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

 

Late summer foraging in N6

The summer seems to have flashed past this year, our bees have produced some wonderful honey – which is now available in our shop.

While the main nectar flow has died down there is still quite a variety of flowers still out in our neighbourhood for the bees to enjoy.

This Patty pan in our garden is still producing flowers and the bees emerge drenched in pollen – they look like yellow ghosts!

This sedum plant has been covered in bees for weeks, often it has  3 or 4 different types of bee foraging at the same time.

Sedum and honeybee

Another popular plant at the moment is our goji berry bush – it is covered in these sweet little purple flowers. We’ve never had any berries on it before – perhaps this is the year!


This year I’ve discovered a few snowberry bushes locally – I first noticed them when I heard a terrific buzzing sound when I was walking past. I stopped, thinking that there was a swarm in the bush, but it was just hundreds of bees busy gathering nectar. Apparently the honey made from this nectar has a strong butterscotch taste.

Local London Honey for Hayfever

Every year I have people who return to us to buy our honey to alleviate their hayfever symptoms. I’ve read many articles that condone the use of honey and many that condemn it – it is all rather confusing.

I started thinking about hayfever the other day when I noticed that the Hazels suddenly seem to have catkins on them. I’m always pleased to see them at this time of the year as they are a great source of pollen for our bees. However, my friend that I was with was groaning as she is sensitive to Hazel pollen and it triggers her hayfever.

Thankfully I don’t suffer form hayfever, but from what I’ve read different people are sensitive to different species of pollen, from grasses to birch.

Honey bees collect pollen from many, many different flowers, this means that their honey will usually contain a rich selection of pollen grains. The pollen grains are so minute that it is impossible to see them floating about in the honey. The theory behind eating honey to stave of hayfever is that if you eat a small quantity of honey each day that contains the pollen that you are allergic to, then your body builds up a resistance to it. Then, when the flower that you are sensitive to does come out, your body is better able to cope.

From what I understand people should start taking their daily honey dose several months before the pollen that they are allergic to is flowering. This allows the body time to build up some immunity.

If this theory is true, then it is important to eat honey that is likely to contain the pollen that you are allergic to. There is no point in taking honey produced in Central London if you live next to an oil seed rape field that sets off your hayfever. There aren’t fields of rape being grown where the bees are foraging, so there won’t be any of that type of pollen in the honey.

Honey bees are said to travel up to about 5 miles to forage for food. You can imagine what a huge range of different pollen could be being brought back to their hives!

Shops usually choose to sell clear runny honey because apparently that’s what people prefer to buy. However, the process of heating and filtering under high pressures used to produce honey like this has the detrimental effect of removing the tiny pollen grains. This means that a lot of honey is not going to help with the hayfever issue.

We don’t heat our honey and do not use any kind of fine filtering. We don’t mix our honey from different hives. On our jars we always state which hive that the honey was collected from and the postcode where the hive is situated. Sometimes our honey is a little cloudy and sometimes the honey will set – but it is always delicious!  Who minds taking that kind of medicine?