Honey Myth Busting by Littleover Apiaries: No 1. Raw Honey
What is raw honey? Well in our opinion the term has been bandied about by a lot of people who should have known or know better.
Technically Honey cannot be “cooked”, it can, and sometime is, burnt – either deliberately or by bad handling. Most honey is cold extracted and is also unpasteurised and so most definitely is “raw”. However if honey has been pasteurised then does that mean it has been “cooked”? The process of honey pasteurisation involves rapid heating to above 72 degrees centigrade and holding it there for two minutes before rapidly cooling it back down. In this process the only thing that would be damaged are osmophylic yeasts and moulds and some unwanted bacteria.
Now is this better or worse than say a small time beekeeper who is using crude equipment to warm his honey before bottling it, which may result in all sorts of problems occurring? A lot of small time producers are literally using equipment with thermostats originally designed for heating systems and are controlled by crude timers. This means that the average local honey producer has equipment that cannot guarantee quality, were as some of the major packers, although they pasteurise, can.
Another part of the Raw Honey myth is has the honey been heated at all? Well “ALL” honey needs to be filtered before bottling, or there would be dead bee, parts of dead plant debris, and all manner of hive detritus in the honey. We filter at the point of extraction using the honeys own natural heat to achieve a filtered product. However, honey is only produced in the spring and summer, and so honey that has been stored for a few months will need to heated and possibly liquidised as all honey will granulate and set over the period of a few months.
As is so often in life what we should really look for is a middle ground, which we at Littleover Apiaries believe we have achieved. We use state of the art equipment and have our own in-house honey laboratory. This means, among other things, that we are able to reheat our honey back to hive temperature with an accuracy excluding hysteresis of plus or minus 0.01 degree centigrade, and we are able to gauge the time to plus or minus 0.1 second. This means that when we bring our honey back to hive temperature we can do this with even more accuracy than the bees. We know precisely the colour of the honey as we measure it in millimetres of light refraction on the Pfund scale and then measure its moisture content to within 0.1%. Moisture is critical to long term storage and the short term taste and it is also used by the Government as a legal standard measure of food safety. Colour is very indicative of floral source and along with a full pollen analysis we can say very precisely what plants our honey is derived from. We then only use gravity to power our filtration through 200 micron straining cloths ensuring that almost all the pollen content is allowed through. We are and have always been so proud of our honey and the fact that it is in the jar the way the bees intended.
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