With fall coming to a quick close and snow flurries blanketing campus, winter has finally arrived. If you are like me, you have already begun preparing for an annual hibernation, stocking up on Swiss Miss and holiday cheer. Along with us are the unsung heroes of our global food and environmental sustainability: the honey bees. Every winter, honey bee colonies prepare for the cold by forming tight clusters within the hive and slowly eating away the honey they worked so hard to produce all year long. Beekeepers find themselves busy insulating the hives and, most importantly, harvesting the excess honey from the fall flower blooms.
The process of harvesting honey is a simple, yet fascinating one. With plenty of smoke, the beekeepers extract the honey frames from the hive while being careful not to disturb the bees more than necessary. After the honeycomb is taken, beekeepers must scrape the wax cappings off of one side. This process opens up the individual cells the honey is stored in, allowing it to flow out freely. Beekeepers often put honeycomb filled frames in a centrifuge, spinning them and forcing the honey out of the comb without damaging the wax. The honey is then collected from the bottom of the centrifuge, after which it will be filtered and bottled. Without the pasteurization that goes into most commercial honey production, you would be amazed to taste the difference that local honey offers.
Up at our own Dilmun Hill Student Farm, the Cornell Beekeeping Club finished up their harvesting, marking another successful season. I caught up with club President Catherine Crosier to see how this year’s extraction was different under pandemic protocol. While she said it was a unique and interesting process, the club adapted their usual operations to ensure safety for all. The frames of capped honey are taken from Dilmon Hill and brought to Dyce Laboratory for extraction. The club implemented four shifts throughout the day in order to keep numbers low at the lab. Crosier said this year’s harvest was a solid one, with the club filling up 95 jars of honey. Being able to taste it myself, I can say it’s some of the best honey I’ve ever had, with a markedly rich flavor in comparison to store bought. “This is typical of fall honey,” Crosier said, “while spring honey has a more floral and subtle sweetness.” I certainly give my compliments to the Beekeeping Club and their hives, as their hard work has undoubtedly shown through in their fantastic honey.
Now the question remains: What are beekeepers to do with all that honey? Beside being the perfect addition to toast, tea and smoothies, honey can be used creatively in a multitude of recipes. Crosier put me in the know on a twist to a classic movie snack: Drizzle honey over popcorn and sprinkle with black pepper. “Don’t knock it till you try it! I know it’s a weird one, but it all works together” she said. One recipe I’m eager to try is homemade honey taffy. Paired with popcorn, this year’s holiday movie season snacking is bound to be sweeter than ever.
Nick Hoge is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].