Saturday, 30 November 2019

Making our Beeswax Wraps the Easy Way

Life is the flower for which Love is the Honey:-
Victor Hugo



Our beehive and bees are doing well although Mr. HRK feels it might be ready for a new Queen quite soon. As the hive swarmed to our backyard sometime over the last Christmas period, and we don't know how old the Queen was then, we are calling in a professional beekeeper next week to give us advice. Meanwhile we have harvested two lots of honey, which is a lovely flavour and a nice colour, all of the first batch and some of the second has been gifted to friends and family, and we have made two lots of beeswax from the honeycomb. We have just made a small batch of beeswax wraps as a starter and we're researching the best way to make beeswax candles. Making and using beeswax wraps is just one way I can reduce the amount of plastic usage in our home and change the footprint that we leave on this earth. If you would like to catch up on how we moved our beehive and extracted the honey, my previous stories about this can be found at these links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

This is the story about our first attempt at making beeswax wraps, and overall we are happy with them. They wrap well, wash well, cling well to whatever they are wrapping, and firm up nicely in the refrigerator without cracking. However I feel there is still room for improvement in our tropical climate, as when folded and stored in a drawer they become  just a little bit sticky. If they are left to hang up with the air circulating around them they are not as sticky. Perhaps I need to store them in the refrigerator, I am open to advice on this my friends if you have made some already. I was inspired by the story that I read on Going Grey and Slightly Green, where Nanna Chel the talented blog author, attended a Beeswax Wrap making demo in Toowoomba, Queensland as part of a War on Waste workshop.  I have basically used the same recipe that the workshop presenter Suanne from Green Dandelion in Toowoomba  presented at their workshop.

However  Suanne said that achieving the perfect beeswax wrap consistency can be tricky. You are telling me Suanne. The wax coating needs just the right amount of stickiness to grip, and just the right amount of flex so that it does not crack when moulded. She also emphasised that the type of beeswax you use can make a difference.  Our remaining Beeswax after extracting all of the honey needed to be rendered. Mr. HRK boiled it in water to purify it, and the beeswax then floated to the top as it cooled. I think our beeswax is very good quality, with no additives at all, as Mr. HRK boiled it down beautifully, in water, and it came out looking pure and golden. It also brought a lovely, slightly sweet and gentle aroma to the house, very similar to a beeswax candle burning.

Rendering our Beeswax
Below is the circular disc of beeswax after rendering waiting to be stored. It will still need to be processed further before it can be used. In the photo you can see a dead bee that has been caught up when the honey was being extracted. Throughout this process, unfortunately it is inevitable that a few bees will be stuck in the honey.




The only ingredient I needed to purchase to make the wraps was the Pine Rosin which is the ingredient which helps the wraps to stick and wrap better which after all is what they are meant to do. After some research, I purchased my Pine rosin online from Ballina Honey in New South Wales. I bought 400g of Gum Rosin Powder (Colophony, Pine Resin), for $26.00 plus $4.00 postage, from Ballina Honey, and it arrived within the week packaged in a brown paper bag (no plastic), in a sealed envelope. However if you want to give making beeswax wraps a try, I believe that premixed bottles of beeswax, coconut oil, and resin are available for sale at the Green Dandelion in Toowoomba, Queensland,  and no doubt at other places all over the world.

Firstly I bought some good quality cotton fabric (synthetic doesn't work) at Spotlight and washed it. Then we cut the fabric into squares using pinking shears to reduce frayed edges. In addition you will need a medium sized glass mason jar, Beeswax, coconut oil or you can use olive oil, avocado, argan or jojoba oil and the Pine Rosin. We used a solid glass Mason jar in a saucepan, and a small unused paint brush,  and double boiled the ingredients to mix and melt the ingredients together. Now there are several ways to make the wraps. You can do it in your kitchen oven at 150 deg. heat on a paper lined baking tray. Pour some of the melted beeswax onto the fabric and using a silicon brush or the back of a dessert spoon, spread the wax over the fabric. It doesn't need to be even as the oven will do the rest of the work for you.
My friends, the normal kitchen oven method isn't the method we used, oh no no no, not us,  as Mr. HRK wanted to be involved and suggested we process the fabric and beeswax in the barbecue outside on our patio. Part of the rationale behind this was to remove any risk of making a mess in our kitchen which I saw as valid, being our first attempt and the whole thing a bit of an unknown. So we melted the beeswax ingredients in a glass mason jar in a saucepan of water on the gas burner right next to our Barbecue, and brushed the beeswax onto the fabric on a large piece of granite leftover from our kitchen renovations. Hows that for innovation and further recycling eh? The thing is that all cottage industries, and projects completed at home can be changed to suit the people and layout involved. So here's how it went.

Tools laid out and prepared by Mr. HRK.



Beeswax recipe for making Beeswax wraps:

There are various ways to measure out the ingredients needed:

The Basic Ratio is 1 part Pine Rosin (2 heaped tablespoons)  to 4 parts Beeswax (8 Tablespoons) if you melt the beeswax first. Then add about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil ( or you can use Argan Oil, Olive Oil, Avocado or Jojoba), This is enough to make quite a few wraps, depending on the sizes you prefer.
If you want to start small and test if it works for you, the following is exacting and is enough to cover one piece of fabric measuring 25 cm x 25 cm. Just increase the amounts for the amount of fabric you wish to use:
  • 17 g beeswax
  • 5 g Pine rosin
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
Preheat the marble in the barbecue to about 150 degrees.

We placed the Pine Rosin, the Beeswax, and coconut oil in a mason jar in a saucepan of water and waited for it to melt. When melted, we turned off the gas, but left the jar in the saucepan so that it would stay liquid.



Meanwhile fabric was measured and cut by Mr. HRK with my orange dressmaking pinking shears.






Place fabric on the preheated piece of granite, and when the beeswax has completely melted, use a spoon and drizzle the mixture evenly over the fabric. Then using the paint brush or basting brush, spread the mixture quite thick and evenly over the fabric, including the edges and corners. If you put too much on, it will just stay on the granite after the wrap is removed and soak into the next one.



Leave the wrap on the granite or in the oven if you are using for about 2 minutes to reheat.This will also melt out any bumps or clumps. Remove wrap from the warm granite or oven tray and hang up to let set and to dry.

Here's our first Beeswax wrap hanging up to dry on a wire hanger on our patio. Looking good.



Another beeswax wrap featuring bees is finished.


Just continue with this process until all of the beeswax is used or you can store it with the lid on for later.

It's a wrap, and covering a bowl as it is meant to do, instead of Glad Wrap.



A few tips for using them:

To use beeswax wraps,  wrap up cut up fruit and vegetables, lunches including sandwiches and bread rolls, and use them to cover your plates and bowls.
To wash them, use a mild detergent in cool water. Pat them dry with a clean tea towel and dry them in the fresh air.
These aren't suitable for the dishwasher, the microwave, or the washing machine.
Better not to use them for covering raw meat.
Keep them out of direct sunlight, such as on the washing line.

Using Beeswax wraps is a different concept to what we have been used to with plastic. This is our first attempt at this and went well considering. I would love to hear from you if you have any other tips or tricks or experiences with them, and we are keen to make some more. If I am making the next lot on my own without Mr. HRK's help, I might try making them using the oven method.

When you have enough of these for your household use, they can also be incorporated into a gift and used as wrapping paper.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best wishes

Pauline



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15 comments:

  1. You're so clever! I use beeswax wraps and they save on so much plastic!

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    1. Thanks so much Lorraine. Yes I try to use hardly any plastic at all now.

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  2. I also have made my own. I tried just beeswax alone and oven method. I just sprinkled grated wax over cotton cloth then in the oven for 45 to 60 seconds. The result was great for covering bowls and sandwiches. The result molds well from the heat of my hands and holds its shape. I will try your method next time.

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  3. Thanks so much for your comment Bernie. That is really so interesting that beeswax alone worked, as I read that the pine rosin helps the molding of the wrap over the bowl otherwise they can be quite stiff. I might reduce the amount of coconut oil slightly as well next time.

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  4. What an interesting process. I shall have to see if our local bee product company are selling these.

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    1. We have very local resourceful people selling the wraps and the beeswax at our local markets now. Hopefully you will track some down. Thanks Tandy.

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  5. wow you are so dedicated pauline to helping the planet. good on you. i have tried to use these sorts of wraps and it just didn't work. i couldn't get them to stay on a bowl or dish at all. so i gave up! i don't use plastic wrap tho, so at least that's something...

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    1. Thanks Sherry, perhaps the wraps you used didn't have the pine rosin added to the mix, that is supposedly what makes the difference to their effectiveness. People are becoming better at making them I think. We retirees are also trying to do the right thing by the planet, every little bit helps.

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  6. Pauline, your very interesting post brought back a memory from my long ago childhood. My great granny used beeswax wraps, funny I hadn't thought of that in years. I remember she made hers from flour sacks which were cloth back then. She did it to be frugal. I bet she'd be amazed of it's return in popularity and how it could help with the plastic problem of the world.

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    1. Oh Ron thank you so much for your comment, as always you have a very interesting story to tell. Fancy that eh? You have given me a good idea though. We buy green coffee beans from overseas which arrive in sacks, which I think are some kind of cotton. I'll try using those, not pretty, but very frugal.Best wishes, Pauline

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  7. Thanks for the detailed instructions, Pauline. A while ago I bought a block of beeswax to make wraps, but didn't make any yet. One of these days I will. :)

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    1. Thanks Nil, once you get organised, it really doesn't take much time at all.You have the beeswax already, and the pine rosin is pretty easy to source and then you are away.I am going to check out some of my cotton clothing that I'm not wearing and cut those up to make some more.

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  8. I have made them a few times, and used a paintbrush to paint the mixture on, and then heated them on an oven tray lined with baking paper. I just love them.

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