Preparing Pine Cones for Crafts
Natural pine cones are popular and versatile Christmas craft items, used plain or decorated in the making of wreathes, swags, centerpieces and ornaments. While you can purchase pine cones ready for craft use, it's easy to prepare your own.
Pine cones should always be gathered as soon as possible after they fall from the tree. If they remain on the ground too long they will become discolored and start to deteriorate. Place the newly-fallen pine cones in a warm place until they begin to open and drop their seeds.
Wash the pine cones in warm water, scrubbing well with a brush to remove the dirt.
To remove pitch and add shine, bake the fresh pine cones on flat pans in a very slow (200 degrees F) oven, just until the pitch melts. This process also kills any small insects that might be lurking in the cones. Keep an eye on them while baking - if you bake them too long they will darken. Use disposable pans - the pitch will get on the pans and they shouldn't be re-used for cooking.
A word of caution: You might expect baking pine cones to smell really nice - they don't! You will want to do this in a very well-ventilated area!