Today wasn’t a great day to work outside and many of the outside tasks were completed that needed immediate attention anyway. The temperature never got above freezing today, I know for some of you it is like that for months here it is not that way, so it was a good day for inside work. Earlier in the summer I put off putting honey in jars waiting for a rainy day but the drought went on much longer than anticipated, it has rained several times here lately so the drought is over but other things came up.
This is my front yard today and this is why it became a honey day.
The ice in itself isn’t enough to stop anything from getting done but why be cold when you have work to do inside?
Some times procrastination pays off, I only had 4 bee hives through the summer, they gave me around 10 gallons of honey. Processing honey is a pain, lots of wax in the honey when you first get it. Putting it in 5 gallon buckets and doing nothing else with it for several months is the best place to start. Waiting allows a lot of the work to take place on its own, the wax floats to the top so it can be taken off and strained separately.
For the first straining I use a strainer that is used for pasta or vegetables, after the majority of the wax is removed it will look like this:
Some wax is still visible and that is okay, there is nothing fast about preparing honey on a small scale, it was an all day process for a few gallons but I didn’t sit by it either.
After the first strain I use nylon stockings (never used before) on a pickle jar.
Stockings sound strange but it is a nylon mesh that is very fine so it works for filtering out any particles that are unwanted. If you use stockings there should be a little pocket hanging down but not as much as seen here, when you put honey in the stocking it will stretch a little. A rubber band must be used to keep the stocking from sliding down into the jar. After enough honey is in the jar (about 80% full) I take the rubber band and stocking off and pour the honey into jars, put the lid on the jars and wash them off. No matter what I do honey gets on everything, it is much better to do as much as you can than just a little at a time because it seems that you waste about the same if you fill a few jars or several gallons worth.
I try my best to keep everything as clean as possible, all the jars were washed beforehand and all surfaces were cleaned with disinfectants, honey however is pretty nice in the fact that when it has the right moisture content, 17-18%, nothing can grow in it. An old method of keeping wounds from being infected was to actually put honey over the wound, it won’t kill anything but nothing will grow in it either. Of course some of you may be wondering about botulism? It can happen but only if the moisture content goes above 18-20% or somewhere in there depending on where you look. People sometimes say honey can’t go bad, after all honey has been found in Egyptian tombs thousands of years old and it was still good, it’s all about moisture content however if the moisture content increases it can and probably will start to ferment, the only save then is to make mead out of it!
When it comes to moisture content I take great pains to prevent any addition of water to the honey. If you worry too much about the sticky mess of the filters and touching the jars with sticky fingers it can be a problem, washing the filter and not having it completely dry would add to the moisture of the honey, washing your hands in the middle of messing with the honey and not completely drying them would add moisture to the honey.
As said before it is a slow process, once honey is being moved to another container I do not wash my hands again, sure they are sticky, deal with it, it’s not that bad. After the next step is started and it is wait time for the honey to work through the strainer, then it’s wash the jars and hands time. Before I start the process again I make sure everything is where I need it, hands are washed very well and dried very well, then the process starts again. A few drops of water in a jar probably wouldn’t tip the scale when it comes to moisture but why risk it? Besides nothing should be getting splashed in food anyway.
Of all the things homesteaders stick in jars honey is so amazing because of it’s great ability to preserve itself, but plan on a clean up!