From one of my very favorite (and useful) beekeeping blogs (HoneyBeeSuite) I wanted to share a post that so well describes the grocery-store honey and the wonders of honey in the comb: How to make value-subtracted honey. I couldn’t agree more, nor could I say it better so I’ll just pass on this link.
I’ve always loved honey–even as a child–especially comb (also known as cut-comb) honey. Now that I have bees I have my own honey–but it is wildflower honey. It’s a mix of whatever is currently providing nectar for the ladies to tote back to the hive and process into honey.
Varietal honeys have flavors that can be quite distinctive. (Note that I’m not referring to “infused honey” which has had flavors added–e.g. chilli pepper, which sounds delightful to me, but rather honey which is made exclusively (or almost) from a single flower.) My honey shelf includes varietals such as leatherwood, tupelo, orange blossom, thyme, lavender, eucalyptus, buckwheat, sourwood–and what was purported to be kudzu honey. I think the Hawaiian white is all gone. Always on the lookout for good varietals. It’s a real treat to have these on biscuits or warm, homemade bread, or used in a sorbet, sherbert, or granita where the individual flavors really stand out–or just on morning oatmeal.
These thoughts on varietal honeys sprang from update from Honey Bee Suite answering the question of whether or not bees made honey from poison ivy/poison oak. Turns out that they do–and the blog post included a link to a source of some really interesting varietals from the Pacific Northwest varietals. I think I really have to have some poison oak honey–especially as I share the experience of having that same kind of reaction to exposure to poison ivy, although mine didn’t involve any horses. Just a lot of poison ivy.
The post on poison ivy/oak honey had a link to a site that has an interesting array of varietal honeys from Old Blue Raw Honey as single season, samplers, and the year-long honey subscription–a serious gift for a honey lover!
To have a varietal honey there has to be enough of the blossoms to let the honey bees do their “monofloral” thing. Even wildflower flavors will vary from season to season as the flora shifts; fall will bring goldenrod and aster nectar for honey. One of the intriguing things about honey in the comb is that you get to variable flavor even within “wildflower” honey.
We are seeing more and more news about bees and honey–honey adulterated with substances like high-fructose corn syrup. This review of what you might really be getting in that jar from the supermarket is excellent–with good supplemental links. Please read this so you know what might (or might not) be in that jar labelled honey.
Did your honey come from bees? from YayYay’s Kitchen is a great article. After reading this, I hope you’ll find a local beekeeper or a farmers’ market and buy your honey there.
If you want to be really sure that your honey hasn’t been processed in any way, look for honey in the comb (cut comb or chunk honey)–still just as the bees packaged it. If you want honey extracted from the comb your best bet is still a local beekeeper who can tell you about how the honey was processed during and after extraction from the comb.
This is a photograph of one of the frames from my Rosemary hive–lots of honey stored here. At the right are cells of honey that are capped. This means that the bees have evaporated moisture from the nectar to a level where fermentation will not take place, then sealed the cells. At the bottom center of the photograph, you can see cells that are open and being filled with nectar. These have not had enough moisture removed for capping.
When you buy comb honey the cells will be closed or covered with beeswax (capped). You know that honey is just as the bees made it.