The best pot pourri…

In my pursuit of Nottingham jars… I don’t think I shall ever find an actual one, and even if I did it would probably be too expensive, and even if it wasn’t I’m trying to get rid of things not acquire new things… but in my pursuit I came across a completely different sort of recipe using one. A Nottingham jar as far as I can gather is rather like a slow cooker in function and in this case, the thing being slowly cooked is pot pourri.

I don’t know who Mrs Lionel Hanbury of Hitcham House in Burnham, Buckinghamshire was, but here is how you make her best pot pourri:

  • 1 lb powdered orris-root
  • 12 grains musk
  • 1 lb mixed spice
  • 24 tonquin beans
  • ¾ lb cloves
  • 1 bottle eau de Cologne
  • 1 bottle essence of verbena
  • ½ lb powdered camphor
  • 1 bottle essence of heliotrope
  • 2 bottles of attar of roses

Apart from no volumes being given for the bottles, there is the issue of understanding what these different items are – heliotrope is a kind of borage, a very pretty purple flower, used in cocktails and punches and salads I think, tonquin beans are what we now know as tonka beans, and orris is a type of iris which is often used in perfume making. Another issue is… what on earth would it smell like?! Good grief, camphor in tiny little amounts smells appalling, imagine ½ lb of it! … and that huge quantity of cloves, plus whatever Mrs Lionel Hanbury of Hitham might have in her mixed spice mixture – a typical blend now might be

  • 1 tbs ground allspice
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground mace
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground ginger

Having got all your ingredients together, weighing nearly four pounds before the liquids are added, here is what Mrs H. advises you to do:

Dry the rose petals (she doesn’t tell us how many) thoroughly on paper trays in the sun for 2 days. Then put them in a Nottingham jar thus: first a layer of rose-leaves, then one of bay salt (sea salt), and pour brandy over them. Fill the jar with layers in this order and then seal hermetically. Stand it to ripen for a month, and then mix in the orris root and other ingredients. Plenty of lavender is an improvement. When the pot pourri gets very dry, take it out of the bowls, etc. in which it usually stands and put it back in the Nottingham jar. Renew the scent and leave for a time, then replace in bowls.

Does she mean rose petals? Supposing after putting all these expensive ingredients together it smells disgusting? Are you supposed to leave all the cloves and beans whole, or should they be ground?

The book in which this appears was first published in the early 1920’s as part of a charity recipe book, A Book Of Scents And Dishes, by Dorothy Allhusen, born Mary Dorothy Osma Stanley. I’m not exactly sure who Mrs Hanbury was, but she may have been Margaret Colmore Hanbury, the wife of a wealthy hop merchant.

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