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Mixing Ingredients - Making Loose Incense
If you are not starting with powdered ingredients then of course you must pulverize them using a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Electric coffee grinders produce too much heat, allowing for the loss of vital chemicals from our ingredients and therefore shouldn't be used. Also, most resins will break the blades of electric coffee grinders.
If you freeze your resins for a short while (1/4 hour or so), they will be much easier to pulverize. We've found that resins can only be ground or powdered using a mortar and pestle. We prefer using the Mexican Molcajete for this because of it's rough texture.
Woods are very difficult to pulverize with a mortar and pestle and really require the use of a hand crank coffee grinder of some sort or simply beginning with powdered woods.
If you are just starting out making incense mixtures then you should keep the number of ingredients down to three (3) to begin with, perhaps one wood and two herbs, or one resin, one wood and one herb, etc. As you get used to making incense you can slowly expand the number of ingredients you use.
So the first step is to choose the recipe you will use and gather the ingredients needed.
We recommend pulverizing your ingredients by "class" by grinding woods first, then herbs and saving the resins for last. Resins, if young and soft, will make a mess of your mortar and pestle and its best to keep freezing them to get them powdered. We also recommend saving them for grinding last, which allows you to grind everything in your recipe before you have to clean the mortar and pestle. We weigh each ingredient in our recipe after grinding, then keep one bowl for all our dry ingredients and another for all our resins.
Mix all your dry ingredients together first (herbs & woods), separately mix all your resins together then add your resins mixture to your dry mixture and mix together thoroughly. We like to throw the completed mixture into our mortar and pestle again and grind it all together one last time to help blend the aroma of each ingredient into the others.
Congratulations! You now have a "loose non-combustible incense mixture" and are ready to enjoy the aromatic treasure you've just created. We recommend aging mixtures for a couple of weeks so that all the aromatics permeate into each other and produce a single bouquet of fragrances. You can heat this mixture as it is over charcoal, on mica on top of charcoal, on mica on top of ash under which hot charcoal is buried, or on top of makko. If you are making "incense pellets" or "incense cones or sticks" then you still have a little work to do.
Making Incense Pellets
It's quite simple to make pellets from any loose incense mixture. They add a richer fragrance to any mixture and more dimension to your incense making.
There are many choices as to what you'll use to bind your pellets. Many resins come in a pliable form permitting the "molding" of pellets. Labdanum is often used in recipes of Japan to form pellets, some called neriko, a recipe used in the fall and winter seasons as well as for tea ceremony. Simply combine all other ingredients first, then add them to the labdanum, or other pliable resin, and knead well. Dry these pellets in a ceramic jar with a lid for 2 - 3 weeks.
Dried fruit can also be used to make incense pellets. We commonly use sulfur-free, organic Sultana Raisins or dried Prunes, though we have a batch drying as we write this where we've used dried Apricots. Honey is also used in this process as a preservative for the dried fruit, and adds a delightful warm fragrance to a mixture. Honey itself can be used to form pellets from any dry mixture without the use of any fruit or pliable resins.
We've found using about 1/2 - 3/4 of a cup of dried fruit for every 1 cup of loose incense mixture works well. We like to soak our dried fruit overnight in a heavy red wine before using. Once soaked overnight and drained, we add the fruit to our loose incense and use a food processor to blend this entire mixture together. If you do not wish to use a processor, then mix a small amount of fruit with a small amount of your mixture and mash it together with a mortar and pestle and continue this process until all of your mixture has pulverized fruit in it.
Transfer the entire mixture to a mixing bowl and drizzle in about one teaspoon of pure honey for every 3/4 cup of dried fruit, knead this together very well. At this point you can either crumble the mixture with your hands and spread it out on a cotton cloth, cardboard, wooden board, wax paper, etc. and store it indoors, out of the sunlight, allowing it to dry. You can also form pea-sized balls with your hands and then spread them out to dry. Drying time can take 2-4 weeks depending on climate. The mixture should be turned daily for proper drying. Alternatively, you may also place your pellets in a ceramic jar with a lid and allow them to age for up to a year. In Japan, the ceramic jar is sometimes buried in the ground for up to a year. This type of mixture can be burned on charcoal, mica over charcoal, or directly on makko.
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|Last updated: December 28, 2016||
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