Monday, December 27, 2010

In the Honey House

The honey house is a small, insulated building where we handle the honey from the time that it is harvested until it is bottled. There are tasks to be done in the honey house throughout the year, but the comfortably warm building is an exceptionally nice place to be when outside temperatures are below freezing. Honey bees produce honey in the spring, summer, and fall when flowers are in bloom. They store honey in their hives for the winter. We harvest a small portion of their surplus honey and store it in the honey house. All honey changes over time from a liquid to crystals of sugar. The formation of crystals doesn’t harm the taste or quality of honey. Some of the sugars in honey are stable as a crystal and not as a liquid. Different honeys convert to crystals faster than others. Generally, honeys that bees make from flowers crystallize faster than honeys derived from flowering trees. Cool temperatures also speed the formation of crystals. By winter, most honey contains crystals. We slowly warm the honey to re-liquefy it. Stirring daily, most honey can be liquefied in three to five days at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. The honey is then held at 100 degrees until needed. The warm honey pours freely from the bottling unit. Some liquid honey is made into creamed honey. This spreadable honey is formed by mixing in fine crystals of honey and then chilling at 57 degrees.

Beeswax is also being melted and cleaned in the honey house. In its first melting, some honey is removed from the beeswax. Since beeswax melts around 145 degrees, this honey has been heated, altering its color and flavor. We never mix this heated honey with our raw honey; it is sold to those who produce mead, or honey wine. The final residue left from melting and straining beeswax, called “slumgum,” is shown in the photo. It is composed primarily of propolis bee glue, pollen, and silk from bee pupae cocoons.

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