I recently submitted my Creme Brulee Ice Cream (amazing!) to the latest edition of the Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free! event. The honey “mention” has inspired me to share some honey details from our family beekeeping adventures with you. Specifically, raising honey bees and harvesting their honey.
Raising Honey Bess and Harvesting Their Honey (Step by Step)
We pulled honey this past weekend. Some call that harvesting the honey.
What does that mean exactly? We spun the honey out from the frames of our beehive. I’ll tell you more.
We currently have a single beehive here at our house. We can’t go too crazy raising bees here as we’re in a subdivision with our beehive on an open part of our property, not far from the street.
The process: remove a frame from the super (the boxes where the bees store the honey in the frames), scrape off the wax caps, place the frame in the spinner/centrifuge, spin, drain honey through fine mesh stainless steel screen into a food-grade plastic bucket, and repeat … until all the frames are empty of honey.
After a few hours, the results were four gallons of golden, amazing, raw honey. In our case, 48 pounds worth from our one hive.
We are pleased as punch, or should I say pleased as mead? In basic terms, mead is honey wine.
Did you know that honey mead is the basis for the word honeymoon? Per Wikipedia, “In many parts of Europe it was traditional to supply a newly married couple with enough mead for a month, ensuring happiness and fertility. From this practice we get honeymoon or, as the French say, lune de miel [lit. “moon of honey”].”
Honey is a non-refined sugar. It’s allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. One of my most popular recipes that uses honey is my Flourless Chocolate Banana Honey Walnut Cake—a rich, grain-free, dairy-free, and again, refined sugar-free treat.
Most of my ice cream and sherbet recipes also use honey, like Honey Cinnamon Grand Marnier Ice Cream (Grand Marnier is optional) and Honey Dewed Sherbet. It sweetens nicely and keeps the ice cream/sherbet soft and scoopable.
More trivia for you … honey is the only food that does not spoil. If your honey should crystallize over time, just set the jar in a pan of hot water until liquefied again.
Now if you really want to be impressed by the 4 gallons of honey, consider this … a honeybee produces only 1/8-th of a teaspoon in its lifetime. Such driven, phenomenal little honeybees.
My late father-in-law was a grand beekeeper who taught everyone in the family how to keep bees. One year he harvested over a ton of honey. Yes, over 2,000 lbs. If you did the math from our harvest details above, you figured out that a gallon of honey weighs 12 pounds.
You might be wondering what kind of honey ours is … maybe you have heard of or personally enjoy different flavors of honey—clover honey, tupelo honey, orange blossom honey, lavender honey, and the like.
Most commercial beekeepers move their hives so that the bees “work” (i.e., gather nectar from) different types of flowers. Then the beekeepers extract the honey immediately, so they know that it is solely that particular varietal of honey.
Our honey is actually blended honey, because we never move our hive and we extract the honey from all the frames at once, mixing it all together. Some years the resulting honey is light, some years it is dark … all dependent on which flowers are in bloom and worked that year.
In one frame, which is the individual, rectangular section in the hive where the bees store their honey (shown in photos below), you can often see both light and dark honey.
A large portion of our honey is always made from the nectar of white clover and tulip poplar blooms (this tree is also known as yellow poplar or tulip tree). We also have another common tree here in Virginia called the yellow locust.
The yellow locust tree produces spectacular showy blooms (shown above) that are both beautiful and cloyingly sweet in fragrance. Bees love locust blossoms and turn the nectar into a light-colored delicious honey.
Honey even has antiseptic and antimicrobial properties and has been used in that manner throughout history, including wound care today.
There are many nutritional health benefits of honey as well.
Interested in the magic of nature? Consider becoming a beekeeper. Honey bees need all the help and love they can get.
Besieged by two different kinds of mites for a few decades now and then affected by the still somewhat unexplained Colony Collapse Disorder, the more folks who raise bees the better. We need bees to pollinate all the vegetable plants and fruit trees to supply our real food.
Raising honey bees and harvesting their honey is a very good thing. Pun intended!
One of my favorite ways to use our raw honey is in smoothies. This morning’s smoothie included some chilled coconut milk, water, raw cacao powder, cabbage, Romaine, pears, frozen banana, hemp seed, almond flour, and some of our freshly extracted raw honey.
It tasted like a chocolate milkshake and was full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
But you don’t have to have a shopping list of ingredients to make tasty, nutritious smoothies. Actually, I’ve found that folks can sometimes be intimidated by smoothies for that very reason.
Well, that and the fact that they can’t wrap their head around drinking their veggies.
I understand. It took a leap of faith for me the first time, too, and it still amazes me how much I love them, even the “greenest” ones.
If you’re still not sold on smoothies (but would like to be), try starting out with a simple smoothie recipe. One that includes only bananas, water, and spinach, is very easy and delicious. It’s a great recipe for beginners.
One of my support group members, Jennifer R., shared samples of this smoothie with our group and everyone liked it. This smoothie is a lovely pale green, and you don’t taste spinach … you just taste “good.”
You can go a step further and make a luscious Pina Greena Colada. I bet you can figure out the additional ingredients in this smoothie!
You can even ease into green smoothies, by making a fruit smoothie that you love and adding in a little spinach or other greens, like kale.
Yes, kale …it’s great in smoothies and you can freeze kale leaves, which keeps them ready for smoothies any time the mood strikes!
You can add a little more of the green stuff each time you make a fruit smoothie and soon you’ll be completely smitten with green smoothies!
Other Seasonal Goodness at the Moment
Peaches are in season!
All you need to do is substitute peaches for the apples. Mir used Pamela’s Baking Mix as her gluten-free flour mix. Her review: “Totally delish. I am afraid to make it again, lest I just fall face-down into the pie plate.”
We all want to feel that way about our pies, don’t we? Just look at Mir’s photo. I was so inspired that I had to create a separate recipe for Easy Crustless Gluten-Free Peach Pie!
Do you still have an abundance of zucchini? I can personally attest to the deliciousness of Kim’s (Cook IT Allergy Free) Zucchini Fritters. I believe if you added some Old Bay seasoning to them, they’d almost taste like crab cakes.
They are outstanding. Even Mr. GFE agreed. I topped one with a fried egg and had it for breakfast. Scrumptious.
I later created my own version of Zucchini Fritters based on another friend’s recipe. They’re so light and lovely and work as either a main dish or a side dish!
Type 1 Diabetes and Celiac
In a post earlier this month, a family member of Kim’s shared her story on the connection regarding the Type 1 diabetes and gluten. You can read it here. I share a lot of studies and medical research with my support group, but usually don’t share that type of information too frequently here at gfe. I’m more apt to share personal stories as Kim did.
So I’m grateful to all my blogging friends who do pass along such data online. In a recent email to my support group members, I shared the recent recommendation from The Endocrine Society 92nd Annual Meeting for all folks with Type 1 diabetes to be screened for celiac annually. Yes, annually. Not once, not every 5 years, but yearly.
The most compelling quote from the article to me was: “Some patients develop celiac disease as long as 10 years after their diabetes diagnosis, so ongoing screening is essential, and we recommend screening once a year. Patients in whom a diagnosis of celiac disease is confirmed should be placed on a gluten-free diet and referred to a gastroenterologist.”
That’s right. One doesn’t get tested for celiac one time and say, that’s it, “nope, don’t have it,” and go away thinking celiac is no longer a concern. Unless one eats gluten free, the risk is always there if one has celiac genes (see MyCeliacID post for more information on levels of risk for celiac).
My friend, Alison (Sure Foods Living), also did a great write-up on the recommendation here, sharing her thoughts on this topic.
I hope you enjoyed this post on raising honey bees and harvesting their honey and a learned a few more things while you were here!
Originally published August 3, 2010; updated May 20, 2023.