Guests are arriving in about an hour and the house is musty. Old laundry is piled up and a tell-tale aroma lets on that someone forgot to take out the garbage. The kitty litter needs sifting, the toilet bowl needs swishing and junior just had a last-minute diaper change. It would take a fortnight to sufficiently air out the house and there's simply no time. What's a harried homemaker to do?
Bake an apple pie, of course! The delectable aroma of cinnamon, cloves, sliced apples and a buttery, golden crust is the perfect mask for the "lived-in" scent that has invaded your house. Unfortunately, there is barely time to begin a load of laundry, much less embark on a baking project.
You could have outsourced to Merry Maids but they were overbooked. How can you restore your house to some semblance of apple-pie freshness without getting too far behind schedule? Fake it, of course!
Set a skillet on the stove, add a pat of butter, a pinch of cinnamon, some cloves and a pinch of brown sugar, and heat till sizzling. Throw in a diced apple (skin and all), some orange or lemon peel, carefully (to avoid splattering) add a few inches of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer - and watch carefully that it doesn't boil down too fast and scorch your pan! Voila! The sweet aroma of fresh apple pie will permeate your house.
Of course, there are other ways to achieve the apple-pie effect. You could randomly throw some apples (canned or fresh) into a crock pot with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, water, cloves, allspice and orange peel, and simmer indefinitely (in a pinch, use apple sauce) and quickly scorch some butter with brown sugar in a stovetop frying pan for extra effect, with or without extra orange or lemon zest. The results won't be edible, but if you play around with spice combinations (refer to the above), the possibilities are nearly endless.
If you are plum out of apples or any derivative thereof, the fragrant spices alone (in any combination) simmering in water will do to create a liquid potpourri.
You can caramelize some sugar in a frying pan to obtain something similar to a baking aroma.
Assuming you have spare time on your hands, you can create apple pomanders, pseudo "pie pourri" or apple-sachets.
Translated from French, the word "potpourri" literally means "rotten pot!" The French made "pot pourri" by fermenting flowers (petals or whole) and other fragrant ingredients between layers of salt in a crock to create a long-lasting and strong scent.
Here's how to make the apple-pie version:
Layer apple peels, cloves, cinnamon (ground and stick variety), ginger and nutmeg, orange and lemon peels with coarse salt in an open jar, crock or bowl and allow to ferment. The more clove buds you add, the sooner your mixture will dehydrate, which is especially good if you wish to make sachets.
To make into sachets:
Sew the dry potpourri between layers of porous material or store in pouches of breathable fabric (i.e. voile, tulle, cheesecloth or lace) and tie with decorative ribbon. Store in drawers, laundry hampers, or hang wherever your house needs a strong dose of apple-pie fresh scent.
Apple-pie scented pomanders:
Stud a whole apple with lots of whole cloves - the more cloves the better. Roll in powdered cinnamon. In a few days, the apple will shrivel and harden - the aroma will be sublime. Tie with festive ribbon and hang wherever you want your house to smell sensational. You can do the same with oranges and lemons. The combined scents will fool your guests into thinking you've been busy baking.
You could get real, and actually bake a few apples - while the apples are in the oven, you could start that load of laundry and get the gym socks out of the air.
Or, you could simmer some apple juice or cider with apple-pie spices on the stovetop and thus, have something yummy to offer your guests besides the aroma. No real baking involved! Delicious served up by the steaming mug-full, and garnished with a cinnamon stick.
Now, how do you fake the aroma of freshly baked pie crust? Not easily, but if you combine sugar, butter and pastry flour in a shallow tin, moisten with water into a gooey paste and bake on a very low setting, you can give the illusion. Don't overcook, lest the house smokes up! Considering the waste of good food, you may as well invest in some real frozen apple pies, follow the EZ package instructions and have a facsimile of the real thing in no time. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and your guests may not notice it hadn't been prepared from scratch.
Or, plan ahead and conserve enough time and resources to bake Apple Pie Ala [Your Name].
However you choose to scent your house, do take care to keep any potpourri - decorative, liquid, sachet or pomander, apple-pie scented or otherwise - out of reach of children.