We’re all doing beeswax wraps, but do you ever wonder if that mysterious ingredient, pine rosin, is essential? I set out to find out.
Anatomy of a beeswax wrap
Beeswax wraps at their most basic are just beeswax infused cloth. The wax gives the fabric a water resistant coating which helps keep food fresh while still letting it breathe. Wraps can be used to store halves of fruit and veg, cover bowls, insulate rising bread dough, wrap up sandwiches, and so on. In short, anytime you might have once used plastic cling wrap or a ziploc bag.
The easiest way to make beeswax wraps is with wax only
The simplest, can’t-go-wrong recipe is beeswax grated over a cloth, melted in the oven on low heat. That’s it – you don’t need an actual recipe do you?? The wax melts and seeps into all areas of the cloth. If you see any dry patches, add a shaving or two of wax.
It will be flimsy and floppy when just out of the oven, but once it cools it will become hard yet pliable. This style of wrap will not have the tackiness of the versions you’ve probably seen at the farmers market or in shops, but it’ll be easy to clean with a texture that works perfectly for wrapping around full loaves of bread, or cookies.
I had been making my wraps this way for some time, but I found they didn’t work well in all situations. They don’t self-adhere, so they don’t work as well when you want to cover the end of a half a pumpkin for example. To compensate, I’d add a rubber band around something I’d wrapped up. No biggie, but I was curious about how much better I could make these by using the same ingredients as the commercially sold varieties. The real catalyst was me promising my girlfriends I would teach them how to make their own beeswax wraps. I wanted them to be really happy with the results.
Add tackiness to your wraps with pine rosin
If you absolutely must have that more tacky feeling of store bought wraps, the ingredient you need is pine rosin, which is tree sap. It also goes by pine resin, colophony or Greek pitch. It’s not that readily available in shops, but you can find it online. I bought a large bag to share with friends.
After experimenting with pine rosin added to the formula, I can confirm that it achieves a different result than beeswax only. It makes the wraps behave more closely to plastic cling wrap, which is what most people are trying to find a replacement for.
Which formula you choose depends on how you want to use your wraps, and whether you can find some pine rosin, which can be challenging depending on where you live. Pine rosin is also used in carpentry, art, and for musical instruments, but if you’re buying from a specialty shop, be sure to inquire whether it’s food safe.
Beeswax only wraps are best for beginners who want a simple to make versatile wrap. Make them in a large enough size to fully enclose your food. I use these to wrap entire loaves of bread and to pack snacks to take on the go.
Beeswax wraps with pine rosin are best for recovering plastic cling wrap addicts.
They can be made in relatively small dimensions and still be useful since they will adhere to themselves or the hard surface of the food you’re wrapping. Making them is a more involved process, and you will need more ingredients and equipment.
How to make beeswax wraps with pine rosin
Set up your fabric: Place your clean, dry fabric onto a baking sheet covered with a piece of non-toxic compostable parchment paper. You can reuse this same sheet each time. I don’t bother with the parchment for wax only wraps, but pine rosin is very sticky. Preheat your oven on medium low – around 150 Celsius.
Melt the mixture: Combine the beeswax, pine rosin and jojoba in a double boiler on the stovetop to melt, then stir to combine. It could take a little time depending on how large your chunks of wax and rosin are. A double boiler is simply a metal or glass bowl placed on top of a pot of hot water. I do this to avoid ruining my cooking pots, and the bowl is an op shop find I reserve for the purpose. If your rosin is a fine powder, avoid inhaling the small particles.
Infuse the fabric: Drip the mixture onto the fabric, then place in the oven for a few minutes on low heat. I experimented with dipping the cloth directly into the bowl, but the coating was too heavy, and I ended up having to do some work redistributing the wax mixture to additional pieces of fabric. Or, dip the first one, then just press another fresh sheet on top to soak up the excess once the first sheet comes out of the oven.
If your fabric is larger than your baking sheet, fold it over on itself. The mixture will permeate and distribute through the fabric when heated in the oven, so don’t worry too much about spreading this perfectly evenly. It’s a bit of an art, and it’s one reason I like to do a few at once or make an afternoon of it with some friends.
A reader tip is to use this double boiler method, but pour into moulds and let set. When cooled, these can be grated like beeswax blocks and placed in the oven. This is probably going to be easier to manage than working with the hot mixture
Hang to dry: Remove from the oven, check that the wax has saturated the fabric evenly and there are no dry patches. If there are, add more of the mixture and reheat. Remove from the oven and drape over a drying rack to let cool.
Here’s what I approximately use to infuse one 25cm square cloth – bit of an inexact science though! I got to this measure by making a larger batch and dividing by the overall square centimetre-age of fabric.
- 40g beeswax
- 40g pine rosin
- 10g jojoba oil
This mixture is essentially a pine salve, which is a traditional antibacterial ointment (and survivalist favourite), so use any leftover on your hands and elbows.
If you don’t have rosin, it’s not the end of the world and there is another way to achieve some extra tackiness – just use oil and wax, melted to combine using the above method. Adding a touch of oil helps soften and leverage the beeswax’s subtle tackiness.
I make these for myself and friends, not commercially, so this is simply what worked for me. In future I might experiment and re-wax mine with a different formula by using more oil and less rosin, seeing as the latter seems to be a bit of a trick to track down for many people.
Tips for choosing the right fabric
- 100% cotton fabric, preferably organic. Lightweight and tightly woven, no stretch.
- Patterned or darker coloured fabrics help disguise any marks left by drips and drops. Whatever you do, don’t go with white!
- Beeswax usually has a yellowish cast – this will colour your fabric, so choose one that won’t clash.
Care and use of your beeswax wraps
- They’re not designed to be used with hot or very drippy foods.
- The warmth of your hand on the wraps is what allows them to shape around things. It’s easiest when they’re at room temperature.
- Wash with warm soapy water, not hot.
- Don’t wrap raw meat.
- Please don’t toss the cloth when the wax wears off in six months to a year. Creased and otherwise worn looking cloths can be re-waxed indefinitely at home, and reuse is the whole point, isn’t it?