Tuesday, December 20, 2011
In the previous post we looked at why honey crystallizes. Since it's a natural for the sugars in honey to crystallize over time, what's the best method to re-liquefy it?
The answer is to use heat, but the question is how much?
Many commercial beekeepers invest in heated honey storage tanks. With the constant heat the honey never gets a chance to form crystals. These tanks are always kept around 125 degrees F. (More on this later when I learn more about them…)
[Photo - Last year's plastic pails. We still use them but the jars are used first.]
We use a pressure cooker to heat the honey in a hot bath. This is the marketing manager's (Dad's) job. He and Mom boil water in their pressure cooker. Then they turn off the heat and set the honey jars inside the hot water. The pressure cooker has a wire base which keeps the jars from sitting directly on the metal bottom. They leave the jars for a couple hours and the heat works to slowly melt the crystals.
The key is to not let the temperature get above 40°C (104 °F). At 50 °C (122 °F) honey will caramelize.
Pasteurized honey available in grocery stores has been heated at 161 °F (71.7 °C) or higher. Cooking at this heat destroys yeast cells, reduces enzymes, darkens the colour and changes the taste and smell of the honey.
Below 5 °C, the honey will not crystallize and the original texture and flavour are preserved indefinitely.
Honey will not freeze solid. Instead, as the temperatures become colder it becomes thicker (think of the saying like Molasses in January…). While appearing or even feeling solid, it will continue to flow at very slow rates.
My preference is to scoop the crystallized honey straight from the jar and into my hot tea. In my opinion that's the best way to melt it.
(Many thanks to those experts who contribute to Wikepedia where this info came from)
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Here's Wikepedia's description of the properties of honey found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey
"Crystallized honey is honey in which some of the glucose content has spontaneously crystallized from solution as the monohydrate. Also called "granulated honey."
Honey that has crystallized over time (or commercially purchased crystallized) in the home can be returned to a liquid state if stirred in a container sitting in warm water at 120 °F (approx 49 °C)."
"The physical properties of honey vary, depending on water content, the type of flora used to produce it, temperature, and the proportion of the specific sugars it contains. Fresh honey is a supersaturated liquid, containing more sugar than the water can typically dissolve at ambient temperatures. At room temperature, honey is a supercooled liquid, in which the glucose will precipitate into solid granules. This forms a semisolid solution of precipitated sugars in a solution of sugars and other ingredients.
"The melting point of crystallized honey is between 40 and 50 °C (104 and 122 °F), depending on its composition. Below this temperature, honey can be either in a metastable state, meaning that it will not crystallize until a seed crystal is added, or, more often, it is in a "labile" state, being saturated with enough sugars to crystallize spontaneously. The rate of crystallization is affected by the ratio of the main sugars, fructose to glucose, as well as the dextrin content. Temperature also affects the rate of crystallization, which is fastest between 13 and 17 °C (55 and 63 °F). Below 5 °C, the honey will not crystallize and, thus, the original texture and flavor can be preserved indefinitely.
"Since honey normally exists below its melting point, it is a supercooled liquid. At very low temperatures, honey will not freeze solid. Instead, as the temperatures become colder, the viscosity of honey increases. Like most viscous liquids, the honey will become thick and sluggish with decreasing temperature. While appearing or even feeling solid, it will continue to flow at very slow rates. Honey has a glass transition between -42 and -51 °C (-44 and -60 °F). Below this temperature, honey enters a glassy state and will become a noncrystalline amorphous solid.
"A few types of honey have unusual viscous properties. Honey from heather or manuka display thixotropic properties. These types of honey enter a gel-like state when motionless, but then liquify when stirred.
"Regardless of preservation, honey may crystallize over time. Crystallization does not affect the flavor, quality or nutritional content of the honey, though it does affect color and texture. The rate is a function of storage temperature, availability of "seed" crystals and the specific mix of sugars and trace compounds in the honey. Tupelo and acacia honeys, for example, are exceptionally slow to crystallize, while goldenrod will often crystallize still in the comb. Most honeys crystallize fastest between about 50 and 70 °F (10 and 21 °C). The crystals can be redissolved by heating the honey."
The problem with these crystals is that they aren't very pleasant on the tongue. But enter Creamed Honey/Whipped Honey and it's another product the beekeeper can sell.
In my next post we'll explore how to Make Creamed Honey.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
[photo - yellow butterfly bush in my back yard]
I feel a rush of adrenaline as I hurry to catch up and get these outdoor tasks done. Soon it will snow.
And before I know it it'll be spring again and I'll be so busy with the bees my backyard will again become neglected as the focus shifts back to the bees.
But did it ever actually shift away from them? I don't think so.
They are tucked away with their warm wraps on. I visit them still once a week. I even made some sugar water for them since the next couple days are predicted to be 10+ degrees C so the bees will be flying. I have two hive top feeders set up on a robbing table close by that they can go to.
At home I've surveyed my yard and gardens. As I plan my chores and make my To Do lists and check them off it's always with a mind to get it done now in the fall or winter when it's quieter and I have time. Because once spring comes there's no time any more.
I rake a little faster and trim the trees a little more than usual. Oh yes, I remember how busy spring can be. Now I know where my busy adrenaline rush is coming from. I'm still thinking about the bees.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
It was time for a road trip. Now this trip just so happened to head south down to Alvinston. Our bee club was booked to have a tour of a large beekeeping plant at Munro Honey, a family based business.
Here's photos and descriptions from our tour. If you're a small time beekeeper this can certainly get your saliva running. Just think of it as something to aspire to :)
Let's start with the Mead, honey wine. Munro honey makes award winning wines that they ship all over the world. They said they can't ship to the USA but they can ship overseas.
This way each jar is filled identically.
It was interesting to note that with a plant this large they still fill their jars one at a time. But one does have to have something left for the Christmas wish list :)
Munro Honey runs about 3,000 hives. In addition to honey they sell comb honey, wax, mite resistant Buckfast queens and nucs as well as beekeeping supplies.
I couldn't resist a painted wall hanging that said:
"Buzzed on Local Honey"
Their gift shop is well stocked with tasteful items, most of them bee related.
The honey can sit to bubble out for a few days.
Then it goes into this large heated tank and from there it can be piped to any number of machines or bottlers by turning a valve.
Next we looked at a heated tank that holds a few gallons of honey ...
well maybe more than a few gallons.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Monday, October 24, 2011
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
So when I get any chance to talk to families about honey bees I pretty much feel like I'm in the zone. That's when at the end of the day I may be physically tired but mentally I feel energized.
Fall of the Farm at Pioneer Village over the long weekend was just that kind of an opportunity.
Every time I see a child less afraid of bees or parents with a deeper understanding of them I feel I've done my job.
Then there's the Marketing Manager (Dad).
So all weekend he was in his niche telling people about bees and doing the honey talk. He proudly told people how he does the extraction and bottling of the honey.
Here he is so busy tabulating his sales that he didn't realize I'd been talking to him. He didn't know I took this picture either.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
If you're in or around London, Ontario this (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend, 8 to 10 Oct, why not come out to Pioneer Village.
They're holding a Fall on the Farm weekend with hay rides and pioneering demonstrations such as weaving, ploughing and of course Beekeeping!
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
So wearing the same socks on day two I guess you can imagine how embarrassed I was when I went to a meeting at a friend's house where we were expected to remove our shoes. Yikes! I do have painful feet and don't go without footwear so I convinced her to let me keep them on. It wouldn't be good to have people passing out all over the place.
By now you're wondering what my stinky feet have to do with bees. Well, a lot actually. Let me explain.
This summer was quite hot with many very humid days (London, Ontario is in the Great Lakes area which bring moist air). Many days were 40 degrees Celcius and our city even set up cooling shelters for citizens.
I realized I needed to ask an experienced beekeeper what AFB smelled like.
Uh oh. Could he smell my feet? I asked him to repeat what he'd said. "The bee yard smells like stinky socks this time of year," he said. "It's the Goldenrod."
I had the AHA moment then and my mind flashed back to the Introductory Beekeepers' Course. I had heard this before but had forgotten. The instructors mentioned how the fall goldenrod honey tasted fabulous but you had to suffer the smell of it.
I was relieved. I don't know what made me more happy, knowing they weren't commenting on my feet or that my yard didn't have AFB.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
My beekeeper friend Janice and I did a road trip With Carlo earlier this summer to our favourite beekeeping supply store. We helped him load up with all the first time beekeeping equipment. Hive parts, bottom boards, veils, helmets, etc. He bought one hive to start and planned to put it on his property.
On the drive home we talked about bees. We also chatted about our interest in the skills and trades of bygone days such as cheese making, sausage making, etc. Carlo told us about his family and relatives in Italy and the uncle that kept bees.
It was his uncle's influence that had captured Carlo's imagination and put him on the path to becoming a beekeeper.
And now sadly I must report that on 21 August 2011, Carlo, at age 51, died suddenly from a heart attack. I send my dearest condolences to his family. He will be greatly missed. Carlo was close with his family and spoke of them with love and admiration.
I am glad I had an opportunity to meet him. There are few people willing to talk about bees for hours but Carlo well understood how beekeepers become obsessed about bees.
Carlo's back yard will hear the buzz of bees. His oldest son has decided to follow in his father's footsteps and become a beekeeper. It would appear the apple does not fall too far from the tree. And we all know who pollinates those blossoms.
Carlo would like that.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The focus is on historic agriculture and of course bees are a perfect fit. This year I don't have an observation hive but next year I will probably take a frame or two of bees to show the public.
The organizer has told me I'll have a table at the general store and if it rains I can go inside.
Then she said we could sell our honey and gave me the contact person to discuss the details.
So, I gave the info to the Marketing Manager, Dad, since that's his area. [Photo of Dad lifting a 75 lb pail of honey, but I did help].
[See the jars on the counter? We're saving all our jars. We put the honey for our use in them].
A few days later Dad called me. Yes we could sell our honey and he'd have to be there very early in the morning, not mid morning like I had arranged.
I said he didn't have to go. I could sell the honey. Not so, he said, because he's the Marketing Manager and it's his job.
I said I'd be taking beekeeping equipment to put on the table. Oh no, I can't do that. He needs the table for the honey. I said we're to share the table. He said he'd bring his own table and if it rained he could go inside the general store.
I think that means I get to stay outside and get wet.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
In the bee yard was a bit of a junk pile and this large spool, probably from some heavy wire for construction, was sitting there.
Today was a lovely day with temperatures around 24 degrees Celcius. It was hot! The bees were busy flying.
We're supposed to have rain over the next few days so the plastic cover should keep things dry.
Friday, September 16, 2011
My only complaint was that the lid didn't fit down completely tight and it would puff a little smoke from the side of the lid.
See the photo - how the cage goes all the way up. It also has a hook on front for hanging it.
Later on I got a second smoker, one to leave in the bee yard for those occasions when I showed up there without my regular smoker. That one is a Dadant smoker. It's sleeker and also has the protective cage as well.
A friend has a smoker - a short squat one. Actually it wasn't what she really wanted but it was the only one available at the supplier at that time so she got it. This one is well made but the problem is that the top of the smoker is level with the top of the bellows. So when the lid is open when you're lighting the fire the flames come up and burn your hands while you're trying to puff the bellows. So you must close it if puffing the bellows. Neither of us recommend getting that kind of smoker.
Both my smokers are taller than the top of the bellows so you can leave the lid open and puff the bellows and keep your fingers safe from the flames.
Just something to consider if you're shopping for smokers. Stings are bad enough, so you don't need burned fingers too.
Have you made a smoker kit? If not here's a post about creating a smoker kit
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
[Photo - Dad taking a turn at brushing bees].
I smoked the air which I believed helped (normally I never have to smoke them) and I rethought what I was doing. I was brushing them lightly but quickly.
So I slowed right down with the brush and I used super light strokes. It worked beautifully. I mostly used the top 2" of the brush to lightly touch the bees, stroking from the bottom up. They would fly up or drop down into the hive. But the huge difference was their attitude. It was like they didn't realize I was there.
From that time on I continued with this technique, as well as covering everything up. It took longer to go slower but the end result was that I didn't need gloves, didn't get stung and I didn't need to use smoke again.
Another thing we learned this summer is that not all brushes are alike. My friend Janice bought a yellow/orange bristled brush but we found her bees got mad too - the bristles were thick and stiff and with each stroke its like the bees were being slapped. When she switched to my softer brush the bees calmed right down. So check the bristles on a brush before you buy one.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Sunday, September 4, 2011
When watching nature shows I'd feel sorry for the poor wildebeest or zebra being chased by the hungry lion. Then they'd show the baby lion cubs and I'd feel for them too. After all they were just hungry and Mom was trying to feed them. Everybody has to eat don't they?
This brings me to report that I returned to the bee yard after three or four days. My plan was to check on the small swarm that was living in a medium super. A few days ago I shook them out of their hive only to find they had a queen. Their equipment quickly reassembled and them back inside I fed them sugar water.
It was a sad homecoming.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
I inspected Hive 3 and found the deep to be full of honey - most of the other hive's deeps were busy with brood and some honey but not full.
Next, the supers were full of honey too, capped and uncapped. And the real teller: No brood of any kind. No capped cells and not a larvae in sight. Also, there were two more supers with drawn comb that had nothing in them. There were lots of bees in the hive. I pulled most of the frames in the deep and did not see a queen.
It was enough for me to conclude the hive was queenless. The bees were in good spirits and the lack of brood was actually a relief - better than seeing only drone cells like with hive #2. A drone layer can really complicate requeening.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
So I let them move in. I did a brief inspection after a week and saw they were clustered and busy building combs.
After two weeks I saw they had capped cells. We looked over all the bees and there was no sign of a queen. All the capped cells were bullet shaped drone cells.
I figured it was a laying worker and that the swarm may possibly have originally come from Hive #2 which did go queenless and ended up with a laying worker.
The other day that's what I did. When I shook the bees most of them went up in the air. I then removed the equipment leaving them no home.
They began to gather on the platform where their hive was and several workers started to do home scenting. I felt bad for them.
A couple minutes later I checked on them. They were in a cluster. And in that pile of bees I saw a caramel coloured abdomen. She was small, but she was there--a queen!
Where on earth did she come from?
Then I realized that I had just shaken them out of their home. So I quickly put everything back together. The queen jumped on my hive tool and I set her in the hive.
Then all her workers marched inside while I stood there apologizing for the rude interruption to their day.