We were so pleased to harvest any honey from our bees. It’s the our first year with these hives, and we had been warned the bees might not make enough honey to share with us.
But end-of-summer San Francisco Bay area is still a paradise with many blooming plants, and the nectar seems to keep flowing (I see many bees foraging at late blooming lavendar, catmint, and other plants in the neighborhoods around Sunset). We felt ok about pulling four frames of capped honey—honey in the combs, sealed with wax by the bees -and giving the bees new frames to fill. We shall see if they’ll draw out new comb at this late date in summer.
But in the meantime, we had four frames of honey to process. Each frame full of honey weighed about 8 pounds. One frame, the drone frame, has no foundation, so that honey can all be harvested with the comb (more on that in another post).
We don’t own an extractor, a gizmo that whirls the frames around and spins the honey out of the comb without damaging the wax cells. So we decided to use the cut and crush method of honey extraction.
We needed a glass bowl (honey is slightly acidic, so containers need to be nonreactive), a bench scraper, and a spatula. We balanced each frame on two wooden spoons placed crosswise across the bowl.
First, using the bench scraper, we cut the honey—wax and all—off the plastic foundation into a bowl. This was very satisfying. The honey runs in a bright amber stream off the frame. It’s really hard to refrain from licking your fingers and singing like Pooh Bear.
Next, we used a spoon to crush the honey and wax in a bowl.It smells heavenly.
We poured this slurry of wax and honey through two layers of cheesecloth and a stainless steel strainer into a food-grade plastic bucket, and left it to drain and settle over the weekend.
The result was 12 pounds 10 ounces of glorious honey, heady and fragrant, and ready to be bottled. Or enjoyed, as the case may be.