their smell is quintessentially Christmas.
To make them you need:
- a nice, fat orange
- a box of cloves
- some ribbon
- a cocktail stick (optional)
Push the cloves into the orange as far as they will go, alongside the bits of ribbon. Let the wonderful smell wash over you. You can make life a little easier by piercing the orange's peel lightly with a cocktail stick before pushing the cloves into the holes. Once each section of the orange is outlined with cloves you can add some more to make designs on each section. I made our family's initials: G, N, C and O. Stripes look really good too.
If you put plenty of cloves in (you can of course stud the entire fruit with cloves and not bother making patterns at all) then your pomander should dry out slowly and keep for anything up to a few years.
Ours lives in the sitting room and is picked up and inhaled often. Pomanders look mighty fine hung from a Christmas tree too, although the options for sniffing them when they're hung on a tree are not so good.