Probably the finest local honey from Fife
My apiaries are located in central Fife and the bees forage in the arable farmland across parts of the Howe of Fife and on the south-facing slopes of the North Fife hills. This is lovely countryside with plenty of meadows, hedgerows and copses.
Bees forage widely, choosing the best nectar sources available locally throughout the season. They can travel up to 3 miles from the apiary, but generally fly half this distance or less.
I don’t move the bees during the season. They gather whatever local nectar sources are available. Any surplus is harvested, usually in early June and early August, though the precise timing depends very much on the individual season.
The main natural nectar sources in spring are dandelion and hedgerow trees like apple, pear, cherry, hawthorn and sycamore. In addition, if it is being grown within range of the apiaries, the bees get lots of nectar and pollen from the oil seed rape.
Spring honey tends to have a high glucose content and so will crystallise rapidly. Without further preparation it tends to set spoon-bendingly hard. I mix extracted spring honey with small quantities of very fine granulated local honey to prepare ‘soft set’ honey.
This is spoonable, has a fabulous melt-on-the-tongue crystal structure and would have a very long shelf life it it wasn’t so delicious. When spooned from the jar it does not ‘drip’ from the teaspoon. It is ideal in porridge, or spread thickly on toast or crumpets. Batch to batch variation depends upon the particular forage available.
There are very few local arable crops that yield significant nectar for bees during the summer in this area. Instead the bees gather nectar from the nearby woods and hedgerows. Blackberry, white clover and willow herb are the likely major sources of nectar, but pollen analysis of the honey shows that it contains a very wide range of different nectar sources.
If the weather has been helpful – enough rainfall and high enough temperatures – the bees can gather large amounts of nectar from lime trees. This honey has a faint greenish tinge and a distinct zesty flavour.
Summer honey, whether or not it contains significant amounts of lime, tends to be low in glucose and high in fructose. It is a clear, runny, honey and usually crystallises slowly.
Preparation and bottling
Collessie honey is harvested twice a year, filtered directly through coarse and fine filters into 15 kg buckets for storage. Summer honey is warmed to 34°C (the temperature of the hive) and bottled in small batches.
Spring honey is warmed, mixed with a very finely granulated ‘seed’ honey (also from my bees), stirred intermittently at low temperature (12-14°C) for 3-5 days and then bottled. This spring honey is often termed ‘soft set’ honey. It used to be called ‘creamed’ honey but, since it contains no cream (!), it’s a term that is no longer allowed on honey labelling.
Granulation or crystallisation
Soft set honey is granulated and should retain the fine crystal structure until the jar is finished. Clear summer honey will eventually granulate. In fact, all high quality honey will always granulate. The speed at which this happens depends upon the sugar ratios (glucose and fructose) of the nectar stored by the bees and the temperature at which the honey is stored. Gently heating granulated honey will return it to a liquid state if needed.
Note that honey purchased from many supermarkets will not granulate because it has been pasteurised during preparation by heating to about 65ºC. It may also have been ultra-filtered to remove most/all pollen around which granules nucleate. Although this ensures a completely uniform product, many consider that this excessive heating also destroys the unique flavours that characterise different honeys.
Jars and labels
Honey is bottled by weight, in new 227 g (½ lb), 340 g or 454 g (1 lb) jars 1. The 227 g and 340 g jars are square with black lids. The 454 g jars are ‘classic’ round honey jars with a gold lid.
Labels have simple black print on a white background to not detract from the jar contents. All labels are ‘Easy-peel’ so can be readily removed before the customer recycles or re-uses the jar 2. Lids are sealed with a clear ‘anti-tamper’ label.
Jars sold through third parties may also carry a QR code and batch number which links to detailed information about the honey. QR codes can be directly ‘read’ by modern smartphone cameras. Older models may need an app such as QR Reader for Android or QR Code Reader by Scan (iOS) 3.
Contact me for details of where to buy Collessie honey.
- Other sizes by special arrangement.
- Remove the labels before washing the jar … they are anything but Easy-peel after they get wet.
- Alternatively, you will shortly be able to enter the 5 character batch number in the panel on the right to access this additional information … have patience, this requires a bit more geekery before it works properly.