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 washed and dried fabric onto a baking sheet covered with a piece of compostable parchment paper (I have If You Care). You can reuse the 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 using a double boiler: A double boiler is simply a metal or glass bowl placed on top of a pot of hot water, as pictured below. The metal bowl is an op shop find I reserve for this purpose. I use this method to avoid ruining my cooking pots and to have greater control over the heat of the ingredients.
Combine the beeswax, pine rosin and jojoba in a double boiler on the stovetop to melt, then stir to combine (proportions are noted below in the ingredients section). It could take a little time depending on how large your chunks of wax and rosin are. If your rosin is a fine powder, avoid inhaling the small particles.
Infuse the fabric: Drip or paint the mixture onto the fabric, then place in the oven for a few minutes on low heat. I’ve experimented with dipping the cloth directly into the bowl, but the coating was too heavy, and I ended up having to redistribute the wax mixture to additional pieces of fabric to soak up the excess. Some people prefer to place the fabric between two sheets of parchment and used a hot iron to melt.
If my fabric is larger than your baking sheet, I just fold it over on itself. The mixture will permeate and distribute through the fabric when heated in the oven.
A reader tip is to use the double boiler method, then pour into moulds and let set. When cooled, these harden and can be grated like beeswax blocks. Very handy to have on hand for re-waxing and a good idea for any excess mixture you’ve prepared.
Hang the waxed fabric to cool: Remove the fabric 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, which only only takes a few seconds.
Ingredients for beeswax wraps with pine rosin
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. Have a read of the comments as many readers have helpfully shared what’s worked for them.
Tips for choosing the right fabric
- 100% cotton fabric, preferably organic. Lightweight and tightly woven, no stretch. A blended fabric *might* work, but watch out for heating up polyester or acrylics, since these are made of plastic fibres, and I doubt the fumes would be good for you.
- Patterned or darker coloured fabrics help disguise any marks left by food 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?
Update: please have a read of the comments below. Many readers from around the world have contributed wonderful tips and tricks that may help you with sourcing, substitutions, troubleshooting and determining recipe proportions.