Sunday, July 20, 2008

Honey

capped frame of honeyI went to the apiary on Friday and took a super full of honey (a beehive is a series of boxes and the ones on top are called "supers". Maybe I'll write a piece about what's inside a beehive in the near future).

uncapping a frame of honeyWhen I brought it home I lifted the frames one-by-one over a large clean container and cut off the wax cappings with a knife dipped in hot water. It's extremely satisfying to do - it's almost impossible to resist dipping your finger in and having a taste. Then I suspended the frames over the container and let the honey drip out. You end up with a container full of mixed up honey and bits of wax.

straining honeySo I strained the honey through a jelly strainer. Because honey is so thick it's a slower process than straining jelly, so I covered it to keep insects away and left it overnight. The strained honey is clear and golden and beautiful to see. I put it into washed jam jars and labeled it by hand.

jars of honeyI need to read up on the laws about selling honey. They're not too onerous, but I'll need to get the right size of new jam-jars (the government don't approve of re-using jars) and get some labels printed with the right information on (weight, producer, type of honey etc.) and then I'll be able to legally sell my honey. I can't legally sell these jars I've just filled, but I don't want to anyway. I want to use them myself and give them to family and friends.

The cruddy bits of left-over wax can be rinsed in water, then melted and strained to produce pure beeswax. And the drained frames can be put back on the beehive where the bees will lick them clean and then begin filling them with honey again.

20 comments:

Maggie said...

Wonderful not heat treated honey.
I have heard that if you are able to get local honey it will help you from developing any allergies as the bees have eaten from all your local pollen plants that could cause allergies.
Seems to work.

donna said...

i bet your honey will taste delicious, how does it work out cost wise compared to buying it?

by the way i've given you an award- details on my blog

heather t said...

Thanks for sharing this - I always wondered how much work it was for a home beekeeper to "harvest." You make it look and sound so easy!

jilcov said...

When I brought it home I lifted the frames one-by-one over a large clean container and cut off the wax cappings with a knife dipped in hot water

Nikki said...

Looks fantastic! Is this your first collection of honey from your hives? What a great payoff.

Melanie Rimmer said...

"how does it work out cost wise compared to buying it?"

Hideously expensive so far, as I have paid out for 2 hives and bees, 2 courses, protective clothing and tools, and various other bits and bobs. So if I worked out the cost of all that it comes to multiple hundreds of pounds. And so far I have had 12 jars of honey, so the cost so far is multiple tens of pounds per jar.

Of course the more jars I get in future, the lower the price per jar. And if I can begin selling some then that will offset the cost even quicker.

The Organic Viking said...

Laws on selling honey? How vexing. Good luck with getting the 'right type of jam jars' - your honey in any case sounds wonderful, whether it meets government standards or not!

Brenda Jean said...

Does it taste different than the store bought honey? I was just talking to my husband about beekeeping and wondered how expensive it was to begin. I have heard that about the allergies too as maggie mentioned. Enjoy your honey:)

Melanie Rimmer said...

The laws are mostly to stop people buying cheap imported (heat-treated, blended) honey and rebottling it as "Local organic honey" and selling it for a premium. I'm in favour of that as long as they're not so bureaucratic and difficult that they make it impossible for small-scale producers to carry on.

As for the taste - it's a long time since I've bought honey from a supermarket. For a long time I have only bought honey from local small-scale producers, most of whom I now know personally via the beekeeping grapevine. Mine tastes similar to theirs. Of course, I think mine tastes hugely superior, but but they probably think the same about their own. It's the self-satisfaction that adds to the intrinsic flavour!

None of my family suffer from hayfever so I can't speak about the allergy-reducing effect of locally-produced honey, although I do know people who swear by it.

Brenda said...

How fascinating. Please do teach us more on hives and honey. I really enjoy it.

Vonnie said...

This is going to be a stupid question no doubt but please bear with me! Where does honeycomb come into all this?

Melanie Rimmer said...

It's not a stupid question at all, Vonnie. Look at the frame in the top photograph of the post. The wooden frame is filled with honeycomb made by the bees (on a beeswax foundation I supplied, to encourage them to make neat, straight, flat honeycomb which is easier for me to handle) and filled with honey then covered in a capping of wax.

In the second photo, I am cutting the wax capping off the honeycomb to allow the honey to run out into a container.

Later, I took the sticky frames full of honeycomb back to the beehive, where the bees will lick it clean and begin filling it with honey again.

If I wanted to have comb honey to sell instead of jars of strained runny honey, I would have put small sections of frame and wax foundation into the hive, like this. When the bees filled them up with capped honey, I would remove them and pop them into plastic boxes for sale. Is that what you meant by honeycomb?

Vonnie said...

Yes! That's extremely interesting, thank you very much. I've actually been talking about beekeeping on one of my chicken forums but I don't think we have enough space in our garden and we're on a huge waiting list for an allotment. I'm still very tempted though!

My husband has started keeping a blog of our endeavours if you want to read a little about us (it's nowhere near as organised as you!) and it's at http://thegoodliferedux.wordpress.com

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