Friday, February 3, 2012

A Sad Honey Tale

This is a sad tale about an absent minded beekeeper and a couple pails of honey.

It was the end of the season (late August).  Those honey supers all needed to come off.  Many frames were not fully capped, others had mostly cured honey and some had nectar.  Because I needed to put treatments on I had to take them all off the hives.

We extracted the honey, doing our best to keep the more runny honey separate.  My plan was to check it later to see if it was cured enough so it wouldn't ferment.

All went well except for the last part.  At the end of the season I had so many other things to do that I got really busy.

And I forgot. 

A couple months went by. I was collecting a pail so I could make creamed honey. It was then I discovered my mistake. When I took off the lid I could smell fermentation. And the honey tasted a little fruity.

The surface of the pail was very liquidy - the water on top and crystallized honey below. I felt sick about it. Three pails were affected. Thank God they weren't all completely full.

Two are in the freezer which will hold them in stasis. I'm not sure what can be done with them. I'm hoping they can be used for mead. (I can't stand waste and I don't think I could throw it out).

[Photo - water steams will the honey heats in a double boiler].

One pail I thought I would cook to see if that would improve the flavour. It certainly wouldn't be used for sale but hopefully it could be used for baking.

I created a double boiler with water in a pot and a bamboo steamer. Then another pot with the honey in it was set in. The water steamed away and I cooked the honey slowly for an hour or so. It did thicken and the flavour did improve. I wouldn't use it to sweeten my tea but I think it'll be okay in baking, like muffins or banana bread. I'll have to report back on that.

This has been hard to write about because I'm so mad at myself. The bees worked so hard to make it so how could I forget to check it?  Ihave to accept that it just happened, learn from it and move on.

I will get a refractometer so I can be sure the honey's moisture content is below 18%. [Photo - honey darkens when heated at higher temperatures].

So please learn from my mistake and remember to check your honey for it's water content before you set those jars on the shelf and move on to life's busy non-bee related things.
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