The holiday season is behind us, but that doesn't mean we can't keep those warm and inviting smells of cinnamon and cloves in the house. While scented candles with names like Cinnamon Sugar Frosting and Pumpkin Spice Latte sound scrumptious, oftentimes, they're overly sweet or artificial-smelling (and who knows what kind of particulates they're putting into the air in your home).
Old-fashioned simmer pots — the kind your mother or grandmother may have used — are a natural way to add a delicious spicy scent and humidify dry winter air all in one swoop. Think of it as a potpourri pot, bubbling away on your stove all day. If you have a radiator, you can simply place your simmer pot on top and let the gentle heat release the aroma.
Almost any of your favorite spices and herbs will work, including cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, star anise, allspice, bay leaves, coriander, lavender, rosemary, and peppermint.
You can also add fresh or dried citrus, apple, or ginger peels. (Quick no-waste tip: Save all of your peels after juicing or slicing the fruits, thoroughly air dry them, then store them in an airtight jar for use in your simmer pots.) If you have any citrus starting to go bad, cut them up and throw them into the pot.
A teaspoon of vanilla extract also makes a simmer pot smell divine; or, add a few drops of your favorite therapeutic essential oils to create a custom scent.
To start your simmer pot, fill a small pot halfway with water and stir in your spices, herbs, peels, or fruits. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for as long as you like. Top off with more water as necessary, usually every 30 to 60 minutes. (Larger pots won't need to be refilled as often.)
For a classic winter simmer pot recipe, try this combination:
- Peel from 1 orange
- 5 bay leaves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon cloves
For a fresher and more floral scent, try:
- Peel from 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup dried lavender
And for a simmer pot that does triple duty (as in, you can drink it too!), check out our suggestions for how to spice up a pot of apple cider... your house will smell so delicious, you'll want to make an extra large pot to sneak mugs from.
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