Category Archives: Honey

What is honey anyway?

Nectar

Nectar is the raw material for honey and is what the bees collect from flowers. It consists mainly of an aqueous solution of sugars, nitrogen compounds, minerals, organic acids, vitamins and aromatic substances. Sugars and water make up the bulk, with 1% or 2% containing the remaining ingredients.

Sugars

The three main sugars present in nectars are:

  • Sucrose;
  • Glucose;
  • Fructose.

Nectars from different flower species vary both in the concentrations of total sugars, which may be anywhere in the range of 5-80%, and in the proportions of the different sugars present. The total sugar content of a nectar can be analysed and the amounts, types and proportions of the different sugars present can be quantified; together they are known as the sugar spectrum of a nectar. Plant species and sometimes plant families can be characterised by their sugar spectra. Honeybees are quite fussy about the nectars they will gather and it is thought that they are not only influenced by the concentration of total sugar, but are also interested in aspects of the sugar spectrum of a nectar. It is thought that they prefer a mixture of sugars rather than a single type.

The rest

  • Nitrogen compounds including: amino acids e.g. proline, glutamic acid and lysine; proteins (including some enzymes and hormones of plant origin) and amides.
  • Minerals include: potassium, sulphur, calcium, chlorine and iron.
  • Honey tends to be slightly acidic. Organic acids include: acetic, butyric, gluconic, malic, succinic.
  • Vitamins include: thiamine, riboflavin, pyridoxine, nicotinic acid, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, meso-inositol and ascorbic acid or ‘vitamin C’.
  • Nectar also contains some pollen and more is added and ingested by the bees who are of course covered in the stuff. There may also be spores and microorganisms some of which are harmless and some of which are not.
  • Some nectars also contain substances that stop pollen from germinating and may also contain things that are harmful to bees or humans or both.

Nectar to Honey

J.W.White in The Hive and the HoneyBee says “to know the composition of nectar we need only to examine the contents of honey the only difference being the water content and the inversion of sucrose” if so, the converse must also apply and honey contains what nectar contains but without the water.

Honey is what bees make from nectar to store in honeycomb for use as food. Before it can be stored, the water content must be reduced to 20% or less to prevent fermentation. However, dehydration is not the only process involved in the production of honey. In addition the bees make chemical changes via the use of several interesting enzymes and here things get complicated…

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Scottish Flummery Recipe

Flummery – not an adjective but a noun!

According to Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary of 1901 Flummery is an ‘acid jelly made from the husks of oats’ and water but it has since come to mean ‘an empty compliment or anything insipid’. A recipe for traditional Flummery seems to bear this out, with its description of a rather flaccid, glutinous dish, resembling porridge but with the oats carefully removed. Continue reading Scottish Flummery Recipe

Cooking with Honey

In the beginning there was honey…

Honey has been a sought-after commodity since ancient times. Although there were always medicinal applications, its primary use was as a sweetener for other foods, and of course for its own sweet sake. As such, it enjoyed luxury status for aeons and the hazards and pain primitive man was prepared to risk, shinning up trees and breaking into wild hives, especially before he discovered the efficacy of smoke is extraordinary. However it is easier to understand when we realise that the only real alternative sweeteners, certainly in this part of the world, were wild carrots, parsnips and get this… crab apples!

Then there was sugar… Continue reading Cooking with Honey

Sloe Wine Recipe

Sloes are good this year – just managed to pick 9lbs in less than half an hour.

Here’s a recipe for sloe wine with honey:

Ingredients

  • 3lb sloes;
  • 3.5lb honey;
  • 1 gallon of water;
  • red wine yeast;
  • yeast nutrient.

Method

  • Pick through the sloes and remove stalks, leaves etc;
  • Wash the fruit;
  • Boil the water;
  • Pour boiling water on the fruit then mash with stainless steel masher;
  • Cover and leave for 5 days stirring daily;
  • Strain off the fruit and pour the liquor over the honey, stir till dissolved;
  • Add the yeast and nutrient;
  • Cover again and leave for a week while ferment dies down a bit;
  • Pour into demijohn, fit airlock and leave till ferment is finished;
  • Siphon off the lees and leave for a year;
  • Pour it down the lavatory.

Update 30.1.14 – this wine is now fermented out, it is crystal clear rich crimson in colour and very drinkable – if a little sweet.

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Honey and Blackcurrant Wine Recipe

Mead flavoured with fruit is known as Melomel. I’ve got 6 blackcurrant bushes in my garden; I planted them in 2004 as cuttings. Each year now, in July I make between 10 and 30 gallons of wine from the currants they give me. Instead of sugar I use some horrible honey I bought in haste – I’m drinking my mistake. If you’re out there Frank – you know who you are – cheers!

If you have a wine hydrometer, you won’t need me to tell you how to use it and you can be more precise about how much honey you want to add.

Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • 3lb blackcurrants
  • 3.5lb honey
  • 1 gallon water
  • Red wine yeast and nutrient
  • Pectic enzyme

 Method

  • Mash the fruit in food grade plastic bucket. Do not use metal – I use a plastic bottle full of water as a pestle;
  • Boil honey and water in a large pan, remove scum and pour still boiling over the fruit;
  • Cover with a cloth;
  • When cooled to blood heat add pectic enzyme as per instructions on container and leave for a day;
  • Next day add the wine yeast and yeast nutrient, stir and cover;
  • Keep covered in a warm place, stirring once per day, for 5 days;
  • Strain into a demi-john, fit airlock and leave till it stops fermenting and wine clears;
  • Syphon off sediment into a clean jar;
  • Drink it.

Cheers!

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Ivy Honey

Winter is coming but when the temperatures is up – 14 degrees C   or so – the bees will continue to work the ivy (Hedera helix) especially in sunny intervals. It flowers between September and November – even December in  a very mild year. They can take quite a crop from the ivy and it is great fodder for the winter. You will know if your bees are working it because there will be lots of yellow pollen going in which will give the bees a great boost Click here for a pollen load picture or click the photo below for a close up. Standing by the hives the reek of the ivy honey can be very strong. Continue reading Ivy Honey

Honey Ginger Biscuits Recipe

This is the best biscuit recipe I know and it never fails:

Ingredients

  • 4oz self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1.5oz granulated sugar
  • 2oz butter
  • 1.5 oz honey

Method

  • Preheat oven to 190 deg C or 170 deg fan oven;
  • mix together flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda;
  • rub in the butter;
  • add sugar and honey;
  • work the honey into the mixture with the back of a spoon, it will take time but keep at it, till you have a stiff paste;
  • form 16 balls and set, well spaced, on greased baking sheets;
  • bake for 11 minutes.

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