I’ll admit it, I’m hooked. On… beekeeping classes. How lucky, then, that Round Rock Honey offers plenty of beekeeping education in the San Francisco area. Ann Marie and I tackled part one in a series, the introduction, with hobby beekeeper John McDonald, about a month ago. This was just the basics, how you maintain your hive, a tiny bit of bee biology, and some hands-on essentials. So what’s part two? Harvesting!! Bee still our honey-loving hearts.
You do get comfortable in those white space-man bee suits pretty quickly, and a class of seven of us suited up and headed outside to pull out our honey frames. Most of us had done the intro class, knew the drill, and got to work, beginning with smoking the bees to calm them down a little bit and prevent them from releasing their enemy alert-warning pheromones. We each pulled out a frame or two, and then we boxed our harvest.
We traveled from John’s warehouse, where the bees live, to his home where all the extraction is done. Here, the hands-on training continued, as each class member shaved the wax capping off of a honey frame. We did this with a hot knife (which releases the most wonderful warm honey smells into the air), but you can use a regular cold knife too (much harder to do.) All that extra wax falls into a bucket so that the excess honey can be squeezed out of it and nothing is wasted – the wax will be made into blocks and be used for candles or what have you. As we scraped, we kept a little of that honey-filled beeswax to chew on while we worked. So, so delicious.
The frames get placed into a centrifuge (which also wafts the sweet smell of honey into the air), and once it’s filled, you start the spinning and leave the machine alone for an hour or so. While we waited, the class took a side trip to Guerra Quality Meats for sandwiches, which meant even more food-related happiness! Go there. The Roma turkey sandwich has some of the best pesto ever. I need to make a separate trip there to see if they sell it in tubs so I can make pesto bread with it. Anyway.
Once you return from your delicious lunch, it is time to bottle your honey! First you put it through a double filter to make sure you get out any excess beeswax, bee parts, and any other particles that might be in the honey. We got maybe two and a half gallons out of all that we spun. The filtered bucket goes over to a bottling workstation where you manually open and close a little spigot until you’ve filled your jar to the first ring. Just make sure you have another jar ready so no extra honey drips onto the counter and is lost, and you’re all set! We added lids and labels and were ready to take home our hard-earned liquid gold.
We bottled 24 jars of honey among the seven of us, and that was only about half of the bucket. Everyone got to take home a couple bottles of eucalyptus/fennel honey. Quite a delicious combo. Between last month’s honey excursion and this one, we got to taste a LOT of Beekeeper John’s honey, and there really is something special about it. There is a flavor that I’ve never found in regular store bought mass-produced honey, and each type of honey we’ve tried has had a very distinct taste. I am a fan, and will definitely continue to make an effort to seek out this and other local honeys and even pay more for them. I guess it’s just like any other food, if it’s made with love, it tastes that much better.