Picking up where my previous post left off. On Saturday we took our six frames of honey to Emma’s dad’s house, as he had kindly let us do the messy business of honey extraction in his nice clean house.
As Emma has been given a fancy electric centrifugal extractor by a colleague who has retired from beekeeping, I assumed extracting would be easy. So naive…
We had the difficulty that we had some frames with a mixture of capped and uncapped honey, because we had to remove the frames earlier than we would have liked to in order to do Apiguard treatment with the rest of the apiary. Uncapped honey means it’s still too watery – honey should be only 18% water – so the bees haven’t capped it over yet. It’s not good as it will ferment more easily after harvesting, because the sugar concentration will not be high enough to prevent yeast growing. Someone had suggested that we put these frames in without uncapping them, to get the uncapped honey out first and keep it separate. They looked like this:
We switched the extractor on but things didn’t quite go to plan. The frames started collapsing and coming apart. And the uncapped honey was refusing to come out, it just stayed in the frames. So Emma had the idea of cutting the honey up into chunks to make comb honey instead, like this:
It was fun cutting the chunks out and putting into mini taster jars which we got from Thornes. There was much sticky finger licking going on along the way. It is a mild but intensely flowery honey which the bees have made us, the taste of summer.
Finally we tried to extract from the remaining three frames by first decapping them using an uncapping fork. You can see me having a go below, it’s quite a satisfying feeling.
We put the decapped frames in the extractor and turned it on, first slowly and then faster and faster until it was at a speed which nobody’s arm could possibly turn at. Barely any honey came out, it stubbornly stayed put!
Last year it only took Emma a few turns with a hand extractor to get all her honey out and it was dripping from the frames. With these frames the honey was like treacle, thick and gooey:
We had to give up trying to get the treacle honey out with the extractor in the end. Instead we dug it out from the frames with a spatula, throwing away the thin foundation strip in the middle. It’s a shame as we can’t use the frames again next year and the bees will have to build a super of wax cells up again from foundation.
What flowers can our bees have been on to make such thick honey? Heather produces notoriously thick, jelly-like honey which is a thixotropic stiff gel until stirred but I haven’t seen much in Ealing. ‘Keeping bees and making honey‘ by Alison Benjamin and Brian McCallum (2008) mentions that chestnut and hawthorn produce very thick, dark brown honey, but they’re supposed to have a strong, nutty, malty flavour which ours doesn’t. Has anyone else had such thick, stubborn honey before?
I’m very grateful to Emma’s dad for letting us do the extracting at his place. It would have been so hard in my tiny kitchen. Thank you Emma and Glenn!