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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Sunday, March 06, 2011

How It's Made - From the Hive to Your Table

We buy raw, unpasteurized honey from a local beekeepers.  The first beekeeper had hives outside town limits but he extracted honey in a garage turned shop within walking distance from us.  The honey went into huge white plastic drums with a spigot.  The kids were thrilled to be able to put their mason jar up to the spigot to get the golden sweetness.  I've bought raw honey directly from the beekeepers ever since. 

Raw honey is a wonderful natural sweetener that has health benefits as well that gets its colour and flavour from the type of flower the bees collected the pollen.  In spring the honey is a pale golden because the bees are feeding on clover but as the summer turns to fall the bees collect honey different flowers.  The honey collected becomes darker and stronger flavoured from spring to late fall.  For example buckwheat honey is a deep amber and strongly flavoured.  Some honey is very regional and rare like sourwood honey harvested high in the southern Appalachian Mountains for only a few days each fall.   It is best to use raw honey collected locally as there is less chance to develop an allergic reaction.  Raw honey should not be given to children under the age of one due to their underdeveloped immune system and botulism risk.

Pasteurized honey is a blend of honey collected that has been heated to high temperatures to destroy Clostridium botulinum spores that produce the toxin causing botulism.   However, high heat degrades the flavour of the honey so it does not have the subtle flavour nuances and colour variation that raw honey does.  I find it very much lacking in flavour.  High heat also destroys the natural enzymes and pro-biotics in the honey making this form of honey nutritionally deficient and lacking in the natural health benefits raw honey has.

The method of honey collection has changed little since the removable wooden frames were developed by an American beekeeper in 1851.  The beekeeper calms the bees with smoke then removes the beeswax and honey filled frames.  The frames are placed in the uncapping machine to remove the caps.  The rest of the cap is manually removed by scrapping.  The frames are then placed in the honey extractor where they are spun to force the honey out.  The honey is filtered to remove any remaining wax.  This liquid honey is then bottled.  Extra honey is stored chilled then heated to 130ºF to return it to liquid for bottling as needed.  Some of the honey combs are cut into blocks to be sold as is.  This really is a delight!  The wax is edible.  The beeswax liner from the frame is used to make beeswax candles while filtered wax is sold as chunks for candle making and cosmetics.  Here's a great video I found to show the process.

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