Gift ideas for honey lovers

If I need a gift for a honey lover – and I know a few… then naturally I often give them some of our own honey. I try and pay attention to which type they prefer- dark or light, runny or set, chunk or cut-comb… sometimes honey just isn’t quite enough, so here are a few ideas that I love:

Honey lovers gift guide

1. Alessi Honey pot – £76

I really like this honey pot – it is beautifully designed and made out of glass and stainless steel. My main gripe with most honey pots it that the lids have holes in them. Honey tends to absorb water from the air, which can eventually lead to it fermenting. Additionally in our house we need to be careful to keep any honey in sealed containers otherwise we end up attracting our own bees into the kitchen, this is particularly a problem in the summer if the windows are open! Bees have excellent noses for tracking down honey.

2. Tala Stainless Steel Honey Spoon – £4.08

If your budget is a little smaller, then I highly recommend this spoon. It’s cleverly designed to perfectly balance on the rim of a pot of honey, so any drips fall back into the jar. We’ve had one of these for several years and it’s perfect for when you have a jar on the table and everyone is helping themselves to honey – no more teaspoons slipping into the jar and ending up with hideously sticky handles!

3. Supoon Mini Spoon  – £6.23

I hate wasting honey. The bees work so hard to produce it that I think that its criminal to waste even a single drop. That’s where these brilliant little spatulas come in. They are super flexible and somehow mange to scrape every tiny bit of honey out of the jar. They are particularly fantastic for getting into the corners of our hexagonal jars. We’ve had one for about 4 years and it looks as good as new. Ours was sent to us by a friend in Australia, but I’m pleased to see that they are now available over here.

4. Bee Mix from Seed Balls – £6.99

If you love honey then you need to learn to love flowers too – without flowers there is no honey. These sweet tins contains a mixture of 1000 seeds specifically chosen because they’ll grow into plants that bees are attracted to.  This would be an ideal gift for some one who loves honey and wants to do their bit for helping the bees along the way.  It might be fun to combine this with one of these bee spotter’s charts from the RSPB (£3.99). Our children love referring to our copy when we are out in the garden.

Honey lovers gift guide

Do you prefer Set Honey or Runny Honey?

While I was sorting out our jars of honey to take to the Fortismere Christmas Fair on Sunday I noticed that some our honey has started to set. Some people seem to have very strong preferences about whether they like set or runny honey and many people ask me about why honey goes through this process.

Nearly all honey will naturally set eventually. The time that it takes to set depends on which flowers the bees have been foraging on. Lime tree honey sets extremely slowly, whereas ivy and oil-seed-rape honey can set in the comb before the beekeeper has a chance to extract it.

Set honey

Simply put, honey is a mixture of glucose and fructose. Nectar from different flowers contains different proportions of the two sugars. Setting of honey is caused by the crystallization of the glucose, so honey with a low proportion of glucose will set more slowly than one with a higher proportion.

There are a couple of other factors that will influence the crystallization speed. Low temperatures will speed up the setting process. Honey with plenty of pollen grains tends to set more quickly too. The reason is that the microscopic grains act as starters for the crystals to grow around. Commercial honey is often fine filtered at high temperatures in order to remove the pollen in order to slow down the setting rate and increase the shelf life of their honey – set honey apparently doesn’t sell so well! I’d suggest that the opposite is true as we often have people asking if we have any set honey…

The good news is that set honey is perfectly edible, and is another delicious way to enjoy honey! If you really must have runny honey, then you can stand the jar in a bowl of warm water, or warm it extremely gently in the oven. I’d never recommend using the microwave as you’ll end up with hot spots.

If you’d like to try some of our set honey, Lot #34 is available in our website shop

I’ll make a note in the descriptions of the other lots if they set too.

Beeswax Wraps made in London

We’ve been making these for a a few years for our own use and for gifting. After much prodding from a friend we finally took the plunge and made a huge batch of beeswax wraps to sell.

Beeswax wraps

They are the sustainable alternative to using plastic food wrap or plastic bags. We make them with organic cotton, beeswax from our own hives, pine tree resin and jojoba oil. The brilliant thing about them is that they can be used again and again, and when they finally collapse (we have some that are two years old and still going strong) they can be chopped up and composted – they also make terrific fire starters.

We use ours mainly for wrapping up after school snacks and sandwiches in lunch boxes. You just fold the wrap around the food and use the warmth of your hands to set the shape.

Beeswax wrapsBeeswax wrapsBeeswax wraps

They are also great for covering bowls.

Beeswax wraps

We’ve even made some huge ones suitable for wrapping a large loaf of bread.

When you’ve finished using one, you just rinse it with cool water (hot water would melt the beeswax) and some washing up soap, leave to dry overnight then it is ready to go again the next morning.

We will be selling these on Sunday 3rd December at Fortesmere Christmas fair

We will also have our full range of honey, gift bags, cut comb, candles and beeswax decorations.

Pure beeswax Christmas decorations

We hope to see you there!

Image result for fortismere school christmas fair

Pure Beeswax Advent Candles

I really hate to mention the C word before December… I really do love Christmas, but hate that the season seems to be creeping ever earlier. There is a strict ban on any cards or decorations here until the 1st December with this one teeny exception!

As a child we often had an advent candle on the table at tea time – each day burning down a small section until the big day. Now I have children of my own I thought it’d be something fun to make part of our festive traditions. The problem was that I found it very difficult to find one made from pure beeswax. I’ve become dubious about health benefits of burning paraffin, soy and scented candles in our home and really wanted to have a beeswax version.

In the end, we decided to stop wasting time looking and make our own instead! We used our own gorgeous beeswax and a simple design for the number countdown – it was all quite a fiddle, but we are really pleased with the result.

Pure beeswax advent candle

I was so pleased with how they turned out that I thought we’d make a few more and offer them for sale in our website shop. There is a very limited supply, so please move quickly if you’d like one for this year.

London Beeswax Number Candles

As well as making the most delicious honey our bees make beautiful wax.

Beeswax is a fascinating substance – it has been prized for centuries for numerous uses. In medieval times bees were kept by monasteries primarily for their wax – candles made from beeswax give a steady, consistent, bright light, far superior to the tallow  alternative. Good illumination would have been essential for writing and studying manuscripts.

Nowadays beeswax candles are the most natural available. They burn very cleanly without any mucky petroleum soot. As beeswax is relatively expensive it is often mixed with other waxes to save money.

All of our candles are handmade from 100% pure beeswax which has been collected from our own hives. We never mix our beeswax with any other type of wax or with beeswax from other sources.

We have now stocked our website shop with the new candles below, we still have our usual candles too!

Beeswax number candles

Beeswax make a wish feather candles

 

London Honey (N6 and NW9) Gift Bags

I’m excited to introduce our latest items in our web site shop!

Highgate Honey 1 jar gift bag

Highgate Honey two jar gift bag

We try and keep all our packaging as sustainable as possible and I’m delighted to have found these lovely jute bags with bamboo handles. They make the perfect container for a jar or two of our delicious honey. For the two jars bags we will put a jar from two different batches of our honey so that you can have the chance to taste the differences between them and appreciate their golden colours. These will make a lovely gift for a honey lover!

Highgate Honey crop 2017

Each year after the last batch of honey is safely bottled, I like to line up a jar from each different lot number that we have harvested. Regular readers will know that we take off small batches of honey throughout the season, so that we can appreciate the diverse flavours and colours of the honey.

You’ll see from the pictures that there is quite a range in colours this year, and the flavours are equally as varied. The colour and tastes are determined by the particular nectars that the bees were foraging on at that time.

Highgate honey 2017

At the moment we still have some of each lot in our web shop   The picture below gives the lot numbers for easy identification.

All of them are really delicious, but each year there are always one or two batches that are my particular favourites – they somehow have something extra in the flavour that makes them really special.

This year the Beekeeper’s Pick goes to Lot#33 and Lot#32!

Last North London honey of the year

The beekeeping season is winding down now. The colony size is reducing for the winter – all the drones have been evicted from the hives and the queens have dramatically reduced the rate that they are laying eggs.

At this time of the year it is important that we make sure that all our colonies have enough supplies of honey to make it through the colder months when there aren’t many flowers open and the temperatures are too low for the bees to fly.

We took the last of the honey off the hives over a month ago – we like to give the colonies plenty of time to build up their winter stores.

Around our apiaries we are lucky to have loads of ivy in full bloom at the moment, which is a fantastic source of nectar and pollen. We usually find that our bees forage enough now to maintain themselves through the winter, meaning that we rarely have to feed them with sugar.

I’ve just got round to bottling up the last couple of batches of honey – beautiful golden honey that matches the colour of the autumn leaves.


I love watching the honey running out of the settling tank into clean jars.

Now it’s time to give everything an extra good scrub before packing it away until next year.

Dark Honey from Hampstead Heath

Over the spring and summer we take honey from our hives in very small batches whenever there is some ready. This allows us to really appreciate the variety of colours and tastes of honey that result from the different flowers that the bees forage on at different times of the year.

This is a shot of just a few of the different colours of honey that we’ve extracted this year. Naturally they all taste quite different too.

2017 honey colours

I’ve been particularly intrigued by the very dark honey at the bottom of the stack – it has a really delicious rich flavour. I know that Sweet Chestnut honey is very dark – There are a couple of small, newly planted Sweet Chestnut trees locally, but I wasn’t convinced that there had been enough flowers to yield much honey.

Dark honey

Today, cycling across Hampstead Heath, we discovered several huge Sweet Chestnut trees which are dripping in chestnuts – I think that these may well be the source of our fabulous dark honey.

 

We’ll enjoy the chestnuts and the honey – what wonderful creatures bees are, collecting the nectar and pollinating the flowers.

If you would like to try some of our dark honey we still have some jars in our on-line shop – it is Lot#33.

Link:  http://www.highgatehoney.com/shop

 

Rendering small batches of Beeswax cappings

When we extract honey we have to remove the little wax caps that the bees put over the cells once the honey stored has the correct water content. This wax is prized and once cleaned makes the most beautiful candles and other products.

Needless to say, we collect all the wax cappings from the extraction process and have found that using a use a slow cooker to filter them gives really good results. I rinse the cappings in filtered rain water to try and flush away as much honey as possible to start with.

 

First I place a liner into the slow cooker so that it doesn’t get ruined by the wax during the process…


I’ve found these liners to be very good and can be reused several times :Pack of 3 – Slow Cooker Liners (5pk) – Keeps Pots Clean & Seals In Flavour – Swan household ®

Slow cooker liners

I then put in about an inch of clean rain water in the pan – if you don’t have any rainwater then filtered water is the next best thing – tap water can be very hard and cause the wax to become spongy.

I then use a long piece of elastic to hold a piece of fabric over the top of the pan. Some people swear by using silk or other specialist fabrics, but I’ve found that a bit of old cotton sheet or pillowcase is fine. I wouldn’t recommend using an elastic band as they have a tendency to break when they get warm which results in having to start the process all over again!

I place a double layer of nappy liners on top of the fabric to complete the filter.

I’ve found these liners to be very good – they are a decent size and hold together nicely. Link:Bambino Mio, Supersoft Mioliners (Nappy Liners), Single

Nappy liners

Then, all that is left to do is to put the cappings on top of the filter, put the lid on and turn on the slow cooker to Low. As the wax warms up, it will drip through the filter into the water below. You don’t want  the wax to get too hot as it can become discoloured – I’ve found that on the low setting one batch will take about 30 minutes to filter through and the water doesn’t get hot enough to boil. I then turn off the slow cooker and leave everything to cool down over a couple of hours.

 

You’ll end up with the filter looking grotty like this.

Debris after filtering

You can then peel off the filter and look in at the beautifully clean wax below!

Clean wax after filtering

Ta da!

Clean wax

If the wax is particularly grubby to start with I’ve found that it generally needs to be filtered twice to get it really clear. All that is now left to do is to dry off the wax block and then it’s ready to be used for candle making etc.

I cut up the filters into strips and roll them up – they make excellent fire lighters.

Rendering beeswax