Beeswax Wraps seem to be the latest environmental solution to the reduction in the use of plastics. While it appears there are a lot of people trying to reduce their use of plastic, environmental alternatives are not yet readily available.
We stopped using clingfilm a while ago and use baking paper in the kitchen instead. However, its not great when you want to cover a bowl or want something to be air tight and stay fresh. We use clip top glass jars with a rubber seal (Like Kilner jars) to keep dried ingredients fresh, but every now and then still have to resort plastic food bags 🙁
Beeswax Wraps - The Answer to Reducing Plastic in the Kitchen?
At the River Cottage Festival we saw the Beeswax Wrap Company selling sheets of cotton material coated/impregnated with beeswax. Marketed as a food wrap and replacement for cling film, these seemed like a great idea.
We nearly bought some to try, but then it occurred to me that we had all the materials to make these ourselves. Surely these must be easy to make? We have plenty of beeswax from our bees, plenty of spare bits of cotton material from Barbara's sewing. So when my sister in-law pointed out another company making beeswax wraps, I thought I would have a go! So here's what I did.
- Cotton Cloth (I cut the cloth with pinking shears to a size of 50cm x 30cm)
- 10grams of Beeswax
- Baking tray
- Baking parchment
- New paint brush
- Pinking shears
- Pre-heat the oven to 60°C. (Beeswax melts at 37 °C, but will discolour if the temperature of the oven is too high. In addition beeswax is flammable - so bee careful!)
- Cut the edges of the material with the pinking shears;
- Place the baking parchment onto the baking tray and place the material on top;
- Lightly cover the material with grated beeswax. You don't need that much (see picture), but try and evenly distribute it over the material, in particularly close to the edges and corners.
- Put the tray and the material in the pre-heated oven and wait until the wax has melted.
- Once the wax has melted take the baking tray out of the oven. With the clean paint brush, quickly and carefully spread the melted wax over the cloth, making sure it goes into the corners and covers the edges. As it cools, the wax will quickly stiffen and become unworkable. If there are areas of cloth that are not covered, then return the tray to the oven and wait for the wax to melt before spreading with the paint brush again.
- If there are still uncovered patches on the cloth (for example the edges and corners) and no more wax to spread around, just sprinkle a little more wax onto the patches you need covering and return to the oven to melt.
- Once the cloth is evenly covered with melted beeswax, leave to cool on the baking parchment (this only take a matter of minutes), or hang over a coat hanger.
- Once cool you will have a stiff, but flexible cloth which is slightly tacky to the touch.
HOW TO USE YOUR NEWLY MADE BEESWAXWRAP
I like to think that the wrap is similar to an oil skin coat or wax jacket. The wax coating provides a water resistant coating, preventing water from penetrating and also from evaporating.
As a food covering, it should stop the food from drying out, but at the same time, provide protection from moisture penetration, which may also bring in unwanted microbes and fungal spores.
Since beeswax has mild antibacterial properties, I would expect it to help protect food against bacteria.
- How to use:
- Covering Dishes: Since the beeswax has a low melting temperature, it responds well to being heated by your hands making it more malleable and flexible. I find if you want to cover a dish, place the wrap over the opening, then gently mould the wrap to the edges of the dish with the palms of your hands.
- Wrapping Food: The wrap is easily folded. Being slightly tacky, if folded upon itself, the surfaces adhere, and don't tend to come apart. Folding the wrap doesn't currently appear to produce too many wrinkles or marks on the wrap itself, but I can imagine creases will form with age.
- How to store: Currently we just fold or roll our wraps up and place them in a drawer ready for pulling out and using.
- How to clean: Depending on what you are wrapping, I just wipe the wrap with a clean damp dish cloth which has been moistened in a bowl of washing up liquid. Over time, I'll let you know if this is the best way of cleaning the wrap. I don't see too much harm in every so often immersing the wrap in a clean washing up water and left to dry.
- Expected lifespan: From what I can work out the wrap has an expected lifespan of 6 months to a year, but I suppose this all depends on how often you use it, what you wrap, and how you clean the wrap.
- Recycle, reuse or other purposes: When the beeswax wrap comes to the end of its life, we feel it will make an ideal fire lighter for our log burners. Impregnated with flammable beeswax it should be ideal for this purpose. However, since it is cotton and beeswax, it could also be composted.
We have been using the wax wrap for about a month for covering bowls of food in the fridge and it seems to have worked well. We've also successfully used it for covering off cuts of bread, and again it does the job, preventing the bread from drying out.
Since I have been using it, I now think there are opportunities for improvement in how the Beeswax Wrap was made:
- Use wax from the comb capping rather than the darker wax from the frames. Wax from the capping (the wax used to cap off the honey which is removed just before the honey is extracted) has a tendency to be lighter in colour with less impurities, and therefore has a better appearance on light coloured cotton.Obviously if you are buying beeswax online, then this may have been treated and bleached giving a lighter colour. So bare in mind when buying your beeswax that it may have been refined, processed and treated. Not as natural as you may think! I feel that you are better buying wax from a local beekeeper, where you know how it has been removed from the hive.
- I think that the final Beeswax wrap maybe a little too Stiff. I think the way around this is by pre-melting the beeswax and adding a neutral oil (such as almond oil, or even British rape seed oil). Only a small quantity will be needed. The mix of beeswax and oil should then be left to dry. You will end up with a slightly softer wax, which you can then grate onto the cotton cloth before putting into the oven. I hypothesis that you will end up with a Beeswax cloth that is more malleable, and more tacky. It might even improve the life time of the wrap. This is something to experiment with in the future.