The Beekeeper's Bible: Bees, Honey, Recipes & Other Home Uses by Richard A. Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch includes excerpts & recipes like Honey Types and Descriptions; Curried Honey Sweet Potato Soup; and Honey Roast Ham.
by Richard A. Jones and Sharon Sweeney-Lynch
Honey can be presented in various ways. Cut-comb honey is unprocessed, straight from the comb. Extracted honey, which has been removed from the combs by centrifugal force or by pressing, is generally sold in jars or other suitable containers and described as liquid, naturally granulated or creamed. And honey from bees that have foraged predominantly on a single floral source is usually described according to the flower concerned (as with most of the honeys in the tables on pages 271-74 of the book).
Honey from a variety of floral sources may be identified by the region or country where it originated. A combination of descriptions can also be used to identify a particular honey, for example, New Zealand clover honey.
Comb honey is cut directly from the honeycomb. To produce it, super frames are fitted with thin, unwired foundation. Then, when the combs are removed from the hive, areas that are well capped are cut out and placed into suitable plastic containers with transparent lids. The trimmings can be used by the beekeeper or squashed to extract the liquid honey.
An alternative method is to provide the bees with sections to fill with honey. Equipment suppliers furnish a round section super and the replacement pieces for it. Round plastic rings are inserted into a frame that holds the thin surplus (unwired) foundation. The frames are then placed into a rack inside the honey super. On a strong nectar flow the bees will fill the round sections completely. When the honey is capped, the sections are easily removed from the frames. The edges are trimmed of excess foundation. The finished round sections are then provided with transparent, rigid plastic covers. A label—which contains the beekeeper's contact information and the weight of the section—circles the round section and holds the covers on. Although the round sections have a good market response, today cut-comb is perhaps the most popular form of comb honey sold.
Liquid honey should be clear and bright with no signs of natural crystallization (see page 276). Honey extracted from the combs is strained to remove small pieces of wax and dirt. It may be warmed slightly to make it flow for easier bottling but, other than that, is as it came from the hive.
Over time, the vast majority of honeys crystallize or granulate naturally. This can take anywhere from several days to a few years for some types. The process involves a conversion from honey's liquid state into a crystalline solid without any deterioration of its properties.
Most honeys are supersaturated solutions of glucose, which means that they contain more dissolved glucose than can normally stay in solution. It is this sugar that begins to crystallize out from the solution as honey naturally granulates. A network of crystals forms throughout the honey, making it lighter in color because glucose crystals are white. A light honey may become almost white on crystallization, whereas a darker honey retains its brown color, though somewhat lighter than before.
The crystals that develop in different granulated honeys are varying sizes, creating either a fine or a coarse texture. A fine smooth texture is often considered more pleasant to eat.
Although granulated honey appears solid, only about 15 percent of the honey is actually in the solid crystalline state, with the mesh of crystals holding liquid honey within it.
Frosting may occur in jars of naturally granulated honey. This is seen as white patches and streaks, particularly on the shoulder of the jar and on the honey surface. Frosting is caused by the creation of small spaces within the honey when liquid glucose is drawn into crystals. The spaces fill with air during crystallization. There is nothing wrong with frosted honey although it is perhaps unsightly and may have an adverse effect on sales.
Creamed honey is sometimes described as "whipped" or "spun," but these terms inaccurately imply that the honey has been processed and air added in some way. To produce creamed honey by the Dyce process, nuclei in the form of seed crystals are introduced into liquid honey and distributed evenly. This seed is chosen carefully and consists of a honey with the finest grain available. Any large crystals in the seed will spoil the finished product.
The bulk of the honey is completely liquefied by warming it to no more than 150 degrees F (66 degrees C). It is then cooled to room temperature as rapidly as possible. The seed, at a rate of 10-15 percent of the bulk, is warmed until it is just mobile enough to be poured into the liquid honey. Incorporating as little air as possible, the mixture is stirred thoroughly to ensure that the fine crystals of the seed are evenly distributed throughout the liquid honey. The seeded bulk is left to settle for a couple of hours to allow any large air bubbles to rise to the surface, where they are skimmed off. The creamed honey is then bottled or packed into bulk containers for storage. This produces a product that remains soft.
Studies in the 1920s by Canadian apiculturalist Elton J. Dyce (see also page 279) showed that the granulation of honey can be controlled. He demonstrated that crystallization may be stimulated by a number of factors, including a high pollen content or air bubbles. These contaminants act as tiny nuclei around which the honey crystals grow. With only a few nuclei, the crystals grow to a large size before the excess glucose is depleted. However, with a large number of nuclei, the excess glucose rapidly forms into smaller crystals, giving a finer texture.
To slow the natural process of granulation, the tiny air bubbles that become incorporated into honey during extraction can be minimized by holding the extracted honey in a settling tank for a few days before bottling.
Monofloral honey is predominantly from one floral source—generally over 50 percent from that one source. It is generally collected by bees that are close to an extensive crop or a native species with little other forage available in the area. In the US, for example, the most identifiable monofloral honey is from clover (Melilotus ssp.). Colonies of bees are taken to the Dakotas to harvest the thousands of acres of sweet clover nectar. During this time nothing else is in flower so the honey produced can be labeled as clover honey.
Other common monofloral crops are from canola and borage. Canola honey is very mild and is usually sold as a blend with stronger honeys rather than on its own. Borage honey has a light flavor that is appreciated by many customers; it is sometimes sold as starflower honey.
Most honey is classed as blossom honey, multifloral, or mixed floral honey. This is honey made from a mixture of nectars by bees foraging on a range of flowers.
The honey taken from the hive will necessarily be seasonal according to the time of year it is extracted. Some beekeepers differentiate between their seasonal honeys, extracting a few combs together and selling the honey as artisinal. However, most will extract their crop in one or two sessions, allowing the honey from different times of the year to blend naturally.
Most honey produced in the US is naturally blended, with the bees collecting nectar from a range of floral sources. Honey can also be blended by the beekeeper to produce a uniform product to sell throughout the year. Very strong-flavored honeys can be mixed with milder ones to produce a honey that is more palatable to consumers.
This page created March 2011
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