Plastic food wrap, cling film, Glad wrap, Saran wrap or whatever you call it (Saran polyvinylidene chloride or Saran resins and films called PVDC) have been wrapping products for more than 50 years. A Dow Chemical lab worker, Ralph Wiley, accidentally discovered it in 1933. It was approved for food use in 1956.
“Saran works by polymerizing vinylide chloride with monomers such as acrylic esters and unsaturated carboxyl groups, forming long chains of vinylide chloride. The copolymerization results in a film with molecules bound so tightly together that very little gas or water can get through. The result is a barrier against oxygen, moisture, chemicals and heat-qualities used to protect food, consumer and industrial products. PVDC is resistant to oxygen, water, acids, bases, and solvents.” http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blsaranwrap.htm
Those are a lot of big scientific words that I really don’t understand but in the interests of toxin free living, I’m going to hazard a guess that it’s not all that good for us, considering that it’s first use was to be sprayed on fighter planes to guard against salty sea spray. It was also used by car makers for upholstery and had a green colour and unpleasant odour (clearly they worked out a way around those two slight problems).
Either way, I don’t like the stuff, neither for it’s use on or near food, nor for it’s unrecyclability (is that even a word?).
So, despite how useful it is, I will do anything before using cling film. I will use a plate on top of a bowl, use a container with a lid (this works much better than a platter at a party in the park), or one of my favourite things to cover food…a beeswax wrap! A what?
A beeswax wrap! That’s right, it’s a cloth that is covered in beeswax.
Beeswax is a complex mixture of saturated and unsaturated linear and complex monoesters, hydrocarbons, free fatty acids, free fatty alcohols, and other minor substances produced by the worker honeybee. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/scientific_output/files/main_documents/615.pdf
Those are also some very big scientific words, but considering that it is naturally occurring (well by the bees anyway) that it is a darn sight better for wrapping food than cling film. It’s so versatile and breathable. All you need are warm hands and it will mould to whatever you want to cover, over and over again. Not like that silly cling film that you can only use once and then it gets all tangled up causing you to swear like a sailor.
You can buy beeswax wraps online, or you can simply make them yourself. Here’s all you need: an old tray, an old grater, a chunk of pure beeswax and some bits of cloth the size you need to wrap stuff.
My tray is an old one donated by a friend, the grater is from an op shop (because I am not going to even attempt to clean it, this is now it’s only job – to grate wax) and the wax is pure beeswax from an art supplies shop. The scraps of fabric I found in my sewing room.
First, you need to grate the wax into the tray. Lay a cloth down on the tray and sprinkle the wax over the top.
Next, put the tray in a warm oven (50-100 degrees Celsius is hot enough) and wait just a minute or two until the wax is melted.
When it is all melted and the cloth looks covered with melted wax, use tongs to pick up two corners of the cloth (or use your fingers like I did the first time if you don’t mind a bit of hot wax…ouch! I used the tongs the second time :D). If you only pick up one corner, it will fold over and stick to itself (not good). If it doesn’t work, just place it back down on the tray and melt again. No problem!
Just hold it over the tray to catch the drips, wave it back and forth a bit to cool it down, then put it somewhere to dry (you can peg it up or lay it flat on a rack).
When it is cool (only a couple of minutes), it is ready to wrap stuff. Just mould it around the item with your hands, hold your hands in place for a few seconds to allow the warmth to fix it in place and voila…you have your own natural, breathable, reusable wrap for covering leftovers or whatever you like, just like this…
This is my ginger! Nicely wrapped so it doesn’t shrivel up!
Have fun making yours! Or if you have any better ideas, I’d love to hear them!