When the holidays are upon them, the Marches like to celebrate in style, blending old traditions with new excess. One of the oldest traditions for them is the making of seasonal potpourri. Here is Aunt Hermia’s own recipe to make your house smell like Bellmont Abbey from the novella SILENT NIGHT:
Aunt Hermia’s Recipe for Winter Potpourri
From the French for “rotted pot”, potpourri was originally this damp version preferred by Aunt Hermia. The high moisture content caused the flowers to fade as they decayed, so the mixture was traditionally kept in porcelain jars with pierced lids. When placed on the hearth, the warmth from the fire caused the fragrance of the potpourri to waft through the room.
Layer the bottom of an earthenware crock with partly-dried rose petals. (The depth should reach to the first joint of your forefinger.) Sprinkle with sea salt to cover and add a splash of brandy. On top of this, place a layer of partly-dried lavender mixed with carnation petals. Sprinkle this with sea salt to cover and splash with brandy as well. Continue to layer, repeating pattern of petals and salt and brandy and pack firmly. When jar is not quite full, place a heavy china plate on top. Weight the plate with a clean brick wrapped in linen and seal the crock.
Place on a high shelf or a dark corner and leave it be for two days. On the third day, stir the mixture, then leave to cure for a fortnight. By this time, the petals and salt shall have formed a sort of damp cake. Break this up with your hands, crumbling it gently. To this crumbled cake, add broken cinnamon sticks–two for each layer of petals originally placed in the crock—and half a dozen bay leaves. Add a palmful of carefully dried orange peel and sprinkle over a palmful of powdered orrisroot. Mix gently. Finish with a final splash of brandy and turn again. It is best to leave it be for another fortnight, but if necessary, it may be used at once. Spoon it into a porcelain jar with a pierced lid and place near a source of warmth.