If you have ground cinnamon, you have incense, just add water. Not, I'm really not kidding about that. It may shape more attractively with a binding agent of some kind, but will work without it. Additional herbs, fragrant oils, or resins can be added, but they are not, strictly speaking, necessary. There will be subtle variations in smell from the sweet, sharp Saigon to the mild, woody, earthy cinnamon available at any dollar store, but the only 'wrong' kind of cinnamon for this is the one you don't keep in your spice cupboard as a cooking ingredient.

My standard batch for cinnamon/herb/water:

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon accent herb/spice

Enough water to mak a play dough texture.

Once the dough has enough flexibility to shape into a ball, put it between 2 sandwich bags and roll it into a bout 1/8- 1/16 inch flat. Remove the top bag and use a sharp knife to cut strips. If the knife stars to stick, wipe the blade clean between cuts. Be patient and gentle because the wet dough will be extremely delicate. Once you're satisfied with the separations between 'sticks', carefully slide your hand under the bag, set a wood cutting board on top, and turn hand and cutting board over to transfer the wet mix on top. Slowly remove the bag that's now on top of the mix and let it dry over night on the board.

Resist the urge to fuss over broken spots. You wll just give yourself a head ache. Don't fret over places that look a bit rough. It won't keep what basically amounts to wood bark from burning later, and you'll just give yourself a head ache. If you find yourself getting OCD on the looks of the incense, invest in a good binding agent because this blend is just not structurally stable enough when wet to get particularly artistic with. Any sticks that break while wet will dry faster and give you something to test your scent with, so just go with it.

Star anise, ginger root, and cardamom smell nice and compliment the cinnamon well, but all three seem to resist burning much like resins. I like to keep them in small amounts in relations to a burn base so my combustible blends actually...combust. If you get it wrong, the mix can always be re-wet, or the dry blend can be used with charcoal disks or as a simmer. Since there are only 2 ingredients, this can also help you estimate what went right or wrong in experiments with new materials.

On to working with resin.

Many people have tried to tell my family that a 2.5 inch ceramic mortar an pestle is just pointless because it's too small to get anything done. In the past 20 years I can count on 1 hand the number of times ANYONE in the family has used the big, fancy, grey marble set that can easily grind 1/2 cup - 1 cup worth of herbs, and the rest of the time it's looked very pretty on the shelf. Now if you ask me how many times I use my little ceramic set in a week? I lost count. It only has room for about a teaspoon comfotably, and that's the perfect size for me to crush up some rosemary and pink salt for the chicken I'm cooking. The small surface area means less of my resin sticks to it, and more of it ends up in an incense blend. I can wash it just like I was any coffee mug and don't have to worry about 'seasoning'. If you haven't got a mortar and pestle already, go cheep and small unless you plan to use it for comertial projects.

Now true resins are special. They are great for turning into a tar like substance. It's a wonderful property for sealing wood work and in certain cosmetics, but it's pretty horible inside an electric coffee grinder. If you don't own a mortar and pestle, fake it with a sppon and a tea cup, but don't fake it with a coffee grinder. In fact, avoid working with resins useing anything you would not clean with hot, soapy water and a good long soak.

With the herbs that behave like resin, oil is optional. Any time I use resins, I also use an oil to coat the mortar and pestle before I start grinding. This helps to soften the paste, reducing the resin's tar-like behavior, so it blends more easily with other ingredients and saves me scrubbing later. Lorrann Candy Flavoring oils, essential oil, and any number of fragrance oils can be used depending on what you have and what you like. If you can dip a toothpick in it, light it on fire, and the smoke smells nice, you can use it in incense. You have to smell it, so use things you like.



1 tablespoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon resin

3-6 drops oil

1/8 teaspoon psyllium seed husk fiber*


Drop the oil of choice into the mortar and pestle. Add your best estimation of 1/4 teaspoon resin and gently roll it around in the oil to coat it. start grinding the oil and resin together till the mix starts to resemble sand, then add about 1/8-1/4 of the cinnamon. Keep grinding till you get a smooth paste, then scrape it into the rest of the cinnamon. If you don't have the psyllium, use the same method of preparation as the first recipe.

*If you do have the psyllium, add water till you get a flexible, play dough like texture, then let the mix rest for an hour or 2. Check the texture again, add more water as needed, and shape the mix exactly like you would play dough or bread dough till the sticks look close in size to comertial incense. The psyllium makes for a very flexible dough that allows for a more polished shape and even creative flourishes like leaf or flower shapes. As long as the finished shapes don't get much thicker than 1/8 inch and connect in a way that allows for continual burning, you can get as fussy and artistic as you like. Dry the shaped mix on a mesh screen or wood cutting board over night.

I have made this mix repeatedly, and my latest batch still came up a bit of a surprise. This time I used ylang ylang 3 essential oil with frankincense resin, and if I had not mixed it myself, I would swear it had a generous amount of sandalwood in it. I'm not heart broken, but I'm clearly not a master blender. Don't panic if your mix didn't come out the way you expected it to, just learn from it.



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