Parenting Green: The Gift of Honey
Raw Honey: Learning, Eating & Appreciating
Our family eats honey regularly. The jar lives on our kitchen table. It’s used daily in tea, we pour it over yogurt, and spread it on toast. It’s something I enjoy and use often, something I place value on. When our friends had us over recently and offered to send us home with a frame of honey straight from their hive, I couldn’t say ‘no,’ though the impulse to negate such a generous offering was stirring. I am so glad I accepted. The 2-5lb weight of the frame was surely felt. It was densely full of honey, capped off by sweet smelling wax. How did the bee make two distinctly different substances from one tiny insect body (okay, many tiny insect bodies)?
Scraping away the wax, the thick honey mostly just sat there. I thought gravity would take it down to the cookie sheet waiting below. After checking back a little while later and there were still only drips on the pan, I decided to scrape all the way down to the inner panel of the frame. Now we were moving! That thick wax-laden honey glopped down onto the pan and my family dabbed at it for days. Fresh honey was mischievously gobbled up by the spoonful, and it was a delightful act to behold. I kept thinking how nourishing the properties of the raw local honey was for my kids. Having the empty frame above the pan kept the presence of the beautiful work of the honey bee as a treasure to discover. After eating it straight from the pan, I put it in my tea and sure enough those crunchy waxy crumbles we had been chewing through all week long became a smooth layer of melted wax at the top of my warm beverage. It was time to separate the wax from the honey, for good.
The kids were eager to help with the process. Of course in this modern day doing a Google search for a video on “how to take the wax out of your honey at home” saves you from any loss due to trial and error. We watched a video from a homesteading family, who offered a step by step process on how you could do this at home without having to invest in a centrifuge (which is basically the inner drum of a washing machine that spins out the honey from the frame). They suggested putting that waxy honey into canning jars and submerging them in a bath of 118 degree water in a crock pot.
Filling our crock part way with boiling water and then cooling it down to temperature with cool water seemed to be the right first step. My five year old gladly babysat the bath with an arsenal of ice cubes and a thermometer. We reached the temp pretty easily and held it steady since our crock pot has a ‘warm’ setting. Within about 20 minutes the honey was warm and separated out some from the wax in the jar. We poured it out through a strainer into another canning jar. How smoothly and quickly it poured at this new temperature! There was still a gooey sticky ball of wax (amazing how these idioms come to life) that could go in for a reheating and second strain. After this step our web-homesteading friends from the video said they would go out and leave the sticky ball for their bees to eat away the rest of the honey and leave them the wax! What a recycling service! For us, I put it in a canning jar knowing I would use it in a healing salve where honey was a welcomed addition. We could also use it directly on a skin abrasion, maybe with a poultice of plantain leaves from the yard…come on spring! My ten year old said we should write them a thank you note for telling us how to get the wax out of the honey she was so pleased.
This product kept on giving. As its gorgeous amber color filled a tall canning jar, it felt like liquid gold, and we used it that way. Quickly small jars of this prized discovery became gifts of thanks to our friends and conversation of this process started a wildfire of appreciation and peeked interest into beekeeping. Extracting the honey straight from its source gave us an overwhelmingly new appreciation for that golden substance that resides on our kitchen table, that we make use of daily. Our family typically gets this product already neatly in a jar. By traveling the bridge of discovery between the product and its source, I saw how it strengthened our bond and value for this amazing natural resource we come to use daily. This process of curiosity created a new connection bringing us a greater appreciation for the bees and the honey. These acts, in turn, spark us to be better caretakers. By which we will naturally prioritize a stewardship for the environment since we feel so intimately enmeshed in it. My fascination of these creatures is ever increasing. I can’t wait for our next discovery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angie Gregory settled in the Western MA 6 years ago after many years of traveling the country. She lives in Northampton, MA with her husband and three kids and is an avid gardener and studies herbal medicine. She has worked in the community fostering projects like Grow Food Northampton and started Mother Herb Diaper Service out of her home after the birth of her second child. Her business is now a cooperative venture and has relocated to Holyoke, MA under the name of Simple Diaper & Linen.
[Photo credit: (cc) bionicgrrrl]