When we’re out on a walk, the boys are very fond of collecting things. Sticks are a given, but pine cones are another favourite of theirs. A couple of years ago, when we found a particularly large haul of pinecones, I started using them to make pinecone firelighters. It’s such an easy and satisfying task that I have made a couple of batches every year since. With the weather turning colder, and a pile of pinecones once again accumulating by the back door, it seemed the perfect time to begin.
What I used:
* Wax from about 10 tealight candles (with the metal casing and wick removed)
* Essential oils (clove, black pepper and orange)
* a glass bowl and a saucepan of water
* some baking parchment and a cooling rack
The pinecones that we find are usually closed up. To open, they require warmth. Bringing them inside the house does the job eventually, but to speed things up, I put them on a baking tray in a very low oven (about 50 c or gas mark 1). This takes two to three hours, during which time the kitchen has a lovely pine-fresh scent to it. They will need a shake every hour or so.
Once the pinecones have opened, I shake out any dirt or pine needles.
I heat the wax in a double boiler (a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water) until it has melted. I then add the essential oils. I stir in a few drops of orange and a couple of shakes each of black pepper and cloves for a lovely spicy, festive aroma.
I remove the wax from the heat and allow it to cool for a few moments. It can take a little trial and error to get it the right temperature for dipping the pinecones. It is ready when it is cool enough that it doesn’t burn my fingers and when I swirl the pinecones in it, they become immediately frosted with a white coating. If the wax goes on clear, it is not yet cool enough. If a skin starts to form on it and large lumps of wax stick to the cones, it is too cool and needs to be heated up again slightly.
Once each pinecone has been liberally frosted, I place it to cool on a sheet of parchment paper over a cooling rack.
I keep the pinecone firelighters in a wooden bowl on the mantelpiece. When lighting the fire, we throw in a couple of pinecone firelighters with the kindling. As they burn, they scent the room beautifully.
In previous years, we have packaged some up to give as Christmas gifts, and I suspect that this year will be no different…
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