• You can pack a lot into these reusable wrappers. (Apiwraps)Source: Apiwraps
All the tips and techniques - burrito method, dumpling fold, snack pouches! - you need for using these versatile wraps.
Kylie Walker

19 Jul 2018 - 10:19 AM  UPDATED 19 Jul 2018 - 10:16 AM

It’s the bright, bendy item of kitchenware that can keep your leftover avocado from going brown, stop your cheese going mouldy, keep your home-made sauerkraut fermenting happily and even keep bread fresh in the freezer. 

The beeswax wrap – a simple square or rectangle of cotton with a waxy sheen – is becoming increasingly common in Australian kitchens.

Here’s our round-up of how to use, care for and revive them.

What are they?

Beeswax wraps are made by infusing pieces of cotton with a mixture of food-grade beeswax, pine rosin and oil, usually jojoba or coconut. The waxy coating makes the cloth waterproof, but breathable. While you can make wraps without the rosin, it’s the key ingredient that makes them “sticky”, like plastic wrap.

While some wrap makers come from beekeeping backgrounds, Freyja Tasci, founder of East Maitland-based Apiwraps, who has been making and selling wraps for six years, was inspired  while studying a colonial poetry unit at university. “I read that drovers wrapped their food in oilskin. When I thought about the feel of an oilskin jacket it just made sense to me that it would be a great way to keep food.

“My babies had food allergies and I was carefully buying organic fruit and veggies but they would spoil if I didn't use them right away - the celery was especially problematic, going limp in the fridge without plastic wrapping. I started experimenting and was astonished at how well the waxed cotton worked.”

These days, you’ll find wraps in a range of sizes and designs at markets, online retailers and health food stores, but if you’re interesting in making your own, Sydney-based zero-waste blogger Liz Macdonald of Face Down Waste has an excellent post outlining how to make a wrap using rosin. Classes in wrap-making are also popping up more often.

Using them: From snack packs to ferments and the freezer

As well as covering cheese and other food for keeping in the fridge, you can use wraps to carry snacks and sandwiches on the go, keep bread on the counter or in the freezer, and wrap up greens for the crisper.

“If you’re transitioning from plastic wrap, you may miss that clingy effect. To mimic this, spend a few extra seconds pressing your hands into the wrap to warm the wax and help it stick,” says Liz Macdonald, when we asked for her tips on using wraps.

Genevieve Wang of Kiko & Wild, who screen-prints the beeswax wraps and produce bags she sells with colourful bees, budgies and fruit, has similar advice. “Don't be afraid to scrunch the wrap up to make it more malleable and easy to use, especially during the colder months.”

Wrapping tips and techniques

Macdonald uses two techniques for wrapping food. For a simple burrito method, “wrap the item like you would wrap a burrito. I store loaves of bread on the counter this way for up to a week. The weight of the loaf holds the fold down.”

For smaller items, she uses the dumpling method.

“Lay the wrap on a clean surface in a diamond shape, with one corner pointing towards yourself. Place your leftover avocado or tomato cut-side up on the wrap. Pull the top and bottom corners together to meet, fold them over twice and pinch the fold together. Now pick up the left and right corners, overlap the first fold and pinch again to seal the package. You’ll end up with a fully enclosed chamber, like a dumpling, with a small handle. This technique helps avoids mess since the wrap doesn’t press directly onto the cut side of your food.”

Small wraps can also be folded to make neat snack packs – Wang has a step-by-step tutorial with pictures on how to do this.

With cheese, the key is to exclude air.  “When you wrap your cheese carefully making sure it has no air or moisture trapped inside it will keep indefinitely without drying out or sweating and starting to spoil. It's important to wash your hands before handling the cheese,” says Tasci, who demonstrates how to wrap everything from cheese to sandwiches on her YouTube channel.

Tasci also uses wraps to keep bread, and biscuit and pizza dough, in the freezer.

“Make sure you wrap up really tight with no air trapped inside – press the corners or creases in to mould them directly onto the contents. Make sure the Apiwrap is overlapping and sealed down well, using the warmth of your hands to seal it. It's not necessary to double wrap, however the Apiwrap does need to be overlapping sufficiently to seal well. We keep foods for several months without any freezer burn issues.”

As well as covering cheese and other food for keeping in the fridge, you can use wraps to carry snacks and sandwiches on the go, keep bread on the counter or in the freezer, and wrap up greens for the crisper.

If you make your own bread or ferments, wraps are your friend, too. “We love veggie ferments in our house. Since beeswax creates a waterproof barrier that isn't airtight they protect the fermenting veggies from external yeasts, while allowing the pickles to breathe,” Tasci says. “It works equally well for keeping your sourdough mother or kvass while it's busy growing.”

Care and repair

The life of a wrap will depend on how much you use it and how often you wash it – a wipe down or brush off is often enough – but they should last for at least a year if you give them a regular refresh.

“If you see the wax starting to crack in the creases it's time to give them a 'warming'. you can do this in mild weather by putting your Apiwrap on a baking tray in the sun [for a few hours], or by holding it up and warming it with a hairdryer,” Tasci says. “As the wax softens it will soak into the cotton again and be as good as new.”

If you do need to wash your wrap, most wrap makers suggest cold or lukewarm water, not hot (so you don’t wash any of the wax out of the wrap).

Don’t use your wraps on hot food or highly acidic foods.

When older wraps start to lose their stickiness, even after a refresh, you can still use them, as Macdonald does, for buying food on the go. When they do finally wear out, you can turn them into rags, then finally compost them.

More tips on caring for your wraps from Freya Tasci here and from Liz Macdonald here.

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