Honey in the Kitchen

Did you know that you can obtain honey in at least five different forms?

  1. Liquid/extracted honey
    1. This is the typical liquid honey you get in a jar.
  2. Chunk honey
    1. This is large pieces of honey comb with honey inside of it stuck inside a jar of liquid honey.
  3. Cut-comb honey
    1. This is full combs of honey that have been cut into a square.
  4. Creamed honey
    1. This is honey that has been whipped and allowed to crystallize so fine that it seems smooth as butter and is spreadable.
  5. Section-comb honey
    1. This is honey comb filled with honey that was put into special sections and filled in with wax comb and honey and removed as a whole unit.

You can take a container of crystallized honey (no, it’s not “gone bad”) and make it liquid again one of the following ways…

  • Place the container into a hot, dry area and it will re-liquify in a while
  • Place the container in a hot water bath and it will re-liquify relatively quickly
  • Very small amounts can be placed into a microwave oven on low heat and re-liquified rapidly.

What does it mean when you see “Raw Honey” on a label?

Raw honey in this case refers to liquid honey that has not been filtered or has had very little straining and/or it has not been heated above 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit.

What is in most commercially packed honeys such as we find on store shelves?

Most commercially packed honey is honey that has been blended from two or more sources in order to deliver a consistent flavor and color.

Can I replace sugar with honey in my recipes?

As a matter of fact, yes, you can swap honey for sugar in most recipes.  As a matter of fact, honey is noted in baking as helping to maintain moisture and “keep” better.  It has been further noted that in some cases it helps to draw out more subtle flavors in a recipe.

There are times when cooking that due to honey being acidic, some recipes require that honey be neutralized.  If that is the case for your recipe you can mix in about 1/12 of a teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey added.  that’ll fix it.

Generally speaking, you can follow the list below for conversion.  Keep in mind, honey is sweeter than cane sugar, less is more.

  • 1/4 cup sugar = 3 tbsp honey
  • 1/3 cup sugar = 3 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup sugar = 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 cup sugar = 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups sugar = 1.5 cups honey

How should I store honey?

Honey should generally be stored in a cool (just under about 50°F), dry area.  If honey is heated too much, too often or is stored for too long it can darken in color

What is all this about moisture content in honey?

Moisture content is very important to honey because if too much moisture is present, the honey can start to ferment, that’s not a good thing unless you meat to make mead.

For example, U.S. Grade A Honey is not supposed to be above 18.6% moisture content or it isn’t Grade A anymore.  As a matter of fact, if it isn’t at least or lower than 18.6%, it can’t even qualify for most honey judging competitions.Interestingly enough, if any honey is at or below 17.1% moisture content, it pretty much just won’t ferment.

Defining Honey

So what kinds of honey do we usually find in our honey hunt?  The has a list of definitions available used by a great many who work with honey professionally.  Look this list over and see if you know which honey is which.  Let’s do this Jeopardy style.  I’ll give you the answer fit then I’ll post the question.

  1. This is honey that has been filtered to remove various solids (like wax particles) and pollen grains.
    1. What is…Filtered honey.
  2. This is honey is it naturally is inside of a sealed comb or that is extracted but not filtered or heated.
    1. What is… Raw honey.
  3. Honey that has been heated and to meet certain temperature and time conditions mostly to destroy yeast that may be present but also to minimize crystallization for long shelf life.
    1. What is…Pasteurized honey
  4. These are any number of very thick honey products we can eat sometimes blended with various fruits, flavorings, nuts,spices but not other sweeteners.
    1. What are…Honey spreads.
  5. This is honey that has been very finely crystallized on purpose to make a spreadable and delicious smooth consistency.
    1. What is…Creamed honey
  6. Honey that is comprised of two or more different sources regardless of floral source, flavor, density or color.
    1. What is…Blended honey.

What about honey for diabetics, Is it OK to use instead of sugar?

There’s an interesting thing about honey and diabetics.  On the one hand, there is glucose in honey.  Of course, glucose is a problem for diabetics and should be avoided in general.

Having said that, Honey has invertase which helps invert the sugars in nectar.  Combine the inversion with dehydration and now you have honey.  Because of that inversion though it has been noted that honey is more readily absorbed into the bloodstream.

What that ultimately means for diabetics is that if you are really watching your blood sugar levels, are getting plenty of active exercise, and are feeling a bit risky, then a little it of honey is lot having a bit more table sugar.  Less goes further in this case.  Seeing as honey is actually said to be sweeter than table sugars, you really don’t need to use that much at all.

Obviously I’m not a doctor and I’m not about to give you medical advice.  But now you have some information to start you off on a sweet investigation hopefully leading you to a much better informed decision you can make for yourself.

That’s it for today folks.  Keep coming back to visit us at the Bee Smart beekeeping project and we’ll bee sure to share some more sweet info your way.

 

Honey and allergies? Does it help?

Honey, Help Me

The idea that consuming honey being able to alleviate allergy symptoms has been around for a very long time.  It’s a bit of a complex issue.

There’s the pollen, there’s the honey and there’s the person.  All of these things and the things about them have to be taken into consideration.

The basic idea falls into a treatment or therapy called immunotherapy.  Trying to get the human body to build up an immunity to the agent through minor exposure is what’s going on.

The Honey

First of all, honey, raw honey is what we’re talking about in this case, has a number of extras in it that get processed out through filtering and pasteurization otherwise.  Honey entirely unfiltered will have a certain limited amount of pollen grains mixed in it.  Most honey, even processed has some amount of pollen grains, only raw honey has the most not having any filtered out.

Consider also that most honey is harvested in the late Summer and early Fall.  To have the type of pollen necessary to make immunotherapy work, there has to be enough for the body to work with yet not so much as to trigger the allergic reaction that we are trying to reduce.

Some suggest there may even be trace amounts of bee venom in honey.  Not very likely as the “business end” of the bees where venom is produced, stored and released has nothing to do with and is nowhere near the cells when nectar is being deposited, sugars are inverted and it is dehydrated to turn it into honey.  I’m not saying it’s impossible, just highly improbable.

Another much more valid concern is that the honey is not dehydrated enough (ideally between 17 and 18 percent water) and may become fermented, moldy or otherwise compromised.  Again, not likely but it does happen if beekeepers aren’t checking the honey they harvest properly.

A third concern is that of certain bacteria called “Botulism”.  It’s interesting to note that websites like WebMD add a warning about unprocessed honey possibly leading to botulism when raw honey naturally contains certain enzymes which inhibit and prevent the presence of many bacteria, botulism being one of them.  The very act of pasteurization kills the inhibiting enzymes, thereby allowing bacteria to grow unchecked.  Though the author of the article at WebMD and others similar fail to acknowledge this.  I suspect their study for such articles failed to even include talking with a beekeeper or beekeeping related research person.

The Pollen

Because plant pollens are very largely genetically similar, the saying that, “The Devil is in the details” applies here.  Honey is mostly collected later in the year and primarily from every flowering plant the bees find.  However, some of the biggest pollen allergy triggers are from grass and grain pollens.  The bees rarely pick these types of pollens up.  If a persons allergic responses are primarily exclusive to grass pollens, honey won’t bee the source of relief they had been hoping for.

Also, in unfiltered, raw honey, there potentially could be enough of a pollen type present to initiate an allergic response in someone who might likely not even know they had an allergy to a particular type of pollen.  It has happened.

The Person

Of course, people themselves are each different and have different reactions to exposure to various stimuli.  The severity or degree of allergic response is unique for each person.  Each individual also has their own immune system that may be strong or not-so-strong depending on a variety of factors.

One person with few allergy triggers and a strong immune system may find that only a small amount of honey in only a few instances  has helped them feel better.  Someone else with perhaps a lower immune system might need more or more frequent consuming of honey to experience relief.  It’s all a big crapshoot really.

So, Can it or Can’t it?

Ultimately yes, raw honey has been found to help people with certain types of pollen allergies find a reduction in allergic responses and experience some degree of relief from allergy symptoms.  Whether it can help for any person will require some experimentation by that person.  Trying various amounts, various frequency of intake, even different honeys from different areas might make a difference.  Or, it might not make any difference at all for those unlucky enough to have the wrong pollen allergy, low immune systems, greater allergic symptom responses or some combination of any or all of these.

One thing I can tell you for sure is, honey  tastes so darn good, it makes all the experimentation worthwhile.

 

Bee Smart: Buzzed About Bees

Starting Saturday August 12 9:30 -10:30am at Chick-Fil-A in Bellevue, NE.  Every second Saturday of each month afterward. Come on down and talk to a professional apiarist.  Ask your bee related questions.  Find out about beekeeping, honey, pollination, beeswax and anything else that has to do with bees that you’ve got on your mind.

Sit down with Tony “Big Bear” Sandoval from the Bee Smart beekeeping project and the Beehooligans podcast to talk about anything and everything bees.

Want to get started in beekeeping?  Come on down.  Have questions about cooking with honey?  Come on down.  Want to know about making beeswax crafts?  Come on down.

Got a story to share about bees?  We want to hear it.    Get a little something to munch on or drink, and sit down with us to get all the buzz on everything bees.

HuffPo Calls Honey Vomit, Wrong As Usual

Loathe as I am to ever willingly refer reasonable people to a source that is so low that they don’t pay the contributing writers for their work except in “exposure”  (while they rake in millions from advertising) when it comes to spreading misinformation about bees, I am compelled to correct it.

A European honey bee (Apis mellifera) extracts nectar from an Aster flower using its proboscis.

In this recent article, the author tries to make an educated seeming run at referring to honey legitimately as “bee vomit”.   Their argument is founded on the generality of definition of the word “vomit”.    If you use a “real” dictionary she says, then vomit is merely ejecting contents of the stomach through the mouth.  If you use any other definition, you must be relying on Wikipedia and are subject to scorn and ridicule.

However, even though she goes to lengths to describe that bees have two stomachs and that honey transported by bees is carried in the non digestive “crop” or proventriculus of the honey bee, but still counts as “vomit” to her.

The “crop” (proventriculus) is the first organic in the abdomen (colored green) before going to the “midgut” (ventriculus)

While she focuses on the definition of vomit as her ace-in-the-hole, she completely overlooks, or perhaps ignores, that in her own description she has already shown that she is incorrect.

Vomit is material ejected from “the” stomach.  In a mammal having one stomach in which digestion occurs.  In an insect such as the honey bee and having two stomachs (as fellow Beehooligan Dean Stiglitz points out, the proventriculus or “crop” is actually a gland and not a true stomach, further making the point that it is not vomit), the proventriculus NOT engaging in digestion, it would be more accurate to refer to it as a process of regurgitation.

A nationally viewed media source (not being worthy of the more credible term “news” since news sources actually pay their sources)  to toss around words blithely is disappointing.  Words have not just meaning my friends, but specific meaning.  In casual discussions, words are often loosely bandied about.  In a technical discussion, such as one actually involving science, medical, and other fields where specificity is necessary, words meanings take on greater importance.

So, technically speaking (as it seemed the article author was hoping people would see her point), honey is regurgitated nectar from “a” stomach called the “crop” not used for digestive functions by an insect.

It is not vomit from “the” stomach of a creature having only one in which to conduct primarily digestive functions.

Maybe if HuffPo would actually pay their sources, they could be taken more credibly on important topics like bees.

 

 

Good Stuff From The Hive

Apiarists are like farmers in that we take colonies of honey bees and knowing what they can produce in excess of their own needs under the right conditions, we try to arrange things to get the bees to do exactly that.  Make a lot of good stuff, more than they need, so that we can harvest it and make use of it.

What kinds of things can we get from honey bee hive’s and what are they good for?  This simple yet informative image found on the www below can show you the awesomeness that is brought to us by honey bees.

What’s In Your Honey

The World Wide Web is chock full of cool information about all things bees.  Sometimes it’s a trick to find it.  Instead of re-inventing the wheel, we like to bring you the awesome things that don’t need to be redone.

For example, the image below gives you some basic information on the chemical makeup of honey.  How cool is that?

What are bees doing? Making Honey

Honey, the golden flow.  The nectar of the Gods (or is that Mead?)  For us bees, it is the stuff of life.  Whatever you might think of honey, it’s not nearly as what it is to honey bees.

First of all, what is honey?  Honey is nectar, a sugary sap-like substance produced by flowers that is mostly water with varying amounts of sugars in it.  Actually honey is nectar that has been changed and dehydrated by the mixing of special enzymes found in every worker bees “Crop” also known as the honey gut.  We’ll gut more into that later.

First of all, flowers aren’t as nice as you think they are.  Oh sure, they want you look at them and say how pretty they are and how great they smell.  You don’t understand though, it’s all a plot.  Plants are conniving things that are manipulating us bees into helping them to multiply and take over the world.

It’s true.  See, for millions of years now, plants have been adding this addictive and tasty substance you call nectar to trick honey bees and some other insects into pollinating them and help them to reproduce, multiply and spread out.  With bee pollination, some flowering plants can take over entire landscapes and no-one bats an eye except to look at the pretty sight.

Puh-leeze.

They lure us in with this tantalizing nectar.  We brush past all the pollen, covering ourselves in it, drink up the nectar and store it to take home and share with the colony.  On the way, bees stop at other, similar flowers and as we go in for the nectar again, the pollen we picked up from the previous schemer is brushed off onto the next one helping it to reproduce more efficiently.

Meanwhile, we take the nectar home, mix in a variety of enzymes from our Crop and as we pass it to the next bee or into a stores cell, we mix even more of the “special enzyme mixture” into the nectar which, among other things, converts the sugars and helps to dehydrate the nectar until it’s only about 18% water.  When you consider that nectar starts out as maybe 80% water or more, that’s one heck of a transformation we put it through.

So it get’s converted, dehydrated, stored and then we save it and make more.  It gets eaten, eventually.  depending on the time of year or the season.  This is the primary food of all adult bees.  We do collect some of the pollen also to feed the brood but for adult bees, we get the good stuff.

However, we have to live with the knowledge that we are willing accomplices to plants’ diabolical plot to take over the world.  Really, when it all comes down to it, we don’t mind.  The plants and bees were here long before you people and we’ll pretty much bee here long after you are gone.  Not that I’m wishing anything bad on anyone, just, well, you know, that whole “Survival of the Fittest” thing.

A single honey bee colony in a beekeeper’s hive is capable of relatively easily producing anywhere from 50 to 300 pounds of honey depending on the resources, environment and weather.  Of course, it also depends on the bees.  I have got some cousins that, well, let’s just say if they don’t get motivated, they will be “Naturally Selected” before you can say “Honey”.

I have sisters who will spend their whole lives as a forager collecting about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey.  Don’t worry too much about it though, I have more sisters than most cities have people.  This is what they are made for.  True story.

My Momma, the Queen bee, she told me once, “Bubba Bee, when you’re sisters give you food, you’d better eat all they give you beecause that stuff took a whole lotta effort to make and we’re all counting on you to go make some future Queen bee mighty successful at laying eggs.  So you eat that honey and become healthy and strong.”

Truth bee told, my Momma didn’t call me “Bubba”.  She just said, “Boy”  beecause when she’s laying that many eggs to beecome drones, it’s hard to come up with that many different names.  One of my sisters did tell me once that one colony in a hive can fly a total (combining all the flights of all the foragers) of about 55,000 miles, getting nectar from approximately 2 million flowers just to make one pound of honey.

Did you realize that honey bees are considered to be the only insect that make food edible by humans?

You’re welcome.