Whether you display them au naturel in a glass bowl or you paint them with glitter, pine cones are a useful element for dozens of Christmas crafts and Winter decorations. But before you go turning the conical fruits into a tree ornament, your pinecones should be dried to remove them of pitch (their sticky resin residue) and so their layers open up beautifully.
Before you dry them, you'll need to clean the cones by picking off pine needles and removing any visible pitch by dabbing them a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Then, you should soak them in one part water, one part vinegar to get rid of any insects crawling around. The layers may close up when they're wet, but will reopen as they dry. Here are three methods to dry them:
- Air-drying. The first method is to air-dry them. Corral them up in a breathable container like a wicker basket or a woven shopping bag. Lay the base of the container with a sheet of paper to collect any debris that might fall. As you might expect, this method is the most time-consuming; it can take anywhere from several hours to a few days.
- Baking. Preheat your oven to 250° F. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil, covering it completely. Using gloves (to avoid sticky fingers!), set your pine cones on the pan, making sure they're separated. "Bake" them for an hour, checking occasionally to make sure they don't burn. The pitch should melt off the pine cones' layers. Remove from the foil and let them cool completely on a cooling rack.
- Microwaving. If you have only a few, the speediest way to dry your pinecones is by using the microwave. Lay a couple sheets of paper towel or parchment paper on the microwave plate, and then set one to three pinecones down. Zap them for a minute at a time on high power, watching them carefully to make sure they don't burn. This method will most likely leave your microwave with a woodsy smell, so clean it with lemon juice or vinegar afterwards to remove the scent.