A beeswax-and-lavender butter and a pear-and-black-grape delight

frostedrose

The frost fairies left their sparkle on cars and rooftops every morning this week. On Saturday there was plenty of crisp sunshine to continue winter checks on the bees.

Afterwards I went home to warm up in the kitchen. It’s been so chilly that my skin was feeling chapped and dry. I’m also trying to be healthier, which means eating as much fruit as I do cake. So I made a couple of recipes that are fun and easy to do: a comforting beeswax-and-lavender butter for winter skin, and a delicious poached pear with black grapes and honey for cake-filled beekeepers.

Beeswax-and-lavender butter
Lavender is an old friend. I have used the herb and the essential oil since I was a teenager for homemade lotions and potions. My grandmother would make buckets of lavender water from the bushes in our garden. She taught me to pick the lavender when the bees were feeding, because they knew when the plant was at its best.

bumble and honeybee on lavender

Lavender is one of the most popularly used oils in aromatherapy, it is well balanced and remarkably versatile in its actions. There are several different types and I tend to use that known as true lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). You can read more about living with lavender in my essential oil profile, from folklore to chemistry, here.

Lavender stands out in skin care for its moisturising and healing properties for almost all skin types from dry and oily to problem and sensitive. I love using this butter in my bathroom after a shower to deeply nourish dry skin and to relieve aching muscles. I also find the fragrance is calming and uplifting.

When I make aromatherapy recipes I do so instinctively, because they are familiar to me. A cup of olive oil, five or six teaspoons of beeswax, two or three teaspoons of distilled water or herbal tea, and drops of essential oil until it smells right… That’s not very helpful though, this time I’ve measured the recipe as I made it.

Ingredients
• 30g beeswax
• 100ml olive oil
• 3 tsp distilled water
• 15–25 drops of lavender essential oil

Method
1. Put the beeswax and oil in a heat-resistant glass bowl. Then place the bowl in a saucepan of shallow water. This is a make-do Bain Marie method.

oilbeeswaxmix

2. Slowly melt the beeswax in the oil over a low heat as you stir.

3. Once the beeswax is melted into the oil, remove the bowl from the heat. The oil-and-wax mixture will take some time to start to set, stir steadily and be patient.

4. Stir until the mixture feels it is ‘trying to resist’, then add distilled water a drop at a time, using a hand whisk to blend in completely.

bodybuttermix

5. Pour into a jar before the butter starts to cool and stiffen. Add the drops of lavender essential oil and use a chopstick to stir in.

6. Leave to cool before placing the lid on the jar to avoid condensation gathering under the lid and on the surface of the butter.

7. Label the jar including the date. The beeswax-and-lavender butter should be stored in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.

bodybutter

The beeswax-and-lavender butter usually lasts a week in my cupboard, it is a winter treat. Only a very small amount is needed to rub on parts of your body, or a tiny dab as a rich moisturiser for hands and feet. I make smaller quantities of recipes with added water, because, without preservatives, the water attracts bacteria and makes homemade cosmetics go off faster. I also prefer my cosmetics to have a subtle delicate fragrance and find 15 drops of lavender oil is enough, but you can add up to 25 drops.

I always add a safety note to my recipes with essential oils (leaning towards over-caution when giving a recipe online) and here it is advised not to use the lavender oil in the first three months of pregnancy, and thereafter at a lower dilution of essential oil (perhaps 10 drops) with advice from your GP or midwife.

Pear-and-black-grape delight
This recipe is really easy. Core a pear and replace the cored flesh with chopped grapes and runny honey. Steam lightly for 20 minutes and enjoy a healthy dessert or snack. I’ve used medjool dates instead of black grapes for this recipe in the past, which is yummy.

pearandgrape

I was disappointed this weekend to miss Harrow Beekeepers wax workshop, particularly as I’ve kept beeswax in my kitchen cupboard to make homemade products for years. Harrow runs many excellent courses, which I hope to go to in future.

Something else I learned this week that’s quite interesting, shared here as an aside, is the difference between frost and frozen dew. This is frost – it is feathery and white in appearance with crystal formations, while frozen dew looks like droplets of frozen water. How does this happen?

Dew is formed at ‘dewpoint’ when the ground is cold and the moisture in the air goes from gas to liquid. If it is cold enough, the liquid dew freezes to become a solid – frozen dew. Frost occurs at ‘frost point’ when it is below freezing and the moisture in the air goes from gas to solid. You probably already know this, but I found it fascinating.

frostfairies

Nature magic or nature science? Both are beautiful.

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32 thoughts on “A beeswax-and-lavender butter and a pear-and-black-grape delight

  1. Beautiful shots of the frost. I should try a batch of the beeswax butter. I ordered some lavender and tea tree oils last fall intending to make some cleaning products and maybe some creams for Xmas giving but never got around to it and used most of my wax for candles to give instead. Just need to get to the dollar store to pick up a whisk to dedicate to non-food products. The pears look delicious!

    • Thank you! I’m keen on simple recipes that can be made with what you have in the home. I love slathering the butter on my feet then wearing old thick socks to let it soak into rough skin. Also a tiny dab is great for dry hands and it is lovely for elbows too. I find it massages in well, though it is best used at the end of the day.

      Lavender and tea tree are great for cleaning products, a tip is to use up essential oils like citrus (which have a 6mth expiry date) or herb and flower oils a year or so old, is to put them in cleaning products for the home. Have fun!

    • I’d love to see your pics and poetry if you do! 🙂 Perhaps make it with collected drops of dew. Many of my old herbals mention collecting rainwater and dew for making things, though maybe not in London!

  2. Pingback: Mind your beeswax | Adventuresinbeeland's Blog

  3. Thanks for the recipe Emma. Bill said to me yesterday that he wished you could have come to the workshop but they just didn’t have enough space. There is one planned for July-ish – perhaps you could put your name down on the waiting list.

  4. Learnt something else new today Emma… and will keep in mind the tip about picking lavender when the bees are still feeding…
    Loved both your recipes…. Many thanks… and I its looking like it may stay colder for a while longer .. I have pears and grapes in my fruit bowl.. so you know what’s on the menu tomorrow 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment Sue 🙂 I hope you enjoy making the recipes. Take care picking the lavender in summer not to squash a bee, I found if done slowly the bees didn’t bother me. However in late summer they were less well tempered and sometimes there were wasps who didn’t like to share. That might be because they needed the plant more than I did as summer ended.

      • Thank you Emma for that tip 🙂 .. We had two Bees nests in our garden the year before last.. They had made their home in the rockery. We had our little Granddaughter who then was just over 2 running around.. We taught her not to be afraid of them.. We left them alone and they went around their work buzzing back and forth… It was amazing how many times they go backwards and forwards… I felt honoured we had two nests and then Hubby had one nest under his shed too in the allotments .. Yet last year they moved home… So I was sorry not to have them..
        Have a great week
        Sue

      • Young children have such a natural curiosity about all creatures great and small that is wonderful to nurture for them to keep as adults. It’s lovely that you taught your granddaughter to watch the bees, the children who visit the apiary are most fascinated and ask the best questions about the hive.

    • Thank you Amelia. Essential oils work so well with hive products, abd why shouldn’t they? The scent of the flower is part of the attraction for the bee. You can get started in aromatherapy with very few oils – a top five of lavender, geranium, tea tree, chamomile and rose. Of course, you’ll soon be tempted to try thyme, grapefruit, rosemary, jasmine, frankincense… 🙂

    • Shame I didn’t see frosted lavender in the local gardens but the rose was too good to waste.

      Of course, you could substitute the lavender for rose – rose otto butter would be divine but too pricey, perhaps rose absolute 🙂

  5. Beautiful shots, Emma, the frost and the lavender, especially. I was thinking of you here in Seattle. We went to the market and a vendor booth had a cream made of beeswax and scented with many fragrances, one was lavender. It looked like a bar of soap, but was so soft on the hands.

    • Thanks Donna 🙂 Sounds like a wonderful cream bar, was it a farmer’s market? I wish we had more of those in London. Lavender is one if my favourite fragrances, it’s lovely when people smell real lavender, rather than synthetic, from the oil and herb or better yet, rubbed between their fingers from the plant. Have fun on your holidays! 🙂

  6. A nicely written and aptly timed post. We obtained about a pound and a quarter of beeswax from the late Beatrix hive and expect the same each from Clarissa and Dorcas. Ointments and candles in our future. Is there some oil besides lavender that you recommend for skin care? One of us detests the smell of that herb. Says it makes him want to claw his nose off.

    • I always say trust your nose, I’ve found that a dislike for the smell of an essential oil can indicate that your skin won’t take well to it. Very few people have problems with lavender but those who do don’t like the smell either. It sounds like you can put the beeswax of Beatrix hive to good use.

      If I wasn’t using lavender in this butter I’d use rose, though it’s more expensive so perhaps half rose/half geranium to make the rose stretch further.

      The beeswax, olive oil and distilled water are just a base that you can add any scent from fruits and spice to herby and woody. Which fragrances do you prefer?

      • One of us uses a lemony smelling cuticle cream from Burt’s Bees, which smells inoffensive to both of us. Rose might be nice if not too sweet. Garlic would smell delicious but that can burn the skin?

      • I like to offset the sweet floral scent of rose with frankincense, or if you like citrusy then I’d blend grapefruit with geranium (similar to rose). It’s still a low dilution in the quantity of butter made so fairly subtle. Fragrances are so personal, which is what’s so lovely about them. I like the smell of garlic in my food but not on me!

  7. Hi Emma, I hope you’re well? You’ve inspired me to get busy with some beeswax but I don’t know where to buy it? Danielle X x x

    Danielle Drainey 07733161715

    >

    • Hello Danielle! I can give you some beeswax – meant to reply to your email and arrange a meetup, January has been insanely busy 🙂 I’ll get back to you over the weekend as I need to pick your brains on some arts stuff too. Chat soon, Emma x

  8. Just as an asside to the lavender body butter. I do a very similar recipe but instead of water use vodka. No.. really… it is a good idea! Water is a source of potential bacterial contamination and shortens the shelf-life of the product. The alcohol provides a sterile ingredient and further aids in emulsifying the oil and wax.

    • Yes, I use vodka for perfume and other recipes as it is virtually odourless, and as you say, unlike water, doesn’t have the problem of shortening shelf life to the same extent. I found herbal teas and flower waters are nicer for face creams (I have sensitive skin) although I may need to play around with my measurements to make this work. A lovely idea, thank you! 🙂

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