Beekeeper Zev Oster Shares the Step by Step Process of Making Honey
By M.C. Millman
Beekeeping is a profession that is thousands of years old and Zev Oster, founder of Rockland Honey and avid beekeeper, shares with Rockland Daily that not much has changed.
Even the boxes are pretty much the same. As for the beekeeper himself, Oster shares that his experience and knowledge gained over many years have helped him evolve as a beekeeper.
Producing honey has many steps. Every bee box has ten frames which weigh about five pounds per frame when they are brought into the workshop at West Maple Farm. Honey originally has a moisture content of 80% and is the consistency of apple juice. The bees continuously fan it with their wings, thickening the liquid and bringing the moisture content down to 17% by the time the honey is brought into the workshop.
"The first step is to remove the waxed capping, which is ready for consumption," says Oster. "We remove the capping by hand. There are machines for that, but it's quicker by hand using the decapper fork."
The next step is to put the liquid and wax into the spinner.
"We can fit up to twenty-four frames in there at one time," Oster says. "We let it spin out."
Honey shoots to the sides and drips down the wall into a vat through the valve opened at the bottom. It goes from there into a sub tank, a flat stainless-steel tank with four sections with different size screens to filter out material.
"There could be a bee in there or black articles," Oster explains, "so it flows through the screens from the largest down to micro screen until the honey is totally clean."
There is an automatic sensor inside. When the contents hit a certain height, it activates the pump to send the purified honey into brand new 5-gallon drums with a final filter before 55 to 60 pounds of honey are sealed and dated with a batch number and weight. The honey is bottled and sealed from the drums during a later process.
With plenty of reporting on how many brands of honey are anything but pure, Oster offers some advice on avoiding contaminated honey.
"Know your beekeeper," he suggests. "Look at the label. Check where it comes from. If it's China, Ukraine, Chili, Argentina - places that are questionable about other things – be wary. And check the price. It's just not possible to produce cheap honey. If it's too cheap, it's not honey. They even sell mixed honey, imitation honey with other mixed ingredients."
Tips for getting the most out of your honey include knowing what to do if honey crystallizes.
"All they have to do," says Oster, "is put the bottle of honey in a pan of hot water over a low flame, and in five to ten minutes, it will decrystallize. It's actually fine to use when it's crystallized. People just think their honey has gone bad, which is not the case."
Honey should not be kept in the refrigerator or microwaved.
"You should not heat honey to more than 110 degrees," Oster advises, "unless it's already pasteurized because then it doesn't matter."