Ah, Honey Honey...

Monday, April 26, 2010

The colony of bees that once occupied our "Hello Kitty" Hive are long gone -- but they left a lot of gifts behind. Venus and I still don't know why they up and took flight and left their fine pink home -- but we know one thing for sure:

It wasn't because of a lack of food. Nope -- the little buggers left behind a hive PACKED with frame after frame of wax and honey.

Venus and I haven't really felt the need to go near the hive. It just brings back some rather unpleasant memories of; "why did they leave?" But when Sacramento Bee Garden Writer Debbie Arrington had us break into the hive a couple of weeks ago -- both Venus and I knew that we could not let all of this honey go to waste.

Of course -- that's not why we purchased our colony to begin with. We weren't thinking honey. We were thinking "pollination." We had a hard time believing that a single hive could produce up to 100 lbs. of pure honey -- but after a rather unprofessional harvesting effort this past weekend? WE BELIEVE.

Allow me to demonstrate with said photo? Nope! I know what you're thinking and the answer is no. We did not run out and plunk down $20 for a one-gallon jar of honey. Besides -- the amount of honey in this bowl came out to about 3.5 lbs. And this is just part of the haul.

Needless to say -- the wife and I now have enough honey to last us for a few years.

Getting into the hive isn't easy. It's sticky with honey. The frames are literally glued into the hive body itself. One requires the services of a hive tool to pry these honey-laden frames apart and the curved end of the tool to actually lift the frame out of the hive itself.

But this is what raw honey essentially looks like before all that wonderful processing. Inside of those white and black caps is enough honey to sustain a small army. Bees are wonderful insects when it comes to using every inch of space to pack away as much honey as possible.

Most professional beekeepers use a device called an "Extractor" to remove honey from comb like this. A heated knife is used to literally cut long slices of the comb in this frame. Those slices are then placed inside of an Extractor. After a few cranks? The honey easily separates from frames.

But there's just one problem: Venus and I don't have an "Extractor." We don't even have the heated knife. What did we have? Well -- we did have the all important hive tool which helped a great deal when it came to tearing the comb away from the hive. That comb -- laden with honey -- went into a large mixing bowl.

But the real problem remained: how does one separate a THICK honey from the wax comb? A common strainer would take too long because the honey was so thick. Venus suggested that we heat the mixture over the stove -- which was a fine idea -- except I knew that the wax would melt as well.

Wax with honey anyone? No -- I didn't think so.

And suddenly? I was hit with one of those oh-so-rare "bright ideas." It doesn't happen often folks -- so this is my turn to brag.

Why not fill a sink with hot water and let the bowl containing wax and honey sit on top? Think of it as a double-boiler operation -- without direct heat at the bottom.

What do you know? It worked!

Of course -- it took some time. The honey mixed with wax in this strainer didn't exactly drain in an hour two. Nope -- Venus and I actually went to bed during the straining process. When we woke up eight hours later? HONEY!

But that was just the first straining process we would need. We noticed that a lot of small pieces of wax -- and even a bug or two slipped through the first strainer and into the bowl of honey. Not a problem, since we had a second strainer nearby -- and that one did the trick.

Four or five hours of scooping and straining later? Pure honey. No bugs. No wax. Just fresh, clean, pure, TASTY, honey.

The Food of the Gods.

Of course -- we missed a lot of the honey during our "less than professional" separation job. An Extractor would have removed most of it. But I'm not going to complain about 5.5 lbs. of honey. And keep in mind -- this is just ONE frame inside the Hello Kitty Hive.

There are nine left. And wouldn't you know it? Each one is PACKED.

Time to get to work!


The Vintage Vignette said...

Wow! Now I have visions of a slice of toast, a steaming hot cup of tea and both with a healthy heaping of that all natural honey. Wish I was your neighbor!! :)

Bill Bird said...

Hey VV -- I can't believe how good this stuff actually tastes. Some of the best honey I've ever had. I'm amazed.