You may have noticed a glossy sheen on the fruits and vegetables in your local grocery store. This wax coating actually serves a purpose; wax holds in moisture and slows oxygen penetration, which in turn slows the ripening process. Wax coating allows preservatives to give food a higher shelf life, which is ideal for food storage. However, not all foods can benefit from this process.So which foods work best for wax preserving?
Jams and Jellies
Paraffin wax has been used for many moons to seal the tops of jams and jellies. It was used as a temporary way to preserve the product, which keeps it from spoiling and prevents mold from forming on top of the food. This technique is fairly simple, paraffin wax is melted and poured over the product, which forms a barrier from bacteria and oxygen, and as it cools it forms a protective seal.Although this technique has become less prominent due to the art of canning, it still creates a way of preserving food for years.
Cheese (mmm… cheese)
Imagine yourself in a crisis situation without cheese. Terrifying, right? So how can wax help you avoid this situation? We’ve all experienced cheese that is covered in wax; there is a specific reason for that, cheese is an “aged” food, so when you cover it with wax, store it in a cool dry place, you can keep this delectable-dairy treat almost indefinitely.
Not all cheeses will stand the waxy test of time, so the question is: which cheese can you wax?
Unfortunately, soft cheeses are not good candidates for waxing. Moisture is thebreeding ground for bacteria, so ooey-gooey cheeses are not the best in this situation. However, hard cheeses, such as cheddar, parmesan, gruyere,colby, and swiss (yum), are all types of cheeses that are easily waxed and are safe to store without refrigeration.
What Kind of Wax to Use?
Paraffin is great, but not always best. A quick internet search can set you on the right path for what will work best for your specific cheese.
There are two ways to wax cheese: Brushing & Dipping
Brushing uses low heat, 198-204°F (hot, but lowcompared to dipping). Fill a metal canister with the desired wax and submerge it in a pot of water. Once the desired temperature is achieved the wax is then brushed onto the cheese.• Pros: Lower heat = safer and less possibility of burns. It leans towards the “cheaper” side because it requires less wax.• Cons: The wax is not hot enough to flash mold spores, thus mold may develop on cheese under the wax.Dipping uses high heat, 224-236°F. Place wax directly into the pan and melt completely. Use proper utensils, such as tongs, to avoid injury from thehigh temperature wax.• Pros: Mold spores on the cheese surface stand little chance under such extreme heat and there is no messy brush to clean.• Cons: High heat = the need for extra caution and risk of burns. More wax is needed since the entire surface is submerged.
Paper towels and hot water are going to be your friends during clean up. A quick wipe followed by a solvent, such as turpentine can make for an easy cleaning situation.Quick tip* dedicate a “throw away” utensil to wax clean up. It is easier to chuck a cheap utensil than to spend the time cleaning a brush that you want to keep.Wax is water repellent,airtight, and bacteria resistant (when done right). These are food storage qualities that can make or break your nutrient intake in a crisis situation. Plus who doesn’t want jams, jellies, and cheese in their food storage arsenal?