I thought it would be helpful to explain a bit about why cut comb honey is desirable, and also why it is so expensive compared to extracted (regular) honey.
What is cut comb honey?
In my last blog post, I discussed how honey is extracted. I explained that honey is stored by the bees in frames of honeycomb. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, maybe go read my previous post.)
To make cut comb honey, the beekeeper cuts intact honeycomb (with honey inside) off the wooden frame, then boxes it up for sale just like that!
I don't have any pictures of my own cut comb honey to show yet, but there's a pretty picture in this article.
Why is cut comb honey expensive?
So if cut comb honey saves the beekeeper the time of extracting honey, why does it cost more than extracted honey??? I'm telling you, this is a PLOT by beekeepers to get RICH. I'm gonna blow this whole thing wide open!!!
The reason cut comb honey is expensive comes back to drawn comb. Drawn honeycomb, as I explained in my previous blog post, is extremely valuable to beekeepers. Because it saves the bees from having to make new wax cells, it allows the bees to make more honey for the beekeeper. It also seems to make the bees want to ramp up honey production. They seem to get extra busy and productive, knowing that there are empty wax cells that need to be filled with honey. The best way to make bees want to make honey in the spring is to put on some drawn comb. (And one of the best ways to make this beekeeper happy in the wintertime is to visit my boxes of drawn comb in the barn. They smell like bees and honey and summer.)
When the beekeeper produces cut comb honey, it means that the drawn comb is not returned to the bees. The bees therefore must make all new wax before they can fill honey frames with nectar/honey. This means a lot more work/bees/resources must be expended by the beehive. That work ends up costing the beekeeper in bees, time, and honey.
And that is why cut comb honey is more expensive than extracted honey.
Why is cut comb honey worth the time and expense?
The reason I want to make cut comb honey is that it is AMAZING.
One of the reasons raw local honey is so special is that the delicate floral perfumes and tastes that originate in flower nectar are preserved, whereas they seem to be absent (at least given the limits of my sensory abilities) in heated, filtered supermarket honey. Cut comb honey takes that excellence of freshness, smell, and taste one step further. In cut comb honey, the honey remains perfectly preserved within its wax cell until the cell is opened. Therefore, all the delicate smells and tastes that were in the nectar remain in the honey that is within the cut comb, unchanged, until you eat it! It is the freshest honey it is possible to find, unless you're a beekeeper who often does some snacking right out of the hive while checking her bees... :)
Cut comb honey can also take longer to crystallize than extracted honey. And it retains all of the pollen and probiotics that were in the honey when the bees sealed it up with a wax capping.
How do you eat it?
Kids: "With your fingers. Then you lick them off and wipe the spit on your brother."
Adults: "No! We use utensils!!"
Many people take a chunk of the cut comb off with a knife or spoon, and spread it on toast. My kids like to remove a chunk and plop it straight into their mouths like chewing gum. They chew until all the honey is gone, then (I think?) either swallow the wax or spit it outside when I'm not looking.
My grandmother gave me this glass dish a couple of summers ago. She asked me, "Do you know what this is for?" I guessed it was for candy. She kept looking at me, waiting patiently for me to catch on, but my detective skills were disappointing and she had to tell me that it was for storing cut comb honey. Brilliant! The extra honey drips to the bottom and then can be used later.
I can't wait to use it this summer.