Tuesday, August 19, 2014

History of Honey and Its use in Period: (Part 2 of 6): Honey Collection

(    This is the second in a series of entries on a brief history of honey and its use in pre-1600's history. 

Retrieving honey is the first step to its use. There were two ways to eat the honey, straight from the combs or strained. The simplest way to separate the honey from the comb is to break up the combs and squeeze each piece into a receptacle. The first honey that dripped out was referred to as “Run Honey”. Next, combs were put into a strainer, such as a bag of woven cotton or other natural fiber or a pottery vessel with holes on the sides. Pressing the combs through the strainer or bag made a second honey. This honey contained pollen and was bitter. It was kept separate from the first honey. Columella describes the process in Rome c. 50 AD[1]:

“Whatever be the number of Honey combs that are harvested, you should make the honey on the same day, while they are still warm. A wicker work basket or a bag rather loosely woven of fine withies in the shape of an inverted cone, like that through which wine is strained, is hung up in a dark place, and then the honey combs are heaped in one by one. But care must be taken that those parts of the waxen cells, which contain either young bees or dirty red matter [pollen?] are separated from them, for they have an ill flavour and corrupt the honey with their juice. Then, when the honey has been strained and has flowed down into the basin put underneath to catch it…the fragments of the honey-combs, which have remained in the bag, are handled again and the juice squeezed from them. What flows from them is honey of the second quality and is stored apart by itself by the more careful people.”

[1] Although Columella is pre-period, he is referenced in period bee-keeping manuscripts such as Thomas Hill’s “A Profitable Instruction of the Perfect Ordering of Bees”, written in 1608.

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