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The following notes have been summarised from an article written by Duncan Weaver in September 2000, a few weeks before he died.. May he continue to harvest bumper honey crops from that Big Apiary in the sky.
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Comb For Extraction Extracted Honey Run Honey Creamed Honey
Naturally Granulated Honey Cut Comb, Chunk Honey & Sections Jars & Lids Wax for Show

 

COMB FOR EXTRACTION

During extraction of the honey crop, watch out for that extra special comb. Beautifully drawn out, with a flat surface on both sides, with all cells filled and capped except a few around the frame edges, with clean, white cappings. Because show schedules usually specify "comb for extraction" it should be drawn out proud of the frame woodwork, so that it can be uncapped with a single pass of the knife. Other requirements are :

  • It should be on wired foundation.
  • The cells should be either all worker or all drone.
  • There should be no pollen. ( To check this, shine a torch through - honey is transparent, pollen is opaque.)

When a comb is found approximating to this ideal, it should be put in the freezer to prevent crystallisation and to kill off any Braula or Wax Moth larvae which would spoil the cappings. To prevent damage to the comb while in the freezer, a simple wooden box can be made to hold one or two frames securely.

A case will be required for showing the comb. This should be glazed on both sides and have a removable lid so the judge can take out the comb for examination. Suitable cases can be bought, or can be made by those with woodworking skills.

In addition to the items mentioned above, the judge will be looking for a clean frame, so scrape of all the accumulated propolis. He will also open one capped cell to sample the honey and check for granulation.

EXTRACTED HONEY

Extracted honey can be presented as a) Run, b) Creamed, or c) Naturally Granulated.

The honey should be filtered free from wax and bits of bee straight from the extractor, and stored in buckets. Its subsequent behaviour decides for which types of honey it can be used. If it granulates quickly with a fine grain, it can be used for run, creamed or granulated. If granulation is slow, in which case it will be with a coarse gritty grain, then it is only suitable for run honey.

RUN HONEY

For show purposes, run honey is divided by colour into light, medium and dark. It is important it is put your entry into the correct class, so borrow some honey grading glasses. Put the honey against a white background in good daylight and compare with the glasses. One glass indicates the borderline between light and medium. The other between medium and dark.

Preparation of run honey for showing starts in exactly the way that honey for sale is produced.

Liquefy the set honey by heating the buckets in a warming cabinet at 54 C for about 24 hours.

(Stir occasionally to even out the temperature, speed up the process and avoid overheating in localised hot spots. Remember, honey is spoilt by heating, and should never be heated above 60 C or there is a risk of caramelisation of the protein it contains.)

When completely clear, filter through the finest available nylon filter (200 micron mesh).

The honey is then ready for bottling for sale. However, it still contains pollen grains and minute particles of

wax which show up as bright specks when a torch is shone through. For show purposes, these must be removed by further filtering.

Kitchen paper is a suitable filtering material. Clean a jug - it must be spotless and hair free, so follow cleaning instructions for jars given below-

Push the paper down into the mouth of the jug to form a conical filter, and hold it in place with an elastic band. Filtering takes forever at room temperature so do the filtering in the warming cabinet at 38-43 C. Only a few pounds of honey are required for show, so this is not too long a job.

If already bottled run honey is to be used, first heat it to 54 C for an hour or so to remove incipient granulation and then fine filter it.

If jars from different batches are used, make sure the filtered honey is well mixed to give a uniform colour.

When sufficient honey has been filtered, it should be bottled immediately, warm, into warm jars. This helps the few bubbles that occur during pouring to rise quickly to the surface, where they can be popped with a needle. Small bubbles tend to cluster and refuse to pop and should be removed, with a little honey, with a spoon. Bubbles can be minimised by pouring down the side of the jar with a minimum of drop. Make sure that the jars contain no less than a full pound of honey: electronic scales allow the weight of the jar to be cancelled. With old fashioned balance type scales, put an empty jar on with one pound weight.

The judge will be looking for a clear bright honey with no sign of granulation or specks of dirt. dog hairs, bits of bee etc. There should be no scum or bubbles on the surface. He will check the water content (i.e. viscosity), so make sure you extract only sealed honey.

Flavour and aroma are most important, but you have to rely on your bees to produce something the judge likes. The judge will also look at the jars and lids, so read the comments below on these. He will also check the weight.

CREAMED HONEY

Creamed honey is a set honey which has been subjected to physical treatment to break up its crystal structure so that it does not set rock hard, but has a consistency something like clotted cream. There is no special treatment for show. A batch of creamed honey is simply prepared and jars are selected from it.

A bucket of fine grained set honey is heated at about 49 C and checked regularly. When about a third has liquefied, it is removed from the heat. The unmelted mass is broken up with a wooden spoon and the whole is then "creamed" with a creaming paddle. This is a circular metal disk with an array of holes. It is fixed on the end of a metal rod with a handle. It is plunged up and down vigorously in the partly liquefied honey for five minutes or so. The honey is forced through the holes and this breaks up the grain structure The paddle should be kept below the surface to minimise the formation of bubbles.

The creamed honey is then left for 24 hours for any bubbles to rise and is then bottled. At this stage, it is liquid enough to pour from a tap, or alternatively it can be ladled in. After 24 hours or so, remove bubbles that have risen to the surface; the surface will reform.

Over the following few weeks the honey will stiffen up but never become hard.

The judge will be testing flavour and aroma obviously. However, the consistency and texture are important in this class. The honey should be stiff enough not to move when the jar is tilted, but be easily spoonable. There should be no grittiness on the tongue. No bubbles or scum should be on the surface, and of course no visible specks of dust etc. All set honeys are prone to fermentation and there clearly should be no hint of this.

NATURALLY GRANULATED HONEY

Naturally granulated honey has been bottled immediately after extraction and allowed to set in the jar. It has therefore to be known from previous years that it is likely to be set with a fine grain. Nothing is certain, because forage can change from year to year.

Given that a fine grain is likely, filter the honey from the extractor. Do not "super filter" it - the pollen grains are needed to initiate the granulation process.

Bottle straight away and remove bubbles after 24 hours. Again there is no special treatment for show, just selection from a batch.

A problem with granulated honey is the phenomenon of "frosting". When it sets, honey shrinks. This can cause a very thin air film between the walls of the jar and the honey. The film reflects light, and so shiny patches appear round the jar. This has absolutely no harmful effect on the honey, but just looks unpleasant.

Fermentation is even more of a problem with this type of honey than with creamed and should be guarded against. It shows up by smell and also by streaks of bubbles up the side of the jar, and a bubbly surface to the honey. The judge will be checking the same things as with creamed honey, except that the consistency will be hard.

Previously set honey (i.e. in buckets) cannot be used for naturally granulated because the process of re-liquefying alters the granular structure so that it never resets to the hard state - it becomes "soft set".

CUT COMB, CHUNK HONEY, AND SECTIONS

The production of cut comb (and hence of chunk honey which contains cut comb) and sections requires forward planning and appropriate management during the summer.

JARS AND LIDS

It goes without saying that jars and lids should be spotlessly clean. Wash jars in hot water and detergent, rinse well and dry upside down in a warm oven. Never dry the inside with a cloth; strands of the cloth will certainly be left behind to show up later in the honey

Lids should be washed and dried. There should be no scratches, chips, dents, or other blemishes on either lid or jar.

Most show schedules require two matched jars of honey. The honey must be the same in both, but it is also important that the jars match. Jars have manufacturers' logos and numbers on the bottom - make sure that they are the same.

Lids should be of the same design. Some have cardboard wads, some have flowed-in plastic seals. There are those with perfectly flat tops, others with a raised tip round the circumference.

During transport to the show, the lids on run honey in particular often become splashed with honey on the inside. It is a good idea to take along spare lids and replace any which are sticky. These details may seem over fussy, but when two exhibits have honey of equal quality, it is these details of presentation which will decide the final order.

WAX FOR SHOW

The wax classes at shows usually include a number of 1oz blocks; a single larger block, 8oz or 1lb & candles. Wax blocks and candles for sale can be made from wax stained from propolis and pollen, as obtained from old combs in a solar wax extractor. This is not good enough for show. Wax for show should be new and clean. Only use wax from cappings obtained during extraction. Drain the honey from the cappings by straining through muslin, and then wrap them in the muslin and dunk them in water in a bucket. Let them soak, drain off, and repeat a couple of times. Mead enthusiasts will use washings for mead production.

It is important to melt down the cappings as soon as possible. If they are kept for any length of time, even after washing, they will develop a black mould. This is impossible to get rid of, and will give wax obtained from the cappings a dirty grey tinge. However, once the cappings have been melted into a block, the mould will not occur and the wax can be kept until required.

An old enamelled saucepan is ideal for melting cappings. Fill it about 1/3 full with soft water, and heat to about 79 C (never more than 95 C or the wax will be spoilt). Heating should be done on an electric ring, never over naked flame. Wax vapour is very inflammable - that is why candles burn. Add the cappings and stir with a stick until they melt. Add more cappings until the pan is full. Have, on one side, some clean aluminium foil food trays. Put about a half inch of hot (65 C) soft water in the pan. Pour in the molten wax and water mixture and allow to set.

When cool remove the wax blocks. On the underside will be a layer of impurities which should be scraped off with a knife. Keep the blocks in plastic bags until needed.

 

REFERENCES

Preparation of Liquid Honey C C Tonsley     National Honey Show Leaflet 1
Showing Honey Products   Ron Brown    National Honey Show Leaflet 9
Honey: from Source to Showbench   J Rounce   Northern Bee Books
Beekeeping Study Notes Module 2    JD & BD Yates   Bee Books New & Old


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