Tuesday, February 9, 2016

snow day wax

We finally got a bit of snow, and with it, a very well timed snow day home from school.  Between visits to the backyard for sledding and snowballs and general rolling about in the fluffy fresh drifts, we rendered wax.  Of course.

I had a large plastic tub full of wax that I had been intentionally ignoring in favor of other things like parenting, and basketball games, and ski races.  But I decided, without really asking anyone, that the snow day was going to be wax day.  Julia was in.

This was some ugly wax we had going on, full of dead bees and debris and pollen and honey and general grime.  But I had been reassured that once processed, it could make some lovely wax.  Just watch.

I purchased a $5 electric fry pan at the thrift store, much like the one my grandmother used to have at camp, waxed a bit nostalgic about that memory for a few minutes, and then surrendered it to a late in life repurposing.  

I highly recommend an old tablecloth for such an activity.  My poor kitchen is still recovering from the honey extraction and flying bits of wax propelled across the room by shish kabob skewers from a few days before.  It's going to, as you will see, get messy again.  And laying out said tablecloth beats needing to answer one of your children's teenaged friend's questions such as hey, what's this sticky brown gross stuff on your table with something like um, pupal lining.  Or from having to call to them hey, just a second, I have to wipe some bee detritus off your pants.  Which can be awkward.  Just sayin.

Julia got all the wax cappings Jonathan had created when he removed them while extracting the honey.

We added enough water to get it all floating and melting.  And I added pieces of the brood comb from the bin.

Before long we had something pretty gnarly looking going on in that fry pan.  I Googled.  And it had a name that only adds to its general yuckiness. We shall refer to it as debris, or detritus, a word I really enjoy.  It is comprised of pupal lining, excrement, and other residual debris.  It has its purposes, I am told, such as fire starter, swarm trap bait, and smoker fuel.  Which is good, because I now have a whole crop of it.  

We scooped some off while making up a new rendering wax song.  As we do.  It is hard to rhyme with residual detritus, by the way.

We then poured the wax through a filter.

Which resulted in a bowl of partially rendered wax and water.

Back into grandmother's rinsed out fry pan went this water and wax.  Where we let it cool and harden.  During this hardening process, the wax separates from the water and floats above it.  

I gave the wax a rinse, gave the water in the pan a toss, and started again.

We made three more batches of brood comb stew.  And lots more detritus (which is a slant rhyme with retrovirus.  kind of).

And watched the designs that formed in the wax as it hardened.

Once all of that wax was hardened and rinsed, it was back into the fry pan.  For one final melting.

We strained it through cheesecloth and a sieve.

Now relatively detritus free, we poured that rendered wax into a shallow edged cookie sheet.  And all sat around and watched the wax designs like we were watching TV.  We can be weird.

It did not exactly pop out of the cookie sheet like one recipe said it would, so we popped the sheet in the freezer for a bit.  That did the trick.  And we now have one sheet of homemade rendered beeswax.  Which is pretty cool for those of us who watched the whole process unfold, beginning four years ago when that wax first began its lifecycle.

Now we are making plans for what comes next. Any ideas?

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