March 23, 2016

A Taste of Honey

 “There's no great loss without some small gain.” If you've read Laura Ingalls Wilder's, Little House on the Prairie series, then you're likely familiar with that phrase. The loss of Honeysuckle Hive was a great loss, but we did gain a small amount of honey.

There weren't many filled combs, but enough to harvest for a sample.

Because I want some of the wax as well as the honey, I planned to use the crush and strain method. Last year I bought a bucket strainer system from BeeThinking, because I can use it to strain and store honey. I like it because it includes a honey gate for quick filling of honey containers. It holds 3.5 gallons, however, which I was nowhere close to having. I did use the two straining bags supplied with it, but rigged up my own straining system.

My strainer fits perfectly inside the pie ring which fits perfectly over
the pot. Two of these were just right for the amount of comb I had.

The mesh straining bag folded over the pot and held half my comb.  I
used a wooden potato masher to crush the comb & let the honey flow.

Gravity and warmth are what drains the honey. Honey becomes more viscous as temperatures drop, so a warm kitchen means better drainage into the pot.

How long? A lot of folks seem to leave it only overnight. On one bee forum I read of someone who let it drain for a week. I stirred the crushed comb to check on the honey, and let it sit five days, until most of the honey had drained from the bottom of the mesh bag.

How much?


My yield was six pints. Isn't it pretty?

The comb is then washed, dried, and stored (usually in the freezer) until enough is collected to render. One tip I got over at HoneyBeeSuite was to strain and save that first comb wash water and use it in cooking. I did just that.

Of course, no harvest is complete without some feasting.

Homegrown honey on homemade biscuits.

Because I only strained it, it still contains the pollen and would be considered raw honey. For those interested in some honey processing terms, here they are:

Strained honey - has been poured through a mesh strainer to remove wax and debris
Filtered honey - has been run through a fine filter to remove pollen
Raw honey - not heat treated, not filtered
Pasteurized honey - heat treated to kill yeasts and bacteria (even though honey has known antibacterial effects)

Here's hoping the new hives do better.


36 comments:

  1. looks delicious, can't beat raw honey!

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  2. Nice like your own honey and a small compensation for the lost hive, 6 pints is good a real taste of what is to come in the future, I have t use the crush and stain method with the top bars, I crush it with my hands as I find the heat from your hands helps the honey flow a bit messy but it works well for me :-)

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    1. Well, honey extraction is a messy job no matter what! Thanks for the tip, Dawn. It makes sense. :)

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  3. Your row of gem-like pints is beautiful! Congratulations! Glad it went well. Now you will be even more ready for your next, hopefully bigger, harvest.
    I buy honey from several New England beekeepers, some within a few miles of y place and some as far afield as VT, CT and ME. The other day I opened my first jar from a new beekeeper in my town. So STRONG. I don't know what those bees were gathering pollen from...buckwheat maybe? It really highlighted how different honey can taste, even within a very small area!

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    1. It's amazing how many flavors and colors honey can come it, isn't it? Fun too!

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    2. I met a beekeeper in New Mexico years ago who traded a jar of his honey with every beekeeper he met from other regions - it was like a wine cellar, only more useful in a day-to-day way ;)

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  4. I can't understand why people feel it is necessary to pasturise honey!
    To be honest I also don't really understand a system that means that when extracting honey you have to destroy all the hard work the bees have done making wax, which the bees would fill again and again if returned to the hive, year after year. (Also helpful for giving swarms a head start)
    I am aware that this system is now popular and hope that someone will explain its You are so right about keeping your kitchen warm when extracting.
    Gill

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    1. Gill - i agree - why on earth would you pasteurize honey? and can you explain what you mean about the bees re-using the wax? what do you do and how do you extract the honey without squishing up the wax? and do you then clean it and put it back in the hive?

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    2. I think one reason they pasteurize honey is to keep it from crystallizing. I've known folks who threw crystallized honey out, convinced it had gone "bad." Nothing would change their minds!

      A couple of thoughts come to mind about reusing or not reusing comb. One is that while bees like the smell of old comb, the queen, given a choice, will lay in new comb. So there's a bee preference there.

      I think the main reason, however, is bee health. Beeswax absorbs chemical toxins from the environment, retains chemicals from bee treatments, and can harbor pathogenic spores of things like foulbrood, chalkbrood, and Nosema. I've also been reading that to get rid of wax moth infestations it's advisable to remove old comb and treat. So I think a lot of it is a reaction to colony collapse and otherwise disappearing bees. People want to do something and this is something they can do.

      For myself, there's the idea of letting the bees do what they were designed to do, make wax, build comb, make more bees, and make honey. I feel like I'm short-changing my bees by trying to take shortcuts for increased honey production (but that's just me).

      Kymber, honey is harvesetd from the typical honey comb frames with a honey extractor. The caps are cut off and the frames placed in holders in the extractor. Centrifugal force removes the honey and the comb can then be reused. Pretty nifty, huh?

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    3. thanks for the in-depth reply Leigh! between you and Pioneer Preppy - i am becoming a bee maven (only in reading about, not actually doing!) xoxo

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    4. Kymber, I know there are a few Canadian beekeepers, and that they have real challenges, but have you ever considered getting honeybees? Is there a beekeeper anywhere around you?

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    5. we have a few beekeepers a few hours away that go to the market on saturdays in our nearest city, which is an hour away. hubby buys the honey in 500ml tubs and gets 10 at a time. we have placed an order with the guy we buy from for 2 5 gallon jugs. he will have those ready for us this summer and then we will order 2 5 gallon jugs every year - some to use but mostly for preps.

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  5. 6pints of that gorgeous honey is no laughing matter - it's AWESOME! congratulations Leigh! we get our honey from a local guy who also does the strain method so we get the pollen too. again - 6 pints - awesome!

    your friend,
    kymber

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    1. Thanks Kymber! I'm really thankful for it, every drop.

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  6. It would take us "forever" to use up that much honey here so I would be thrilled to get that much. I need to check the label on the honey I've been buying. It does crystallize, but we just heat it up and use the crystals.
    Blizzard here today...just after seeing yesterday (70+ degrees) that my apple tree was all budded out. sigh. Tomorrow is supposed to warm back up so hopefully the buds didn't freeze.

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    1. Crazy weather!

      I'm someday hoping to have enough honey to completely replace sugar, so that's just a drop in the bucket!

      I'm not sure if all honey carries appropriate labels. I bring my jar and they fill it so there isn't a label. I do know that "pure honey" isn't a legal definition but just a marketing term. I also read somewhere that some of the honey from China isn't made from nectar, but from sugar water fed to the bees (which isn't legal here). They don't necessarily announce that kind of stuff though.

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    2. my honey's label... Raw & Gently Filtered... we use low temperature melting and simple straining to maintain pollens, enzymes, vitamins and minerals that overheating and force filtering can destroy. It is bottled about an hour north of us, but I read on their website that the bees are actually kept just over the "Front Range" to the western state line. I'm over my allergies but kiddo still suffers so I'm going to get her the more local honey.

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    3. That's sounds like good honey then. But for allergies I'd do the same as you.

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  7. Bees are on our list....that list that keeps getting added to even as we scratch things off it. I so enjoy your honey information. Its realistic and useful and down to earth sensible!

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    1. I learn more from experience than books. And by that I mean my own and also the experiences of others. What a great teacher it is.

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  8. Love the quote, and your attitude!

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  9. We use the rinsewater from the wax to make homebrew.

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  10. So how do you clean the honey out of the wax? A friend gave me some beeswax that still has honey mixed in. I use beeswax for waxing my cheese, and would like to get it into a usable form,

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    1. Laura, good to hear from you! tell you what, I'll trade you information. Tell me what you do with your beeswax for waxing cheese and I'll tell you that cleaning the wax is as simple as rinsing it off with cold water. I let it soak and swished it around, then strained it. I did this several times until the wax was no longer sticky feeling. Of course it still smells like honey. :) Saved the first rinse water as "honey water" for baking.

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  11. Your pints of honey look so pretty and I would be so proud of them. We buy our honey from a couple around the corner from us. Nancy

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    1. Nancy, that's great! Doesn't get any easier than that. :)

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  12. I celebrate with you on your honey harvest and beeswax. But I'm sure you'd rather have the honeysuckle bees instead of this harvest. Ah well. Enjoy the honey, I'm sure it's healthy and delectible. Best of luck with the new bees when they get there.

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    1. Ah well is right. More and more beekeepers are telling me that success is keeping them alive, not harvesting honey. Blog post about new bees tomorrow!

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  13. Leigh,

    Congratulations on your honey, it looks like pure gold to me :-) I also love your manual process of extracting your honey.

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    1. Thanks Sandy! I'm thrilled to have the beeswax as well as the honey. :)

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  14. I'm glad you were able to harvest the honey, but sorry you lost the hive. Beekeeping used to be the easiest thing we did on the farm, but now it's a major challenge to keep them alive. Good luck this year.

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    1. Bill, good to hear from you! I'm sorry to hear you've been having trouble too. Seems it's becoming a real challenge to keep bees alive. My new bees were hived yesterday and are very active. Blog post tomorrow.

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