Honey and wax

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Honey harvest

The ectractor

June and July it is harvest time. Frames that are completely filled with honey are taken into the extraction room and the cappings are removed. To get the honey out of the frames, they are then centrifuged in an extractor. The empty frames are returned the hives so that the bees can fill them again, it saves work for the bees and increases the harvest.

My goal is to get an as aromatic honey as possible. The best tasting honey is always freshly extracted honey but that it is a delicacy that can only be enjoyed at harvest time. Any handling of the honey, pumping, heating, bottling affects the taste. To preserve the maximum of flavor, I try to handle the honey as little as possible.

Good and better honey

How then can you as a consumer know which honey is of good quality? Biased as I am , I always suggest buying directly from the beekeeper. However there is also good local honey in most grocery stores. A rule of thumb is that if the beekeeper’s name is on the jar it is probably high quality honey. The explanation is quite simple. Imported honey as well as Swedish honey without the beekeeper’s name on the jar have been, sold and bought in many steps, transported mixed and handled and all that affects the taste. If you are going to bake or marinate, there is nothing wrong with buying a lower quality honey, but buy locally produced honey and you will make an active contribution to pollination and the local biodiversity!

Creamed honey

The finished honey is a collaboration between the bees and the beekeeper. The bees determine the taste by choosing the flowers from which they retrieve nectar and the beekeeper determines the consistency.

When the honey is newly extracted, it is liquid but it will crystallize with time, Speed depends on which flowers the nectar is taken from, usually within a week up to a month.(heather honey except). Crystallization is a chain reaction and in order for it to start, a nuclei is needed. In honey, this is usually pollen grains around which the first sugar crystals are formed then new crystals are formed around dose and so on until the honey is completely crystallized. Honey that is allowed to self-crystallize will usually become coarse-grained. To make the honey soft I cream it by stirring in a few percent extremely fine-crystallized honey called the graft in the newly extracted honey. The graft acts as a myriad of small crystallization nuclei that start the chain reaction. The final consistency of the honey depends on the amount of graft, the size of the crystals in the graft, the temperature of the honey and how much the honey is stirred so it takes some experience to get the right consistency. Creamed honey is traditionally preferred in Sweden.

Swedish liquid honey dose it exist?

Well,If we ignore the delicacy of heather honey that often stays liquid, the answer is  a “well-kinda”! Newly extracted honey is liquid but it only stays liquid for a week to a month so it is a delicacy that must be enjoyed immediately. Nectar on Swedish latitudes dose not contain fructose enough to prevent crystallization.  The three most common ways to make Swedish honey liquid are to heat it to about 60 degrees, mix in about 15% fructose or fine-filter it so that all crystallization nuclei removed. No mater the method the quality will deteriorate and, according to the EU rules, it’s not allowed to be labeled honey any more.

Liquid honey is usually a sensitive topic among beekeepers and it easily stirs up strong emotions.  I’m part of the phalanx that thinks it’s a bit disrespectful to the bees to treat the honey that way. But even a purist like me can appreciate  that liquid honey is pretty handy in the kitchen when cooking. My solution is simple, take a teaspoon of solid honey and run it in the microwave a seconds and you’ll have the best of two worlds, liquid honey to the vinaigrette and most of the jar left in the cupboard with all beneficial lactic acid bacteria and enzymes retained.

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Wax harvest and virgin wax

Covered honey
Covered honey

The wax has actually historically been valued higher than the honey and given all the areas of use, it is no wonder, base for ointments, sealant, polishing agents, thickeners,candles, for molds and more. The wax is also very costly for the bees to produce. The bees must approximately eat four kilos of honey to produce 1 kilo of wax!

The almost white wax from new honeycombs is the purest and finest wax and is usually called virgin wax. For ointments, only virgin wax from beekeeping that is managed without pesticides should be used.

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Wax candles

Beeswax is a superior material for candles. Candles can be dipped without the need for additives, it smells good, it burns evenly and with light flame and it burns for a long time but above all it burns non-toxic! I’m always looking forward to the autumn when the beekeeping season is over and I can start making beeswax candles in traditional forms.

Block candles natural scented candles without additives.

All bee wax candles have a nice scent but as the pool of molten wax is larger on  block candles they give of a stronger cent. The fine honey scent from a wax candle is among the most soothing things I know, it is simply not possible feel stressed when you have a burning wax candle on the table.

Caring for a wax candle

There is not really much difference between caring of a wax candle from paraffin or stearic candle, however, since bees-wax  candles burn at higher temperatures, they need a thicker wick so it is usually best to extinguish the flame with a candle snuffer to avoid smoke.

Are beeswax candles expensive?

100% beeswax candles usually cost significantly more than candles of paraffin you can by at the big-box store so what’s the difference?

  • The first and larges difference is that beeswax is a non-toxic natural product. Paraffin is made of what remains at the bottom of the tank in an oil refinery when they made gasoline.
  • Beeswax candles burn longer. About twice as long as a stearic candle and 3 times as long as a paraffin candle.
  • Beeswax candles are usually hand made
  • If you compare  hand-dipped stearic candles and hand-dipped candles of 100% beeswax, the price difference is marginal as the main cost is the labor.