Extracting Honey from the Wax Comb

Honey is a complicated thing. I don’t much want to think about how it’s made, because it will destroy my fantasy of happy bees making liquid sunshine while clover and wildflowers wave nearby in a fragrant breeze.

Honey comb in plastic clamshell containers. I brought it home from Wisconsin. Security did not tell me it was a liquid and confiscate it. I am grateful.

I purchased two squares of honeycomb from a beekeeper. The honey that’s taken from a honeycomb tastes better (to me) than honey that’s been strained, boiled, and pasteurized. When we were both younger, my brother concocted a taste test, and both of us could easily detect the comb honey taste. I remember saying it tastes like wax candles.

Use a sharp, clean knife and do not press, but slice, the honey comb.

Honey may taste better fresh from the comb, but you have to get it out of the comb first. Eating the comb along with the honey is not a joy for me. But how to get the honey out? First, cut the comb in half so you have two flat squares. That opens all the compartments.

Pieces of comb in strainer, in pot.

Next, place the compartments, face down, in a strainer and put the strainer in a deep enough cooking pot to allow the honey to drip through the strainer. The room should be about 80 degrees to let the honey flow freely. Do not put the honey outside in the summer to warm it up faster. The phrase “you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” was invented by someone who tried that.

You can turn the oven on “warm” for 10 minutes and then slide the pot and strainer in. Do not leave the kitchen while the honey is in the oven. Your spouse will come along and turn the oven on 350 degrees. This will melt the wax into the honey where it was before, and also the plastic handle of the strainer onto the pizza stone you keep in the oven.

Burned strainer handle melted onto pizza stone.

If this does happen, leave the strainer in the pot and place the pot on a trivet until the whole mess cools down, about two hours. Once the pot is no longer hot to the touch, put in the the fridge, complete with strainer, for an hour.

Do not roll your eyes or say, “I told you the pot was in the oven,” because this will not un-ruin the pizza stone. One of the secrets to a long marriage is not saying everything you think.

Removing what’s left of the strainer will leave a bottom-of-the-strainer size hole in the wax.

When the wax is cool, but before the honey hardens in the fridge, pull the strainer containing the was impurities out of the pot, skim the wax off the honey (if the honey is stiff, this won’t work) and rinse off the wax to make a candle.

Success!

Decant the honey into a small container and enjoy it on hot toast, cold yogurt, or in tea.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and still married to KentCooks, whose pizza stone got ruined in the process of extracting the honey from the wax. The link to his website will take you to a yummy recipe for salmon with fruit salsa.

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16 thoughts on “Extracting Honey from the Wax Comb

  1. Ahhh, Quinn! You have brought back vivid memories of summers with my maternal grandparents 🙂 My granddaddy was a beekeeper from around the age of 17, until he died (just short of 90)! We keep bees, because of him (our first two hives were a gift on our third wedding anniversary). …and even tho’ my hubby prefers using an extractor (to spin the honey from uncapped supers) for that which is jarred without comb, I can still see that golden ‘juice’ running over my granddaddy’s hands — he was ‘old school’ all the way! When they ‘put up’ honey in the summer time, it was HOT and fragrant in their little house 🙂 The ONLY heat involved was the jars drying in the oven, after my grandma washed them by hand — He extracted by squeezing the honey from the comb, cut in planks from each super — I can still HEAR the way that sounded. We have his tools – and the ONLY purpose for that big yellow bowl, to this day, is for straining honey. We have five good, strong hives, this year; I am already looking forward to late July/early August, when the house will be still, and warm, and smell like the summers of many years ago.

  2. When I was a child we would go and visit our Great Aunt Grace. Her entire section, about 1/4 of an acre, was garden – either flowers or vegetables, a couple of fruit trees but no grass at all so it was quite magical. Way down the back, under a tree, were two hives and when we left after our visit, there was always a 4 gallon tin full of beatiful honey in the back. Hmmm . . . I still love the stuff . . . especially manuka honey . . . it’s cold, raining, and lunch time so I think I’ll go and make some toast and perhaps chop up some ginger for some honey and ginger tea! Thanks for the memory jog!

    • Honey is pasteurized to keep it from crystallizing out, which it will do over time. The sugar forms crystals around impurities. Unfiltered, unpasteurized honey isn’t “shelf stable.” (Now there’s a scary term.) Most people won’t buy honey that is crystallized out because they think it’s spoiled. It’s not, and can easily be brought back by submerging the bottle in hot water. Comb honey is raw, unfiltered and unheated, and tastes different (and yummy) to me.

  3. Oh, Quinn, I so enjoyed this post! I’m a natural and organic beekeeper who has extensive experience with getting honey out of the comb, and I absolutely agree that honey that’s been heated, boiled, or pasteurized isn’t even honey anymore. When I do take comb from the hive, my favorite way to eat it is to just pop a small piece in my mouth and chew it slowly. The honey is released from the cells in little bursts of sweetness, and the wax has a chance to be warmed and integrated. Depending on the age of the wax, sometimes I eat it and sometimes I give it back to the bees.

    To get the honey out of the comb more quickly, without having to use any heat at all, you can use the ‘crush and strain’ method of extraction. Saves on pizza stones, plastic strainer handles, and eye-rolling.

    In my adventures with bees, and understanding the process of how they alchemically transform the sweet nectar of flowers into golden drops of honey, I can assure you that your fantasy is real. Unless of course you don’t like the alchemical bit (which I won’t mention in words in case you really don’t). For me, that’s where all the magic takes place!

    • “crush and strain” was the goal here. I had put the combs in the refrigerator to keep them from getting too soft until I could handle them. The oven was at about 100 degrees and was to help bring the comb up to room temp. So we were on the same page. That makes me proud, because I don’t know much about beekeeping. I’m allergic to them. They hang around my house a lot because I have blooming trees and plants year-round. I also have bird baths with non-chlorinated water and rocks for them. (Pools aren’t good for bees). I’m not scared of them, just have to be careful. I’m going to enjoy my fantasy, love my alchemy dreams, and chew more bee wax comb–it sounds like a wonderful idea.

  4. Personally, I love to eat it with the wax. Spread on wholemeal toast and butter is indulgent but perfect.
    When I was little, my babcia ( grandma) used to buy honey in the comb, and the special treat was being allowed to eat it by the teaspoon!

    • Really? You eat the wax? I had never thought of that. Would probably give me a nice smooth skin that doesn’t creak when I bend it. I can imagine eating it by the spoonful. That may be best.

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