Monday, August 20, 2012

Honey Harvest

    I stayed up late last Thursday night harvesting honey down at the store.  In the past I've always extracted honey at home in the pantry and kitchen. The pantry is small enough such that I can easily heat it up with a space heater to 85 degrees or warmer. The honey spins out easily in a warm room and not very well at all at normal room temperatures.  I managed to do just fine at work, thanks in part to a 90 degree day that left the shop warmer than is comfortable. However, the main reason it worked out well was the fact that I used the warming cabinet to heat the boxes of honey up to 115 degrees. Linda enthusiastically supported the use of the shop. The only reason I have gotten away with extracting in our kitchen for so long is the fact that I usually spin out honey while Linda is out of town.

   I wasn't able to get all of my honey done. I just wasn't up for an all nighter, but I did spin out about 100 pounds. My main goal was to get some honey extracted so I could do an entry in the Evergreen State Fair.  Last year was a poor honey year so there wasn't much honey entered in the fair. It looked kind of sad last year to see so much empty shelf space where honey entries belonged.  I dropped off my honey entries at the fair grounds on Saturday afternoon.  It was obvious that they were doing much better than last year.

     An extracted honey entry requires three one pound jars of honey, preferably in queenline jars, the kind shown in the photo. The extracted honey is divided into ten different categories based on the color of the honey ranging from water white to extra dark amber. My entry of blackberry honey will probably end up in the extra white color category, which is the next to the lightest color category.  The honey is first tested for moisture content.  If it has more than 18.6 per cent moisture the entry is disqualified. I tested my entry with the refractometer at work shortly after I had bottled it in order to avoid the embarrassment of a disqualification. It tested at 17.4 per cent water.

    The honey judge makes sure the jars are clean and filled to the correct level, and looks for air bubbles or tiny bits of wax on the surface of the honey.  He also has to taste the honey to make sure it doesn't taste burnt, smokey, or fermented.  Other than that, honey isn't judged based on it's flavor.  That would be pretty arbitrary as the flavor of honey varies wildly depending on its floral sources. Some varieties of honey, such as Maple or Buckwheat have strange flavors that are an acquired taste.  I once won a nice big "Best of Division" ribbon for some Maple honey. It looked really pretty, but most of the fairgoers would have made a face if they had tasted it. My red haired daughter describes  Maple honey as tasting like cough syrup as it has a very strong menthol flavor. That would put Maple honey at a severe disadvantage if it were judged on its flavor.

   The honey judge also uses a polariscope which reveals every last fleck of wax or air bubble.  The best way to rid a honey entry of air bubbles and bits of beeswax is to put it in a warm place for a week or so.  All of the bubbles and wax will float to the top where it can be skimmed off.  I didn't have the luxury of waiting for a week so I sped the process up by placing my honey in the warming cabinet overnight.  The warming cabinet is a large insulated wooden box which is heated by two light bulbs. We use it at the store to reliquify crystallized honey and have set the thermostat at 115 degrees.  By Friday morning all of the tiny bubbles and wax in my honey had floated to the top.

2012 Blackberry Honey

   This may seem like a lot of work for a blue ribbon, but I have to uphold the honor of the bee store. I also entered a shallow frame and a western frame in the heaviest frame contest.  I should have done some candle and beeswax entries but I didn't have time to look through my stuff to find a worthy entry.  

1 comment:

  1. Oooh, it looks so good. I need to come to the store to get me some. Of course your buckets don't look so pretty. But they do the job. :o)