Whilst home preserves enthusiasts up and down the country are busy all year round filling their shelves with delicious homemade jams, jellies, pickles and chutneys, there’s one sweet treat that only Mother Nature can produce and that’s honey. In fairness, it’s really the millions of honey bees that produce this golden goodness, under Mother Nature’s watchful eye, but isn’t honey amazing?
In today’s blog post, we take a look at the independent, or artisan if you like, honey producers around the UK who are bringing to market the most delicious and most natural product you can find.
Some Honey Facts
Before we take a look at the UK honey industry, it’s worth pointing out that honey just cannot be mass-produced. Genuine honey can’t be made in a factory or replicated using chemicals and additives; the golden goodness has to be produced by real, living honey bees. That’s why real honey comes with a price tag that sets it above the average jam or marmalade.
Everything about beekeeping is expensive, from the hives and equipment needed to the bees themselves and the extraction equipment needed to take the honey from the honeycomb in the frames that sit inside each hive. About the only inexpensive items on the beekeeper’s shopping list are the honey jars that they will need to fill, in order to sell their produce to an eager customer base.
Having said that real honey cannot be mass-produced and all the work involved in honey production means that it is never a cheap buy, you may be wondering how the supermarkets can offer their honey at prices that are so much lower than at your local farmers’ market, for example.
If you’ve seen the news recently, you may have spotted an article describing how one of the big four supermarkets has been forced to remove its own-brand honey from its shelves, pending an investigation into whether the contents of its honey jars is in fact, 100% pure honey! It’s thought that in an attempt to meet the prices demanded by the supermarkets, some honey producers are diluting their honey with other, less expensive sweeteners. When you buy cheap honey, it appears that you may not really be buying pure honey at all!
All this background information leads us to the point that if you want to enjoy the very best honey experience, you need to find an artisan honey producer, preferably one that is local to where you live. That way, you can be sure that the honey jars that are tempting you on their stall, or in your local deli or food store, are the real deal. Many small producers will have taster pots open for you to try, so grab the honey dipper and a morsel of bread or biscuit, spread that honey on and see for yourself just how good real honey really is.
When you buy from a local, artisan honey producer, you are helping to keep the beekeeping industry alive. Of course, for many beekeepers, it’s a labour of love to tend to their bees, making sure that the hives are in good condition, the bees are healthy all year round and that they have enough food in the hive to see them through the winter. Time-consuming and occasionally frustrating it may be, but you will rarely find someone more passionate about anything than a beekeeper is about their bees.
Artisan Honey Offerings
Back to the farmers’ market and all those tempting honey jars...many people don’t realise that there are all sorts of different honeys available. From runny honey to set honey and from pure honeycomb to honey-infused products, your local honey producer will have all kinds of delicious offerings to tempt you.
It’s also worth pointing out that honey can take on a different flavour depending on what the bees that produced it were foraging for nectar on. Honey produced from heather nectar is especially prized as it has a unique and truly amazing taste, but honey from hives where the bees have predominantly feasted on other plants, such as sycamore or that invasive scourge of the countryside, Himalayan balsam, is also very distinctive.
Aside from crop-specific honeys, many producers also make other honey products to go alongside their pure honey jars. Try chilli-infused honey with cold meats for example, or honey mustard. Honey fudge is a real treat and if you’re very lucky, you might find a producer offering honey cake.
And of course, in addition to offering all kinds of items for you to buy for yourself, most artisan producers will also offer gift packs, perhaps with a couple of jars of different honeys, together with a nice wooden honey dipper, all presented prettily in a gift pack. With Christmas just around the corner, this could be a great idea for those awkward to buy for people on your gift list.
If you’re an artisan producer of honey yourself, why not check out our range of shaped honey jars and related products?