Hands-on Home (Sasquatch Books, 2015), by Erica Straus, is packed with fabulous recipes, practical, no-nonsense advice, and time- and money-saving techniques. With a focus on less consumerism, Strauss provides instruction on everything you need to live more delicious and sustainable DIY lifestyle.
You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: The Hands-On Home.
Beeswax burns long — expect twelve-plus hours out of each of these petite candles — so they are helpful to have on hand for winter storm power outages. They also smell great naturally, won’t release any weird chemicals into your home when you burn them, and make absolutely delightful last-minute holiday gifts.
Makes 12 mini candles
• 2-1/2 pounds clean beeswax or beeswax pastilles
• #2 square braided cotton wick and 12 square wick tabs or 12 pre-waxed #2 square cotton wicks with tabs
• 24 thin bamboo skewers
• Scotch tape
• 12 (4-ounce) mason jars
1. If necessary, chop the beeswax into rough chunks and melt it in a double boiler set over medium heat until just liquid. Beeswax takes a long time to melt, so be patient. Don’t rush the melting — you don’t want to scorch the wax.
2. If necessary, prime the wick and set the wick tabs. To do this, cut 12 wicks, each about 1 inch longer than the mason jar is tall. Set out a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, then dip the wick into the melting beeswax several times. Lay the dipped wick onto the parchment and, when the wick is just cool enough to handle, pull it tight and straight then allow it set completely. Repeat with each wick, then feed the primed wicks through the wick tabs and crimp the tabs tightly at the very bottom of the wick. You don’t want the wick to stick out below the wick tab; if it does, trim it. If you are using pre-primed wicks that are already tabbed, just smooth the wick perfectly straight. It can help to roll it between your palms to soften the wax.
3. When all your wicks are set and tabbed and the beeswax has melted, begin ladling or pouring the melted wax into each jar. Go slow and steady, filling each jar about one-third of the way. Arrange each wick so the wick tab is perfectly centered at the bottom of the jar and the wick is straight. Use a skewer or a chopstick to press the wick tab down into the cooling wax.
4. Rest two bamboo skewers across the edges of the jar, one on each side of the wick, to hold the wick steady and centered. Press the bam- boo skewers into the wick and tape them together snuggly. Adjust the wick as needed to keep it nice and centered, then slowly fill the jars with wax to within about 1⁄4 inch of the lip of the jar. Allow the candles to cool completely without touching.
5. Depending on how quickly the candles cool, you may end up with a dip in the surface of the candle near the wick. This doesn’t impact your candle’s usefulness at all, but if it bothers you aesthetically, just top up the candle with a bit more melted beeswax.
Notes on beeswax candle-making:
If you have your own hive, or know someone who does, you may be able to get inexpensive raw-state beeswax. Cleaning beeswax is simple: just chop it up and put in it a big pot with at least as much water as you have wax. Set everything over medium heat, and bring the temperature up until the wax melts. Give it the occasional stir and prod to help any trapped grit or propolis out of the wax.
Take the pot off the heat and let everything cool. The clean wax will float to the surface and harden while any dirt and contaminants sink to the bottom. Remove the clean wax block from the surface, scrape any contaminants from the bottom of the wax, and let the block of wax dry. Occasionally, a few rounds of melting and cooling are necessary to get perfectly clean wax. Already cleaned beeswax can be purchased online — I like the pastilles, which melt quickly and evenly without chopping.
The trickiest part of candle making is figuring out what wick to use with what candle. If your wick is too small, it won’t melt the wax effectively. If it’s too large, it will burn too hot and can overheat the mason jar. Different waxes burn differently, confounding the issue (i.e., a soy wax candle of one size and a beeswax candle of the same size do not necessarily need the same size wick). I found through numerous trials that a #2 square cotton wick is just right for a 4-ounce mason jar beeswax candle, but if you chose a different size container or a different type of wax, your wick size will probably be different.
Wick tabs are those little metal things you see at the very bottom of commercial candles. They keep the wick nice and centered. You can make container candles with- out wick tabs, but for the small extra cost, they really do simplify candle making. If you are gung-ho about the thriftiness, you can reuse appropriate size wick tabs too.
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2015 By Erica Strauss. All rights reserved. Excerpted from The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving, and Natural Homekeeping with permission from Sasquatch Books. Buy this book from our store: The Hands-On Home.