How to Decrystallise your LSE Honey

The weather’s getting warmer, so if your LSE Honey crystallised during winter (like ours did), now is a good time to decrystallise it.

If you’re one of those people who don’t have the patience to read long blogposts, here are the short answers to the two main things you might want to know:

Q1: How can I decrystallise my LSE Honey?
A: Immerse the jar in hot water for 30 minutes.
Q2: Will this ruin the nice label on the jar?
A: No.

If you want to know more (and see photos), read on…

What is crystallisation?

Crystallisation is a natural phenomenon whereby honey turns from a liquid, runny state to a semi-solid, granulated state. Crystallised honey looks cloudy, not clear and golden like uncrystallised honey.

That’s what’s happened to my honey! Can I still eat it?

Yes! Properly stored, honey has an almost infinite shelf life. Honey found in ancient Egyptian tombs is believed to still be edible. Crystallised honey is totally safe to eat. But if you prefer, you can decrystallise it in a few simple steps (described below) and it will be as good as new.

Why did it crystallise in the first place? Is LSE Honey of inferior quality?

Quite the opposite! Honey is a supersaturated solution, which means the water in honey contains way more sugar than it can naturally dissolve. That’s why most pure raw or unheated honey has a natural tendency to crystallise over time. In fact, if it didn’t crystallise, that might suggest it’s adulterated or diluted.

Honey has two main types of sugar: fructose and glucose. Their ratio determines how quickly the honey crystallises. Glucose is less soluble than fructose, so honey which has a high glucose-fructose ratio (like brassica honey) crystallises almost immediately after harvesting. On the other hand, chestnut or acacia honey have a low glucose percentage, so they crystallise very slowly or not at all.

Er, that’s enough chemistry, just tell me how to decrystallise it!

  1. Boil some water in a pan (enough to cover the jar up to the neck).
  2. When it starts to boil, take the pan off the heat and immerse your honey jar in the hot water.
  3. After 15 minutes, take out the jar, stir the honey to ensure even heating and put it back in the hot water.
  4. After another 15 minutes, the honey should be decrystallised and runny once again.

How do I know it will work? And won’t putting the jar in hot water ruin the nice LSE Honey label?

To set your doubts at rest (and because we have too much time on our hands) we tried it out and documented the process!

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Crystallised, cloudy-looking honey

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Crystallised honey on a teaspoon

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Immersed in hot water for decrystallisation

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30 minutes later… voilà! As you can see, the label is intact.

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Delicious, golden, flowing honey

Nice. But will it crystallise again?

The optimum temperature for storing honey is 21–27°C. Crystal formation increases at lower temperatures, so your honey may recrystallise when the weather gets colder later in the year. But you can always decrystallise it again in the same way. It may not be a good idea to do this more than four or five times though, because honey which has been decrystallised too often starts to lose some of its aroma.

LSE Bees at Grosvenor House

We were at LSE Grosvenor House last week, at their wonderful Sustainable Food event. We got a chance to talk about LSE Bees and beekeeping in general, and share some of our delicious LSE honey. The best part was when a student from Romania remarked that LSE honey reminded her of childhood trips to the mountains with her family, where they would buy wild honey from roadside vendors.

A big thank you to the Grosvenor House students and staff for inviting us, and we hope to see many of you at our weekly hive visits!

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Hive visits in 2016: Ramping up for Spring!

The first hive visit of 2016 was on 13 January, when a few intrepid beekeepers braved the cold, windy conditions on the Connaught House roof for one of our rare winter visits.

Bees don’t like being inspected in winter. They keep the hive interior at a toasty 27° C, and every time we open a hive, it brings the temperature down. Still we do need to inspect them occasionally for their own good, to make sure they are not falling prey to varroa mites or any of the umpteen other evils which await the unwary beekeeper.

The second visit (scheduled for 27 January) was cancelled due to rain, which the bees probably knew about beforehand. Instead, we rescheduled it for 3 February – here are some photos from that visit.

Using a bee smoker to calm the bees before inspection

Using a bee smoker to calm the bees before inspection

The painted hive is currently the most active

The painted hive is currently the most active

Scraping the 'bottom board' to clean it (and check for the evil varroa mites)

Scraping the ‘bottom board’ to clean it (and check for the evil varroa mites)

From March, we’ve been having weekly hive visits (Wednesdays at 2:30 pm). The first March visit was in glorious sunshine; the second day was cold and rainy, so not the most memorable visit ever!

A photo from the 2 March visit

A photo from the 2 March visit

Our next visit is scheduled for 16 March. Hope to see you there!

Winter hive visit

We had one of our rare (and therefore much-awaited) winter hive visits on 2 December. Luke Dixon (LSE Bees’ professional beekeeper) was on hand to personally inspect the hives, answer our questions and explain to us about what bees do in the wintertime. We also had the rare privilege of poking a finger into one of the hive frames and tasting the freshest honey you can possibly get.

We will leave the bees alone over Christmas, but we can’t wait to see them again at the next hive visit in January!

Photos courtesy LSE Beekeeper Regina Weigl:

Winter hive visit

Beekeepers under wintry skies

Luke Dixon

Our professional beekeeper, Luke Dixon

 

Honey Tasting and Sale 2015

This year’s Honey Tasting and Sale was a huge success! Dozens of members of the LSESU Beekeeping Society and of the LSE Estates Division Sustainability team attended the two sessions on 21 and 22 October. There was a veritable smorgasbord of honey for us to sample, including not just a jar of freshly-harvested LSE Honey 2015, but also the last remaining jar of last year’s LSE Honey, plus three other kinds of supermarket honey (organic acacia, tropical forest, and orange flower blossom).

Honey tasting

We were all amazed by how different the honeys tasted, but the unanimous (and of course completely unbiased) opinion was that the LSE Honey 2015 was the best.

Honey tasting

Honey tasting

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. ― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Not content with consuming umpteen honey-coated grissini at the tasting sessions, many of us also bought jars of honey for ourselves or as gifts. By the way, for those of you did buy a jar, we’d love to know what you end up doing with it. Will you give it to someone as a Christmas present, spread it on toast, or scoff it straight from the jar on a rainy evening whilst watching Netflix? Either way, please do share your stories and photos on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram with the hashtag #MyLSEHoney.

There are only a few jars left from this harvest, so please email us asap if you want one. The remaining jars will be on offer at our upcoming honey-themed Bake Sale.

Exclusive Interview with Amelia Sharman: an LSE Bees Legend

AmeliaThis interview is our personal homage to Amelia Sharman, who has been a pillar of the LSE SU Beekeeping Society for 3 years and who has left the LSE recently to put her PhD in Environmental Policy and Development to good use as Principal Climate Mitigation Consultant at Amec Foster Wheeler.

Throughout her time at the society, she has been an extraordinary mobilizer and promoter of LSE Bees. During the 3 years that she was part of it, the society has thrived and incredibly increased its visibility, notably through the annual Honey Festivals, film screenings, a hive-painting competition and a strong presence on social media!

Everyone who met her on the roof of Connaught House will remember her infectious enthusiasm for all things bee-related and her extraordinary talent for story-telling. Thank you Amelia for sharing your passion, your energy and your knowledge, and we’re looking forward to seeing you again soon on the roof of Connaught House!

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Interview with Amelia Sharman

How long have you been a member of the LSE SU Beekeeping Society?

I joined the LSE SU Beekeeping Society in the spring of 2012, so was a member for about three and a half years.

What motivated you to initially join the Society? Were you already into beekeeping as a hobby?

I found out about the society through a ‘Give it a Go’ event where people who were interested could come up to the roof of Connaught House and check out the hives. I’d always thought that beekeeping would be a really fascinating thing to become involved with, although before that point I’d never encountered a hive up close. I was a complete novice! But the possibility to learn by doing, as well as the infectious passion that Luke (LSE Bees’ professional beekeeper) and the other members of the society showed made me sign up on the spot.

What positions/responsibilities have you had within the Society?

I was President for the 2012/13 academic year, Communications Officer for 2013/14, and finally Treasurer for 2014/15.

What did you study at LSE?

I did a PhD in Environmental Policy and Development in the Geography and Environment Department, although I was based full-time at the Grantham Research Institute for Climate Change and the Environment (GRI). I think nearly every member of the GRI came to visit the hives over the years! My research looked at the controversy over climate change and how that influenced science and policy.

What are your hobbies/interests other than beekeeping?

I’m getting more into food at the moment, including growing my own vegetables and experimenting with all sorts of different recipes. Beekeeping has really opened my eyes to the pride and joy that comes from knowing exactly where your food comes from and how delicious it can taste. I also love travelling and am currently planning a trip to Iran next year.

Do you have a favourite among the five LSE hives?

My favourite hive would have to be the beautiful new cedar hive. I was successful in getting support from LSE’s Annual Fund in late 2012 to buy the hive, as well as the planter boxes and plants that are now also on the roof of Connaught House. It was a long project to get to fruition but it’s wonderful to see that hive doing so well and I think it will look so pretty as the red cedar turns silver over time. I’ll look forward to seeing photos on the blog!

What is the most fun thing you’ve done as part of the Society?

No question that would have to be the first honey bottling we did in 2014. It was absolutely brilliant to see the frames that we’d carefully tendered over the year release all their delicious honey and was such a fun night. I think what made it so special was how rewarding it felt to be so hands on and we all felt incredibly proud of what we’d achieved (with the help of the bees of course!). It was also really interesting to see the entire process of honey bottling as well as to learn things like how the wax is re-used in cosmetics. We tasted all sorts of other honey from around London and it was the first time it really sunk in just how unique all the different honeys can taste even if the hives are just around the corner from each other.

Have you ever been stung?

I wish I could tell you that I haven’t, but in July I was stung three times in one go – twice on the scalp and once on the arm. We were checking the painted hive and they were acting very aggressively (turns out the queen excluder wasn’t in place properly meaning the hive was in a bit of uproar). I hadn’t done my suit up properly and a bee got inside and stung me – and then once you’re stung you’re a magnet for more stings… I had a quite severe reaction (with so much swelling that my eye could barely open) so it was a good reminder for everyone not to be complacent!

Tell us a fun fact about bees?

This isn’t a fun fact per se, but something that I think is so interesting about bees is the way that you can think about the single bee as an independent organism, but that you can also think about the hive as a collective organism (or ‘superorganism’) as well. I think it’s absolutely fascinating how bees communicate (how do they all know exactly when/where to swarm for example??) and work together to produce something so precious. In that vein, I’ve just finished reading ‘The Bees’ by Laline Paull which such an excellent and imaginative reconceptualisation of the hive mind – I’d totally recommend it.

If any of our readers is considering whether to join the Society, what would your message be to them?

Join! It’s the best £1.50 I have ever spent. It was a brilliant thing to be involved with and something you’re unlikely to be able to do (for that price) once you leave university. I found it the perfect antidote to any stressful moments in my degree and I loved coming up to the roof to literally take a breather to do something so different and practical. I also met some really lovely people and got to do all sorts of things I would never have otherwise done (like my first TV interview!). Go on, you won’t regret it.

What (if anything) have you learnt from the bees?

I could list a million things, but I think the most important thing I learnt over my time with the LSE SU Beekeeping Society is just how important, yet how fragile and threatened, pollinators are to our planet and our way of life. Food doesn’t just come from the supermarket, it’s grown somewhere by someone, and we have a responsibility to think about how our decisions influence the ecosystems in which we live. We had a film screening of ‘More than Honey’ last year (ask the new exec committee to borrow the DVD) and the difference between our hives and the way bees are used in commercial agriculture was astonishing. I can’t imagine my life without beekeeping now and I’m looking forward to having my own hive one day. It was an absolute pleasure to be part of the society and I wish everyone involved (including the bees!) all the success in the world.