Enfleurage is an old world technique using fat to extract essential oils from flowers. This historically has been used to extract the oils from very delicate flowers like gardenia, roses, tuberose etc. These are what are considered “absolutes” which can also be chemically extracted. It is a very expensive, time consuming and somewhat secretive process that has been handed down from generations of perfume makers. Traditionally animal fats are used in the extraction process but now there are vegan options like coconut oil, which is what you will use in your preparation! Now, what we will be creating is technically considered ‘enfleurage pomade” which is just the first step in the process. But actually extracting the essential oil would involve dozens of lbs if not tons of flower material, so for a kitchen herbalist, this is near impossible. This is mostly just a way to learn a new herbal technique that has a lot of history. I guarantee you will feel like a 19th century French ‘parfumeur’ while making this enfleurage.
2 Glass pyrex baking dishes (rectangle or circular)
2 cups of coconut oil (depending on size of your dish, enough to come up about ¼-1/2 inch)
3 cups of flower material
For this recipe, I decided to use orange blossoms. I have a long love affair with neroli. To me, it is like heaven on earth. We have quite a few citrus trees, and while it is enough to intoxicate the senses while working in the garden, they don’t supply enough to make much. I used to make a seasonal orange blossom hydrosol but over the years I got busy and just sort of enjoyed the scent in my own garden. But this year I was inspired to try my hand at enfleurage using these tiny blossoms. While many articles online warn you not to use such petite flowers, I went ahead anyway because that’s what I do… The small size of the flowers isn’t really much of an issue. The only thing I would suggest is that you remove the stamen, and stem from the flowers. Carefully pinch off both parts and toss them into your compost. The pollen from the flower will stain your oil yellow, and if you want the purest scent, the stems and any green has to go.
Directions Take your coconut oil and melt it over low heat in a small saucepan. Or you can alternatively melt it in the microwave for about 2 minutes. When its fully melted, pour it into your glass dish. Wait for it to cool down and solidify. It should take about 2-3 hours, so you can do this ahead of time, or overnight.
Using a sharp paring knife, in a criss cross pattern, gently create slits in the solid coconut. This will ensure that the scent penetrates the top layer of coconut.
Place your orange blossoms (or other flower choice) face down (stem side up) on the surface of the coconut. Gently press it down. Cover the entire surface. If there are any empty spaces, you can use any loose petals, and scatter them around. Take the second glass dish and place it over the flowers, pressing down to seal the fragrance in. If you have a beeswax food wrap, you can place it over the flowers, and under the second glass dish. This sort of helps to seal everything in. You can also use plastic wrap, but that wont let it breathe naturally, and the beeswax fabric will allow a slight flow of air in.
Leave the flowers for about 24-48 hours. After a day check the flowers. If they have turned brown, or look mushy by any means take them out immediately. But typically they should stay somewhat fresh looking for at least 24 hours. After they are spent (wilted, but not rotten) carefully pick the flowers off and toss them out. You will repeat this process until the scent has permeated the oil. Some say this can be up to 10-20 applications. Depending on the level of fragrance this might be true for more delicate scents, but I only did 3 changes of the orange blossoms and it came out beautifully.
Scrape the coconut oil into a jar, or keep it in the dish covered if you are going to use it within the next few days. The oil in the jar will last much longer. You can use this oil as the base for a salve, body balm, chap stick, cuticle oil, any herbal preparation that requires a base of oil! It will have a lighter scent than lets say a couple of drops essential oil, but its all about the experience. The process of making this is a really ancient and beautiful art. I would love to know how yours turns out and if anyone has any tips as well!