I am just so giddy! Our bees won the county fair for the second year in a row! And this time, we took both the honey ribbons--one for extracted honey and the other for cut comb honey. It's official, our cured bee vomit is the best bee vomit!
It's the oddest sensation, the bees essentially did the work, we just took it out of the hive and presented it to the fair officials and they judged it to be what we already suspected--super tasty. However, I still feel a deep satisfaction in it. And no, we are not the only entrants in the county fair--there were others and the local bee club does have a booth at the fair, we are certainly not the only beekeepers in the area.
Beekeeping is the coolest thing and I love that I do it, I love watching my bees. I don't know what the secret to our hive flavor is. I've never been a fan of honey. When we started our beekeeping operation and Mr. Neil said that we would split the honey down the middle, I didn't care. I was strictly interested in beekeeping from a natural history point of view. Honey had always had an odd after taste that I never cared for. I did like Really Raw Honey brand, that was the first time I found honey a pleasure to eat. We were warned that in our beekeeping class that our honey that our own bees produce would be the best tasting honey ever and we would be spoiled for any other kind.
I've always kept that in the back of my head. Even the first time when we ate honey from our hives and the four of us on our bee team literally devoured a frame in twenty minutes. I had never tasted anything like it. The honey was warm from the summer sun, the wax was fresh and chewy. The honey was light in flavor, that tasted the way the local wildflower smelled, with just a hint of a peppery bite in the finish. I thought it was the best, but still in the back of my mind, I thought it was because they were our bees. Even if friends told me it was the best honey ever, I was still suspicious. Who well tell a beekeeper that their bees make "ok honey" or just "edible honey" or even "sucky honey?" No one is going to say that (at the very least to be polite but also because the beekeeper could send bees to sting them). I was cautiously optimistic about how great our honey is.
So, for a lark we entered a jar in the county fair last year and we won.
I was shocked--was our honey really that good? Was it just a fluke, were we just new entrants and judges thought, "Oh, here's somebody new, let's give it to them!" We entered again this year and I tried to keep my hopes low--we might not win this year, our honey tastes a bit different with a hint of mint, maybe someone has an all basswood honey that would blow the judges out of the water, or maybe someone else has a turn to win this year--and our extracted honey won again! We must have talented bees with a knack for producing great honey.
We also thought we would enter in our comb honey, but Lorraine noticed that the entry rules read, "cut comb honey" and worried that our use of Ross Rounds may not count. Cut comb honey comes from the type of supers where you literally cut the wax comb into squares and put them in either plastic boxes or in a jar with more honey--you can eat the wax along with they honey. Ross Rounds are the best way that I have found to do comb honey. There are plastic circles that fit into the frames of the Ross Round. The bees build out the foundation inside the white circle. When they cap over the honey, you remove the frames, easily pop out the white circle and put a lid on either side--badda bing, badda boom, you're done. There's no cutting (apart from trimming away excess frame foundation). Here is a blog entry on how to extract you comb from Ross Rounds. The holders and lids make for a great presentation, especially if you found on where every single cell is capped. But I wondered if that would be considered cheating--you essentially are putting the container for holding the comb in the hive for the bees to build in. I told Lorraine that we should be rebels and to enter it anyway...and we won!
I find comb honey far easier to harvest and I enjoy it the most--I love chewing the wax. It's also the more valuable honey--you tend to pay more for it. However, when I give comb honey to friends, many are kind of wierded out about the wax. I found out through a friend on Facebook that Mr. Neil had gifted him some comb honey and he confessed he hadn't eaten it because he wasn't too keen to eat wax. So we have extracted honey.
Perhaps Lorraine's method of extracting our honey helps with the flavor? We have a big fancy extractor, but she prefers to strain our honey through cheesecloth. We do not heat our honey (some beekeepers do to make it stay in a liquid state for a longer period of time--which also affects the flavor of the honey and causes that weird after taste ). If you do not heat your honey, it can "granulate" over time, which is fine, it's just a tad thicker. It's safe and works fine in tea, but some people think granulated honey is inferior and will not buy it, that's why many commercial honeys are heated, so it will stay liquid and consumers will purchase it. If you wish to turn granulated honey into liquid honey, just put the jar in warm water for a few minutes.
We are all now warming in the afterglow of our second consecutive win and our clean sweep of all the honey awards at the county fair. I'll try to head out this weekend to get photos.