Use this Tutorial for DIY pomanders and make your own clove oranges and clove apples in a matter of minutes. This makes a great seasonal craft for autumn, Rosh Hashanah, or any Pioneer home education unit. Plus, the resulting clove oranges and apples are an eco-friendly, non-plastic decoration that can enhance the beauty and health of your home.
If you find this tutorial useful, you may also be interested in our upcoming book, Homestead Holidays, which is full of DIYs and How-Tos to make all the seasons of the year merry and bright for your family on the homestead. This book has all the handmade, homestead-inspired fun you could possibly want and it takes you around the calendar year! To be the first to learn about its release, sign up below. (We won’t send you any nonsense, just an update about the book’s publication.)
What is a Clove Orange or Apple Pomander?
Historically, clove oranges and apples were made an hung to combat the odors that naturally accumulate in a house of busy people doing harvest work in the late autumn. Most families had one room in which the congregated for meals and family time, and so pomanders were hung around to make the air more pleasant.
Also, the pungent herbs that were used to create the pomanders – citrus, cloves, cinnamon, etc. – were thought to ward off disease and even flying pests like flies.
Today, clove oranges and apples are used to enhance natural decorations of the holiday season, while improving the air quality of the home with their delightful scents.
Made and stored properly, these clove oranges and apples can last for years.
What’s the Best Way to Make a Clove Orange?
The best way to make a clove orange is to pre-pierce the skin with a sharp needled or bamboo skewer. This will make the process go much faster. We have specific directions below.
Also, only use oranges that are fresh and without blemish. A diseased or damaged orange is used to make a pomander, it may mold and disintegrate.
How and Why Do People Push Cloves Into Oranges?
This is a good question and probably the most common one. As I said above, the easiest way to get the cloves to insert completely is to pre-pierce the rind of the orange or skin of the apple (yes, you can make apple pomanders, too).
The reason oranges and apples are studded with whole cloves is because they’re antibacterial and act as a preservative. As the fruit dries, the cloves help keep it drying evenly and without mold and bacteria. You MUST keep the fruit in a place with good air circulation but the cloves and other spices you dust the fruit with act as a preservative.
How Do You Make an Orange Clove Pomander?
We have detailed instructions below but if you need an overview of the activity for a class or group project, here you go:
- Gather citrus and/or apples that are fresh and blemish-free.
- Use a bamboo skewer to pierce holes in the rind or skin starting at the top of the fruit.
- Insert whole cloves, stem-first so the bulbous tops are resting against the fruit.
- This whole process takes 20 minutes for an adult. My eight year old can stud an orange in 40 minutes with help piercing the skin and reminders to stop dancing around and come finish her orange. To save time and still have fun, I usually just have her help me for however long she wants.
Can you Make an Apple Pomander with Cloves?
Yes! You can follow these same instructions to make a clove apple. This is an especially appropriate activity for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebrated in the autumn.
Sephardic Jews (from Spain and Portugal) have a tradition of preserving their sweetest apples by studding them with cloves. These apples are used as a kind of smelling salt to revive those who are fasting for Yom Kippur with their pungent aroma. Plus, it’s a great way to preserve the apples!
DIY Pomanders: Clove Oranges & Apples
- Citrus (oranges, limes, lemons) or Apples
- Whole Cloves, 1/4 cup
- Spice mix of 1 Tbsps. each of ground ginger and cinnamon (will be enough for about two apples)
- Alternatively, you may also use 1 Tbsps. of Garam Masala spice mix
- Bamboo Skewer, Large Needle, Poultry Nail, etc.
- Cotton String, or Twine
- Use fruit (citrus or apple) free of blemish, fragrant and, preferably, with a stem for hanging while drying.
- Prick the fruit all over with a bamboo skewer, poultry nail or bamboo skewer to “pre-drill” the fruit.
- Using whole cloves, cover the surface of the apple entirely with cloves placed very close together.*
- Double check that the fruit is covered; if you've made a picture or pattern with the cloves, be sure that it is complete.
- Place the fruit into a paper bag with 1 Tbsps. of the spice mix and close the top of the bag.
- Shake gently to coat the outside of the fruit with the spice mix.**
- Remove from bag and tie the string around the stem of the fruit to hang in a cool, dark place with good air circulation.
- If the fruit has no stem, tie a tight knot at the end of the bamboo skewer with the twine. Pierce the fruit all the way through one side to the other horizontally, taking the twine through the fruit. Remove the skewer completely and tie and knot with the ends of the twine - hang from this.
- Check daily and compost any that have mold.
- You may also toss them in the spice mixture several times as the fruit dries.
* You can create a pattern with the cloves to be pretty (instead of preserved) so that you can use your clove apple immediately for holiday decoration. It will last about a week before it needs to be composted.
**This step is not necessary for the apple to dry well because the cloves act as a preservative. However, the spice mix fills in the crevices of the apple and helps preserve it further. Because I live in a humid climate, not to mention one that can still be on the warm side in October and November, extra preservation help is important to me. The spices also add extra fragrance.
Garam Masala is my favorite dusting spice for apples because the combination of fragrances is delicious. I like a simple cinnamon dusting for oranges.
Drying with a Pomander with a Dehydrator
If you want to be sure your clove orange or apple desiccates quickly and evenly, you can use a dehydrator to jump start the process.
- Use smaller apples, if you’re going to put them into the dehydrator so they dry out faster and maintain their shape better.
- Place the studded apples on your dehydrator rack and turn the temperature to 135F/57C – 140F/60C.
- Check every two hours to see how the apples are doing and turn them upside down if they’re looking a little flat.
- You can keep dehydrating in the unit, or you can remove and hang by the stem to finish drying.
Fruit that is dried quickly in a dehydrator or oven will usually have a more uneven shape and will, perhaps, be darker in color.
Remember to gift one of these apples to anyone who will be fasting for Yom Kippur. They can even take them into synagogue and give them a quick whiff if they’re feeling faint or queasy from hunger.
How to Prevent Mold in Clove Oranges
If you’re concerned about your climate – one that is particularly humid – the first thing I recommend is that you use smaller fruit. A smaller, even slightly older orange, with a thinner rind will dry a bit quicker and produce a nicely dried clove orange.
When clove-studding an apple, choose a high pectin, low juice variety like Granny Smith, or any of the cider apple varieties. These apples are naturally much drier.
Keep the clove oranges hanging in a warm-ish place with excellent air circulation – like a fan gently blowing on them.
Also, it’s very important to follow proper storage practices. We outline those in the following article in great detail:
Those this article is for dried citrus slices, the storage recommendations are the same.
Here are a few more resources that might be of use to you!