From ‘Coffins’ to Beeswax: Natural Approaches to Storing Food - Public Goods

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From ‘Coffins’ to Beeswax: Natural Approaches to Storing Food

In medieval England knights kept themselves nourished over their long, epic journeys by preparing various pies that kept well under a thick, dense pie pastry.

two food containers, vegetables, fruits

This method sealed in chopped and pre-cooked meats, vegetables and potatoes, and could be opened with the sharp points of silver swords. Referred to as “coffins” in 14th century Middle English, these pie pastries were made of a hot water crust that had a consistency firm enough to stand without support.

Across the Atlantic circa 1848, eager prospectors who traveled across America to seek their riches in California’s gold mines traveled with dried fruits kissed by the sun, as well as salted, cured or smoked meats wrapped in burlap sacks.

However, the materialization of modern conveniences, such as refrigerators, microwaves and ovens, drastically changed the way people prepared, ate, preserved and stored food. Aluminum wrap, plastic resealable bags, plastic-cling wrap, styrofoam, and take-out containers neither contribute to nor promote a green planet.

These technologies are, nevertheless, convenient, especially for a society on the constant go. But people have become hostage to such utility, which begs one pressing question: At what cost does convenience jeopardize the planet?

Thwarting such threats, including exhausted landfills and plastic-ridden oceans, seems insurmountable. Do we give up all foods and beverages that come packaged in plastics and aluminum cans? Do we vow to never bring home leftovers? While easier said than done, there are plenty of other ways food can be stored naturally.

One easy and innovative approach to storing food that is both environmentally and economically sound is beeswax wraps. This sustainable packaging is not only fun to make, but can also free up cabinet or pantry space by eliminating bulky boxes that tin foil and plastic resealable baggies come in.

To make beeswax wraps, you will need 100% cotton cloth and a bag of 100% beeswax pellets. Cut the cloth into various sized-rectangles with pinking shears to avoid frayed edges. For small wraps intended to wrap tomatoes, apples, a handful of nuts or any snack the size of a fist, cut fabric into 9×10-inch pieces; for medium wraps intended for sandwiches or covering bowls, cut fabric into 11×12-inch pieces; for large wraps intended to package melons or baked goods, cut fabric into 14×15-inch pieces.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or else the wax will melt onto it) and place the cloth pieces on top of the parchment paper in a single layer. Do not overlap.

Then sprinkle some wax pellets on top of the cloth in an even layer — a few go a long way.

Next, place the baking sheet into a preheated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 2-3 minutes or until the wax pellets melt. Carefully remove the baking sheet from the oven with an oven mitt and place on a flat surface. With a clean paint brush, smoothen the wax in an even coat. Let the wraps harden for ten minutes and begin to use.

The natural warmth of hands softens the beeswax wrap to create a perfect seal around different shapes of food, locking in freshness and cleaning beeswax wraps is a cinch. Simply massage liquid castile soap (made from 100% USDA certified organic, vegetable-based ingredients) onto the beeswax wraps and rinse with cold water (warm water will melt the wax).

Be sure to avoid using these wraps on foods such as raw meats, yogurts and soft cheeses. Cold water does not kill the bacteria these types of food generate.

When it come to fruits, vegetables, snacks, and sandwiches, however, beeswax wraps work wonders. Recently I placed one halved red onion in a plastic resealable bag and another in a beeswax wrap. After three weeks, the former onion half developed a slimy film, while the latter kept its crispness.

Another benefit to beeswax wraps is their longevity. Lasting anywhere from six months to a year, beeswax wraps are easy on the wallet and improve with each use because the various crinkles and creases from each fold make the wraps more pliant. Once the beeswax wraps feel like they are deteriorating, melt more wax pellets on top and voila, you’ve got brand new wraps — and you have reduced your carbon footprint.

Yet another sustainable food storage approach are silicone reusable sandwich bags. Coming in a variety of shapes, colors and patterns, these silicone bags are ideal for storing food in the fridge or freezer, buying in bulk at co-ops, or for packing meals and snacks on the go. With airtight seals that lock in freshness and flavor, food waste is eliminated.

Stasher, with its award-winning 100% pure platinum silicone design, is unlike other silicone bags in that they can be used to boil, bake, cook and microwave food. Plan meals and save time in the kitchen. Place poultry, fish, or meats with their respective spices and sauces in Stasher bags to marinade ahead of time until ready to cook. Best of all, silicone bags are dishwasher safe!

With the 50s came the onset of the Tupperware craze. Brightly colored plastic drums and containers filled cabinets in households across America and continued to for decades. While most of Tupperware’s line is safe to store and microwave food in over time, some of its products, such as the Meals-in-Minutes Microsteamer, use polycarbonate (plastic #7), a synthetic resin known to leach the deleterious chemical Bisphenol A [BPA] into foods and liquids after routine use.

To ensure BPA toxins do not contaminate food, use stainless steel lunch boxes, like ECOlunchbox. Retailing at $20.00 and up, this small investment goes beyond contributing to a greener planet — with their portion-controlled compartments, stainless steel lunch boxes help maintain weight to contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

ECOluncbox’s Tri Bento is ideal for separately packing three different foods, but is not leak-proof. For those who plan to pack salad dressings, soups, or sauces, opt for the 3-in-1 Splash Box that eliminates spillage with its no-leak silicone lids. Another great feature of ECOlunchbox’s stainless steel containers is that they are ideal for camping. Simply warm pre-cooked foods over an open fire and enjoy.

Other small feats like bringing silverware to work or swapping out plastic bottles for our stainless steel, PBA-free, reusable vacuum bottles not only make people feel good about their relationship with the environment but are not difficult undertakings.

Opposition stems from the belief that methods like beeswax wraps and reusable bottles are futile and inconsequential in their attempts at combating environmental plagues such as pollution and climate change. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and getting people to so much as think about how to reduce their waste — no matter the size or extent — is better than lying supinely on the same ground that gets littered.

There are clear signs that both people and corporations are seriously considering the environmental impact of their containers and materials. Companies such as Poland Spring have redesigned their water bottles to use less plastic; Scott launched tube-free toilet paper to minimize the 17 billion cardboard rolls that end up in the trash each year; plastic shopping bags cost a nickel in Long Island and Ireland; and come 2019 California will be the first state to ban straws at sit-down restaurants.

Unfortunately plastic, aluminum and other waste inevitably ends up on subway tracks, in rivers, thrown out of car windows, strewn across highways and left behind at campsites. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a heap of debris more than twice the size of Texas and three times that of France, containing 79,000 tons of plastic, and expanding every single day — is an alarming exemplification of humanity’s negligence.

When it comes to natural, sustainable methods of storing food, the possibilities abound. Beeswax wraps, silicone bags and stainless steel lunch boxes are only the tip of the iceberg. An economy that is in harmony with the earth’s natural resources is one that not only sustains progress but can also benefit generations to come.

Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.

From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.

Comments (2)

  • Soy- wax wraps are vegan & eco-friendly also a renewable resource.
    Bees must be protected & beeswax can only be removed in certain times of the year. There is also Candelilla wax – which is plant based & can be mixed with soy wax.Melting temperatures are different for the two waxes.

    • Hi Irma,

      Great ideas! Maybe we can make those products, too. To thank you for commenting, here is a coupon code for saving $5 off your next Public Goods order: PGBLOGFAM.

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