Bees are quite magical. They work in perfect harmony with Mother Nature to pollinate plants, while collecting nectar and transforming it into glorious honey.
Once you've tasted raw honey, you'll never eat blended commercial honey again. The flavour difference is extreme in the same way that artisan cheeses are so much better than any plastic-tasting processed cheese.
Raw honey is honey as it exists in the beehive. It has been extracted and strained using only minimal heat, but is never intensely filtered or pasteurized. Straining removes most of the particles including comb and propolis.
Store-bought honey is typically a fine or ultra-fine filtered and pasteurized blend of several honeys. Filtering removes minute particles of beeswax, pollen and enzymes. Honey is high-temperature pasteurized to destroy yeasts and slows the crystalization process.
Liquid honey is unfiltered honey is in its natural form and taken directly from bees. It is typically used as a sweetener for baking, on cereals and with tea and coffee. It tends to ooze off of warm toast. (But then you get to lick it off your fingers!)
Creamed honey, also called whipped honey, spun honey, churned honey, honey fondant, and in the UK set honey, is pre-crystalized honey. Some people think it's honey and cream, but it's not. All honey will crystalyze. To control crystalization, regular liquid honey is “seeded” with creamed honey that has finely ground honey crystals. When the liquid honey crystalizes, it forms soft textured crystals rather than that large grainy ones and has a nice tongue feel. Creamed honey is very spreadable and is wonderful on bread or toast.
Comb honey is honey that is stored by bees in cells of freshly built comb. It is yummy on toast.
Chunk honey is the best of both worlds: a bit of comb honey and liquid honey all in one jar.
A fluffy film on the surface of the honey like a white foam, or marble-colored or white-spotted crystallization on a container's sides are simply air bubbles trapped during the packaging process.
Local, Environmentally Friendly Honey
When you purchase Canada graded honey it does not mean that you're buying Canadian honey. It means that your honey meets a certain grade standard for moisture, colour and filtering according to Canada Food Inspection Agency. To know where your honey comes from, you must read the label's fine print. There you may also notice that your honey may be adulterated with other sweeteners such as corn syrup or cane sugar.
Every micro climate is different and so too is every honey. Like beer, honey colour can range from extra white, to golden, to shades of amber, and be dark like Guinness. Each honey type has a unique floral flavour. Canadian honey is typically white or amber, and is in high demand as the finest grade available. Each year, the floral sources change depending on the weather and environmental factors, which creates unique flavours.
Long sunny western Canadian summers provide massive clover, alfalfa and canola crops for bees to forage and produce mild, white Canadian honey prized for its taste. The average honey yield per hive in Canada is twice the world’s average due to our long and warm summer days and a vast supply of nectar-producing crops.
A Swedish complete value chain study concluded that locally produced honey had less impact on the environment than any other sweetener. Beekeepers also leave virtually no trace on farm ecosystems. Honey is a byproduct of cultivated field crops or gardens and wildflowers.
Anyone can produce and sell honey. A friend or family member can have a few hives, or large commercial operators can have thousands (hiring several seasonal Nicaraguan immigrant workers). Most follow Saskatchewan's Home Food Processor Regulations or are registered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (A few diversified operators may be licensed as provincial food processors or licensed establishments.) The regulations have specific requirements around building construction, hygiene, sanitation, food safety training and water testing. At CFIA registered establishments, honey is tested by the federal government and those facilities, operating procedures, and record-keeping meet the national standards for health and safety so that honey can be sold internationally.
If you don't know the seller personally, look for the disclaimer "Made in a Home Kitchen That is Not Inspected by a Government Agency", a provincial license number, or a four letter CFIA registration number. If a beekeeper doesn't know which heath and safety regulation to follow, unless you know the person, it's best not to buy their honey. Most CFIA honey will also indicate the honey grade (eg. Canada #1) and colour (eg. white or amber).
Honey is best when enjoyed while fresh.
Ripe honey does not spoil because honey has a naturally high acidic level and bees have diligently removed excess water. Honey does, however, absorb water (technically, it's hygroscopic), so it must be stored in sealed containers.
The longer honey sits, the more likely it will crystalize or granulate. Saskatchewan honey crystalizes very quickly because it contains canola or Brassica nectar, which has a high glucose to fructose ratio. Liquid honey should be stored in your cupboard at room temperature. Creamed honey may be kept in the refrigerator if you prefer the texture to be firm, or at room temperature if you would like your honey to be soft and easier to spread.
To transform liquid honey into creamed honey, it can be placed in the refrigerator, or "seeded" with creamed honey to help it crystalize.
To delay crystalization, honey can be frozen.
To re-liquify crystalized or creamed honey and restore it to its natural state, immerse the sealed honey container in warm water until it melts. Do not overheat honey by microwaving it.
honey health and safety
When handing honey or any food product, care must be taken to ensure that it is not contaminated with moisture or foreign food particles such as toast crumbs and peanut butter. As with any safe food handling, it is best to keep a clean kitchen, wash your hands before handling and to access your honey using clean cutlery.
Because of its low moisture content and high acidity, bacteria, yeasts and other harmful organisms cannot reproduce in honey. However, because raw honey is not pasteurized, it should never be eaten by infants and those with compromised immune systems.
Honey is technically glucose and fructose. For healthy individuals who enjoy a little sweetness, it's magical. However, people living with diabetes or restricting calories must be mindful of those extra carbohydrates.
Raw honey can be used as an anti-bacterial topical to prevent wound infection. In the age of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it's quite likely that honey will make a medical comeback.
There are many health claims made about honey relative to allergies, arthritis, cold suppression, ulcers, and digestion. Although, many of these claims are not scientifically proven, for healthy individuals using honey as a treatment does no harm.
* This is what we think we know about honey. You should always ask your doctor for their advice about any health issue or treatment.
Canadian Honey - http://www.beemaid.com/quality-canadian-honey-facts
Antibacterial - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/
Honey Council Handbook - http://www.honeycouncil.ca/handbook.php
Canadian Bee Industry Safety Quality Traceability - http://www.honeycouncil.ca/images2/pdfs/CBISQT_PRODUCER_MANUAL_ver_1.0_16_July_2014_(FINAL_distribution_copy_-_CFIA_approved).pdf