-Posted by Isaac
Summer honey, here we go again.
If you missed it, we were talking about the great honey flow this season, and showing how the the honey gets from here:
We left off with the extracting completed and the honey going into 55 gallon drums for storage.
You prospective commercial beekeepers out there... I would highly encourage getting set up for drums. So much easier than lifting hundreds of 60 pound buckets. Easier for storing of the honey, moving of the honey, lifting of the honey, and when you run out of room, transport of the honey.
You do however need to be strong enough to wheel a 700 lb load around, and smart enough not to kill yourself doing it. Smart and strong... a hard combination to find these days...
Fortunately we've had a guy with us for about four years now. He fits the bill.
One awesome thing about this business is that you don't have to rush to move your product. Honey lasts forever--a food that never spoils. (As many of you know and like to tell me on a weekly basis.) (Is my fake astonishment sufficient?)
Honey does last forever. But it granulates. As I stated in that other post, the drums of liquid honey today will be rock hard six months from now. So what do you do? Well, you have to heat it.
But not too much. One of the selling points of our honey is that it's raw. A big selling point, actually. Almost all store bought commercial honey has been pasteurized (Heated beyond 150 and micro-filtered.) We heat the honey just enough to liquify it and pump it up into the bottling tanks.
This is done with what you see above: a blanket heater set at 100 degrees. It takes a few days to liquify. That shiny strip of metal sticking out is an idea I'm proud of. It's just a bucket band heater stretched out and placed under the center of the drum. This prevents a cone of granulated honey from remaining in the middle as the drum is pumped. I was so proud of my invention I posted it to the commercial beekeepers facebook page. And it got a whopping 4 "likes" ...taking the bee world by storm!
In the photo below, you can see the honey pump and the four 60 gallon bottling tanks we use for the grocery store honey. What you don't see is the filter. They're inside the tanks. The honey flows through a 400 micron mesh which takes out the small wax particles, but still lets all the pollen grains through. We want the honey raw. The tanks are set at a temperature just under 100 degrees.
The honey doesn't stay here long. Usually less than a week.
You can see the spring valves at the bottom of the bottling tanks.
Again, for you prospective commercial beekeepers, another tip: get a real bottling tank with a real valve! Yes, they're expensive... but so worth it. You'll never think about going back to that sticky bucket valve!
The four big tanks are for the wholesale grocery store stuff, but just around the corner we have five smaller tanks for the speciality honey. Yes, each honey variety needs its own tank.
So once the honey is bottled, the clock starts ticking. Raw honey granulates! Some fast, some slow, but eventually you end up with a solid bottle of honey that cramps your hand when you try to squeeze it over your toast. A conundrum. What to do, what to do??
Well, you've got to keep it warm.
Above is a picture of our first heater box-- an old restaurant freezer converted to honey heater.
That idea worked so well, the next year I built an insulated cabinet for the same purpose:
And I liked that idea so much, we later just built an entire room:
These areas keep the bottled honey in the mid-nineties. They serve as both granulation prevention and honey storage. When we get a big order, we're ready!
Once or sometimes twice a week Jayne or I will make a honey delivery up to Columbus. A honeyrun... Haha.
Grocery stores like their honey in cases. So we do what they like.
They also like UPC bar codes for the separate honeys and separate sizes. So we do what they like.
And we're very appreciative of those stores pushing our local honey.
We're almost done, but we haven't covered the final and most important step: You.
We love it that you love it! Thank you so much for the support. Thank you so much for seeking out honey that is raw and local. Real honey!
At some point in the near future a bottle of summer honey from Ohio bees moves through the checkout line and ends up in an Ohio kitchen. From there, who knows how it will be used...