Making Spiced Clementine Pomander Balls

by - Friday, December 21, 2018

Christmas shopping provided a glutton of gloriously scented clementines. Traditionally, oranges were given as gifts and placed in the foot of a stocking. Though this tradition harks back to less prosperous times when fresh fruit was considered a rare and expensive treat, it is also steeped in festive legend.

During his lifetime, Saint Nicholas was a bishop whose generosity to give while expecting nothing in return appears to have inspired our practice of gifting at Christmas. The legend tells us that he was travelling through a village where a widowed father was troubled that he could not afford dowries for his three beautiful daughters. Saint Nicholas, upon hearing of the poor widower's plight, knew the man would be too proud to accept money as a gift. Instead, he threw three bags of gold down chimney of the family home, under the cover of night. One of the bags caught a stocking which had been hung to dry on the fireplace, which overnight hardened into a ball of gold, now symbolised by the vibrant colour of oranges in our modern homage to the legend.

Since today is the Winter Solstice (just four sleeps away from the big day), my daughter and I decided to decorate a few as pomanders to scent our home and dinner table centrepiece. Here's how to make your own.

What you will need:

  • Firm citrus fruits (we used clementines, but you could just as easily use oranges or grapefruits)
  • A jar of whole cloves
  • (Optional) Cocktail sticks or a thin nail, to pierce the skin
  • A citrus zester or vegetable peeler
  • (Optional) Ribbon or baker's twine, if you want to hang your finished pomanders


  1. Using the corner of your citrus zester (or the corner of a vegetable peeler, though this will create wider lines), carve a design into the skin of your fruit. Be sure to apply a light touch, so as not to expose the fruit inside. For our designs, we used a combination of swirls and lines.
  2. Once you've finished scoring your design, push whole cloves into the gaps of your design. We've found that more cloves not only provide a stronger scent, but allow the fruit to dry out faster, giving them a longer shelf life. Using a cocktail stick or thin nail to break tough citrus skin can help you push in the cloves more easily.
  3. To finish, you could arrange your pomanders in a bowl or on a plate, using greenery, fir cones or other festive to decorate. If you would like to hang your pomanders, wrap a ribbon or colourful baker's twine around the outside and tie a loop at the top. 

Unfortunately, pomanders don't usually have a long shelf life and may become mouldy. You may want to display them for only a few hours each day, refrigerating between sessions to prolong their life and scent. Alternatively, hang them in a cool dry place to enable the flesh to completely dry out.

We hope you will enjoy making your own spiced pomander balls! If you have any tips to prolong the life of these festive treats, please feel free to share in the comments below.

You May Also Like