I try to be a mindful food shopper, only buying what we need to prevent food waste but it is really hard to completely reduce the packaging food is wrapped in. Everything comes packaged in materials, sometimes excessively so, but then there are many foods that it wouldn't be terribly practical to transport without some form of packaging. It is all a bit of minefield but it is all too easy to think, oh that can be recycled I am not convinced that that it is a valid argument at all times. It can make us lazy.
I stopped buying cling film a long time ago. I didn't like the idea of wrapping my food in plastic and, it seemed very wasteful. It is not easy to reuse, by its very nature it sticks to itself, so neither washing it or storing it between uses is remotely practical. But what to use instead. Cling film performs many jobs, amongst which it stops food drying out, I have been struggling with this since stopping buying it. Nothing I used to cover bread rising or dough resting was quite the same. It was whilst looking for inspiration for Christmas presents that I found my solution, beeswax coated cloth. You can buy these from a few places online but my inspiration came from a craft book found in the library, a how to make your own. Perfect!
It was January before I had a chance to give it a try. I collected together the materials I needed. A grater, paintbrush, beeswax, fabric and pinking shears. Everything I read suggested having a separate grater for this job, one that will never grate food. We already had one as we grate blocks of soap to make our own liquid soap. The paintbrush is washable in boiling water if you don't want to go out and buy an extra one, although again I read suggestions to have a designated one. The beeswax I bought took me into a whole new world of language. When I looked in to what I needed I discovered that not all beeswax is 100% natural, that some is food grade, some cosmetic grade, some is really hard to grate. It seemed like a bit of a minefield but I wanted to buy as local as possible, I get my candles from a local candlemaker but he didn't use his own beeswax to make them and suggested I contacted his supplier, who was also local. Personal recommendations are always the best aren't they, it led me to exactly what I needed, a block of beeswax that was easy to grate and had no hidden added extra ingredients. It smelt wonderful too. The fabric was the easy bit, it needed to be light and 100% cotton I have plenty of that. The pinking shears are to cut it to prevent fraying so there is no need for any sewing.
So what do you do? Grate the beeswax. Cut the fabric to size. Put the oven on a low heat (I found 30°C just right). Put the fabric on a baking tray (you might want to line it with something to stop the wax melting onto it). Sprinkle the beeswax over the fabric as evenly as possible as if you were making cheese on toast. Place in the oven. Check often and when the wax is just beginning to melt and soften remove from the oven and spread the wax all over the fabric with the paintbrush (you can check on the reverse to see if it is evenly spread). Hang up to cool and dry. As easy as that.
If you don't spread the wax around with the paintbrush you will find that you get small pools of melted wax with gaps in between. Don't worry if this happens just sprinkle some more wax and return to the oven. It is better to start with less wax rather than more, you can always keep addding! I made a small test one first and then tried some bigger pieces. I cut them to fit the dishes and bowls that I wanted to be able to cover. If, like me, you find that they are bigger than your oven just coat half of the fabric at a time, carefully draping the rest of the fabric out the way. This is when you realise that you should have really cleaned the oven a little better before starting.........
I have only been using mine for a few weeks and they are wearing well. I am told that you can recoat them, time will tell. I made a set for a friend which were really well received (they are the fabrics in the photo). They must only be washed with cold water and a mild soap to clean so are not suitable for storing meat. They can be molded, just by the warmth of your hands, to fit any shape of dish or food. They are not suitable for food containing a lot of moisture. Making your own not only works out a lot cheaper but you get to choose whatever fabric you like. I love them!
I will be back on Saturday to share more of what I have been up to in my kitchen this month. You can join me if you want to share what you have making and eating this month.