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Preparing Honey for a Show

By: Dodie Stillman

Dodie Stillman and Ann Harmon 2019

 TBA Convention - San Antonio 

After 2020 preventing an in-person convention, TBA is very excited to host the 2021 Texas Beekeepers Association “in person” Convention at Moody Gardens – Galveston, TX. November 5-7th!

With that, comes the anticipation of entering one of the MANY honey and honey related

products contests! Having won 1st place in Black Jar many years ago, I can attest to the fun and overwhelming joy when you can “take home a ribbon” for your hard work. Competition is not limited to just honey. Photography, Arts/Crafts, Box Painting, Wax, Mead, and (new this year) short videos are all waiting for you to enter. How can any beekeeper not want to play along? Full rules and categories can be found here on the Texas Beekeepers Association Website.

With so many “experienced” beekeepers in the playing field, I thought, "What better for you than a tutorial article on 'Preparing your Honey for Show?” Enjoy the following article by one of the TBA Directors and Convention “do it all’"- Dodie Stillman. There’s a lot more to it than just bottling some honey!

Chari Elam

Bees make the honey. You are not winning on the honey, but your presentation of it. Judges look at how you present the honey and taste is a secondary (sometime deciding) factor. ~Jimmie Oakley~

 

Read and follow the rules!! Be sure to keep up with any rule changes!

Present your honey in the container called for by the contest. It is essential to use the right container, and the correct lid!!

Cleanliness is next to…

  • Make sure your containers are clean. Wash in dishwasher by themselves. Never touch the jar with your hands after that; use lint free cloth or photo gloves.
  • Pick the Perfect Jar. Look carefully for bubbles or flaws in the glass, even on the bottom.
  • Put Good Honey in your Jars. Honey Quality Check - Choose only fully capped frames and taste it for flavor (no bitter weed, leafy spurge, or goldenrod).
  • Purchase a Refractometer and use it. Check the moisture level of your honey. Test for density to get the maximum points.
  • Filling your jars: Slowly, holding with a towel, tipped at an angle to prevent bubbles.Fill level of jar: Up to the top screw thread the first time. Reduce honey to the correct level before entering into the contest. This allows for removing bubbles and/or debris.
  • Cover Jar with Plastic Wrap: Judges look under the lid and no honey should be there. Have a second lid available if you need to replace your original lid. Remove the plastic wrap before turning in for judging.

Bottle honey early as opposed to late: Give your honey time to settle and provide opportunity to skim or remove bubbles and/or debris. Remove top layer with a spoon to above the inside fill line. You should not see empty space below the lid.

Honey is judged in categories based on:

  • Color - The TBA Honey Show will have links to the color chart, a color chart at the registration table, and the judges will move your honey to the most appropriate category with no points lost.
  • Density of water – Check rules for best percentage for highest points
  • Free of foreign matter - granulated crystals, bubbles, foam, wax, lint.
  • The appearance of the bottle - cleanliness of the bottle inside and out; no honey under the lid.
  • The uniform fill - up to fill line.
  • Flavor and brightness - clear and transparent.

Honey Contest Submissions

New TBA Category this year - Honeycomb: The beekeeper must make every effort to remove comb honey as soon as capped to prevent the “travel stain” from pollen and propolis. These will be seen on the wooden frame of square sections, on the plastic rim of rounds, and on the surface of all comb. Unfortunately some parts of the country have dark propolis and brilliantly-colored pollen. The judge is looking for the absolute minimum of “travel stain.”

Show Hints:

  • You can heat honey slowly and allow bubbles to rise by leaving the jar in a closed, parked car all day (in Texas = 100+ degrees).
  • To remove specks, wax, or lint try using a long wooden skewer to move the foreign matter to the top and dip it off with a spoon.
  • Polish jars with silk cloth. Use individually cut moist square of lint free cloth (white men’s handkerchief) to wipe underside of lid before presentation.
  • Store honey in room temperature above 57 degrees to avoid granulation.

Additional sources of information

Articles by Ann Harman

  • Honey and Beeswax Competitions
  • What is a Honey Show?
  • Honey in the Comb - A true Delicacy
  • Smooth and Creamy - Creamed Honey
  • Beeswax candles and blocks with some very valuable tips.-
  • Liquid honey: density, aroma and flavor, filling jars, crystals in honey

Additional Articles

  • Honey products including comb and creamed honey by Peter O'Reilly
  • In-depth cleaning beeswax and creating wax blocks by Redmond Williams

How-To videos from Virginia Webb

  • Strained Honey
  • Chunk Honey
  • Beeswax Block

Ann Harmon and a judge steward

Dodie Stillman is the President of the Austin Area Beekeepers Association - Area Director, Club Liaison and on the Nomination Committee for the Texas Beekeepers Association

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