Comb honey: how to make chunk honey
The next step up from cut comb honey is chunk honey . . . or maybe it’s a step down. I’m not sure which it is because, even though I totally get the idea of comb honey, I am mystified by chunk honey. If you are not familiar with the term, chunk honey is simply a hunk of honeycomb submerged in a jar of extracted honey.
To someone with a more or less ordered view of the universe, this anomaly is upsetting. The comb is supposed to contain the honey, not the other way round. Think of a waffle cone submerged in a gallon of ice cream, a slice of bread inside a jar of mayonnaise, or a tortilla buried in a can of refried beans.
I am told by other beekeepers that chunk honey sells well, and I suppose that is reason enough to make it. On the other hand, not a day goes by when I don’t receive inquiries about it. The following comments are actual questions taken from e-mail:
There’s something disgusting in my honey.
Will larvae crawl out of that waxy thing?
Can you eat the beehive inside the jar?
Why did they leave beeswax in my honey?
Will I get sick if I eat the comb thing they left in there?
After I threw out the wax stuff, there wasn’t much left.
Someone put part of a beehive in my honey. Should I report it?
Will bees hatch out of the wasp nest in my honey jar?
I bought honey with something in it. Can I get a refund?
Is that thing in the jar to grow a beehive with?
I’m not trying to discourage chunk honey, I’m just saying that there is a disconnect between those who put comb in a jar and those who take it out. I suppose if you weren’t expecting it, it could be off-putting, like finding a worm in your tequila.
Some beekeepers pack their jars with lots of comb and it is clearly visible. Others put in a small chunk surrounded by lots of extracted honey. It’s my hunch that it’s the latter type that causes most of the questions: If the comb isn’t obvious when someone buys the jar, it may turn into a surprise later—not the Cracker Jack kind of surprise, either, but the OMG kind.
Anyway, I’m just relaying the message. Now here are some tips for making chunk honey:
- Wide-mouth mason jars are easy to pack, but any type of jar will work.
- A standard shallow frame is about the right height for a pint mason jar, which makes the entire process easier.
- Before you start, all jars and lids should be clean and dry.
- For the best-looking product, choose sections of comb that are full, clean, and free of damage.
- Whereas you have a hidden side in packaged cut comb honey, both sides show in a jar. To keep from damaging the back side, many beekeepers like to hold the frame upright while cutting the pieces out.
- Try to estimate the size of the chunks you will need, and then pack an experimental jar to see how it fits. Once you get it right, measure the pieces or use a cardboard template for the subsequent jars.
- Hold sections on the cut side at the midrib. This prevents damage to the cappings.
- Remember that honeycomb cells angle up from the center of the comb. Since the ends of the comb as well as the sides are visible in a jar, the orientation of the comb should be as it was built (up should be up and down should be down).
- To keep the comb from floating, some beekeepers stick the comb to the bottom of the jar with a dribble of melted wax or by heating the jars and allowing the comb to melt slightly against the glass. This step is important for honey shows, but not necessary otherwise.
- After the honeycomb pieces are in place (and cool, if you stuck them to the jar) add extracted honey to fill the jar. To reduce air bubbles, carefully pour the honey onto the inside wall of the container and let it run down slowly.
- With chunk honey, it is easiest to freeze the jars after filling them. Since the jars take longer to freeze than frames, allow at least 24 hours in the freezer.