After surviving a long, cold winter and a cold, wet spring, my beautiful honeybees shook off the chill and went straight to work collecting pollen and nectar, building new combs, raising baby bees, and creating that divine food of the gods: honey. I was beyond ecstatic to find a super (the shallow box placed on top of a hive) full of capped honey. It was early in the season for harvesting, but there they were: eight frames of golden deliciousness.
The process of extracting honey isn’t difficult, but it is messy–in the best, possible way! After successfully removing the super from the hive and making sure there weren’t too many stragglers hanging onto my stolen treasure, I drove from the organic farm where I’m now keeping my bees, back to my house, ten miles away. I had borrowed/rented the extraction equipment from my local Beekeepers Association and set it up in my kitchen ahead of time.
Uncapping the honey is done first. I used an electric uncapping knife, which gets hot enough to melt the top layer of wax which the bees create to seal the honey inside each cell of the honeycomb. Holding the frame vertically over a container fitted with a wooden cross-bar, I carefully slid the hot knife downward, allowing the wax cappings to fall into the container.
I then placed each frame into the extractor, which is a big, stainless steel drum with frame holders that look like metal paint straining pans. Some extractors are spun manually, but the one I used was electric and very efficient. The frames are spun around inside the extractor until the honey is flung onto the inside walls of the steel drum and drips down to the bottom, where a valve is opened for the honey to drain into another container.
Once all the frames went through the extractor, I placed a nylon paint strainer around the valve and lifted the valve cover, straining all that wonderfully fresh honey into the bucket below. The straining process keeps any dead bees, wax, or other debris out of the finished product. That’s really all the processing required; no other filtering is needed, and under no circumstances should honey be heated or boiled. Doing so would destroy all the beneficial antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties that make honey so miraculously good for us.
The result of this fun, sticky process was almost two gallons of pure, fresh, straight-from-the-organic-farm honey made by my very own little, Italian honeybees. The honey was sweet, floral, and bright, delicious on yogurt, in tea, or right off the spoon. No matter how many times I’ve been stung, or how hot it gets in my bee suit out in the afternoon sun, the reward of harvesting my own honey is something that has me totally hooked.