Joy oh joy the bees made honey this year! Local Gabriola honey is a treasure for those who love the excellent flavour.
Bees collect nectar from the blossoms close to their homes and this produces unique flavours and textures of honey. Gabriola honey lovers have an opportunity to taste the different blends from many areas of the island. All are invited to drop by and try honey from Brenda’s Bees at Woodfire Pizza and Pasta on Nov. 5 from 5-7 pm and at the Old Crow Cafe on Nov. 6 from 3-5 pm.
Honey is made mostly from the two sugars: levulose (glucose) and dextrose (fructose). The uniqueness and quality of honey comes from the minor components in the ripened product. These components include plant compounds, minerals, organic acids, vitamins, lipids, pigments, and aromatic substances. It is the combination of these ingredients that make each batch of honey slightly different. Some honeys are mild and others pungent. They can be clear to dark brown and red.
Bees maximise the amount of sugar in honey based on the humidity and temperature of the hive. When the temperature drops, the water in honey cannot hold onto all the sugar in the solution, so crystallisation occurs.
Levulose is usually the dominant sugar in honey, with dextrose a close second. The more dextrose in the mix the faster honey will crystallise. Finely crystallised honey that is whipped to break the crystals is sold as creamed honey.
Comb honey is the purest and most desirable form of honey from a flavour point of view. Each cell is exactly how the bees made it. Spinning or squishing the honey from the comb mixes in oxygen. Most beekeepers like to filter their honey to remove large chunks of wax and hive debris. This coarse filtering allows small particles that are suspended in the honey, like pollen, to remain. Some beekeepers like to gently warm their sometimes very thick honey to ease filtering and bottling. Raw honey is never heated in processing or melted after crystallisation. To prevent fermentation during storage, honey must be below 17.5 per cent water.
Many consumers prefer liquid honey – some believing that crystallisation is the sign of an inferior product. This is incorrect. Only fresh honey and a few floral varieties of honey are naturally liquid for more than a year.
Micro-filtration and heating remove flavour particles and destroy enzymes and acids that provide the special bouquet of a honey. For this reason, much of the mass-packaged honeys sold have less flavour than honey that comes from small artisan producers. Raw honey maximises flavour in the final product. All stored honey will continue to mature and will darken with age.
To maintain optimum flavour and colour, honey should be stored at or below 10 degrees Celsius in a sealed container. Crystallised honey can be melted gently after storage and still maintain excellent flavour and colour. Melting on warm toast is best.
Gabriola honey has a large volume of blackberry, clover, dandelion, and thistle nectar. Each area of the island contributes its own collection of blossoms to produce some truly special honey blends. These blends are best not described, but sampled. So come use a few toothpicks to sample the nectar of the gods, and maybe buy a jar.
Brenda’s honey is available at Good Earth Farms on Wednesdays and Saturdays 10-1 pm and at the Elementary School Christmas Craft Fair, Dec. 1. Contact me at email@example.com, or on my cell at 250-755-5834. Honey lovers will not wish to miss this opportunity to experience the variety of flavour from your own gardens.
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