Nov. 24, 2022

Consumer Honey Challenges (101)

Consumer Honey Challenges (101)

On today’s show, Kim and Jim discuss the most common ‘complaint’ a beekeeper who sells honey encounters. This is true whether you are selling from the back of your truck, at a roadside stand or even a local farmer’s market. What do you tell...

On today’s show, Kim and Jim discuss the most common ‘complaint’ a beekeeper who sells honey encounters. This is true whether you are selling from the back of your truck, at a roadside stand or even a local farmer’s market. What do you tell your customer who brings you or asks you about granulated honey in the jar?  How you answer this may make the difference between a lifelong customer or someone who never buys honey again.

How one addresses this is as varied as there are people who eat honey. From stove tops, to microwave ovens (don’t do it), to electric blankets and even sawing the plastic bear in half (don’t do this either…). Kim and Jim discuss it all.

They’re not talking about five gallon buckets or barrels of honey, but consumer’s plastic bears, mason and queenlike jars. What is the best message for your customers so they don’t needlessly throw away good honey?

Listen in to the discussion. What do you you tell your customers? Let them know in the comments below!

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Honey Bee Obscura is brought to you by Growing Planet Media, LLC, the home of Beekeeping Today Podcast.

Music: Heart & Soul by Gyom, All We Know by Midway Music, original guitar music by Jeffrey Ott

Copyright © 2022 by Growing Planet Media, LLC


Honey Bee Obscura

Episode 101 – Consumer Honey Challenges



Kim Flottum: Jim we talk a lot about, in fact, almost exclusively, we talk about what beekeepers need to do in this occupation, and it's whether you got one colony or maybe 1,000 some of the stuff that we talk about apply to that. Something that came up to me yesterday, I had somebody come to the house to visit for just a minute, and we got to talking about honey. One of the things that they asked me was not a beekeeper issue with honey but a consumer issue with honey. That's if you're selling honey to people, whether you got a farm stand, or you got a farm market, or people just come to your house because you got a sign in the yard, at some point in time, you're going to get a question from a consumer that has nothing to do with bees or beekeeping, but has to do with the product that they bought from you, honey.

Hi, I'm Kim Flottum.

Jim Tew: And I'm Jim Tew.

Kim: Today we want to talk about that interaction between beekeepers and customers, consumers the people who buy your honey and use it cooking, use it on their kitchen table, whatever it is they have. It's not a how to produce honey, it's how to answer the questions that consumers have about the honey that you produced and sold to them.

Jim: I like that Kim, it makes sense and I know those people, and I remember some of their questions.

Introduction: You are listening to Honey Bee Obscura, brought to you by Growing Planet Media, the folks behind Beekeeping Today Podcast, each week on Honey Bee Obscura, hosts Kim Flottum and Jim Tew explore the complexities, the beauty, the fun, and the challenges of managing honeybees in today's world. Get ready for an engaging discussion to delight and inform all beekeepers. If you're a longtimer or just starting out, sit back and enjoy the next several minutes as Kim and Jim explore all things honey bees.


Kim: The most common one, of course, is I bought this honey from you last summer at the farm market and today I want to use it and I took it out of my cupboard and it was solid honey, it was crystallize, it was rock hard or it was getting to be rock hard. What can I do now? Do I just throw this away?"

Jim: Kim, I like the, if I could, I was reminiscing, the way they always said it to me was, "It went bad and turn to sugar."

Kim: Exactly.

Jim: That's the point where you pick up how much education do I want to give at that time on exactly what's going on here. You sold them the honey, you took their money, it kind of come with an unspoken guarantee and here they are back asking for the guarantee enforcement.

Kim: The first thing you can say is, well, "If you can get a spoonful of that honey, you can put that in your tea and that'll work, but if you want that jar back to the way it was when I sold it to you, a liquid jar of honey, there are some ways to accomplish that with the use of, I'm going to say tools, equipment that you stuff, that you have in your kitchen.

Jim: Simple techniques for turning honey back into a liquid form, is that what you're saying?

Kim: That's what I'm saying. There are some caveats here that you want to consider. The biggest, of course, is that some of the things that you can do with honey and a glass jar, you may want to think twice about doing to honey in a plastic jar, because plastic and warm temperatures tend to react differently than glass and warm temperatures. You want to exercise some caution here I think.

Jim: I completely agree. For those who haven't done it, your first overheated jar in a microwave is going to result in a very memorable day for you.

Kim: [laughs] The first thing is don't think of the microwave. That's at the bottom of the list on the next page of things and ways to do this. Of course, the thing that most people will tell you, myself included, is if you've got a glass jar of honey that has crystallized and you want to get it back to liquid, is a pan of warm water, the cover of your jar, and your stove. There's several ways to accomplish this using those three things.

One of them is just, of course, is to heat a small pan of water, bring it to a boil, turn the oven off, let the water cool to the point where you can put your finger in it and not be painful, and then put your jar of or jars of honey in it with the lids off. Then you may have to heat it up again a couple of times. Take the jars out, heat it up, wait for it to cool just a little bit, put the jars back in, and soon it will liquefy all of the jars back to the state where you can use them as liquid honey. That's probably the most common and maybe the safest way to do this. Am I right?

Jim: I'd like to reinforce you, saying, take to loosen those lids or even take them off because cause bad things can happen, the jar becomes pressurized and cracks, breaks with that heated honey. I'd like to reinforce to be sure that you've loosened those lids and sometimes it can be hard to loosen those lids if that honey is granulated solid and you got arthritic hands. It won't back off that easy. Back to you, Kim. Back to you.

Kim: Well, if you got a lead that won't come off, and there's a couple of things that you can do, and I've done this and I've been successful with it. One of them is to turn that jar over and just put the lid in the warm water for a few seconds up to a minute or so and then use one of those gripper pad things that grabs a hold of the jar and that minute or so in warm water will usually uncrystallize a tiny bit of honey that you've got in the threads of that cover so that you can loosen it. Don't leave it in there upside down. Don't hold it so long that the lid comes off. Just dip it in there a minute, minute and a half try loosening it. If that doesn't work a minute, minute and a half, and I bet you it will come off then.

Jim: I bet it would. For all the real man out there, I'd like to say use your Stillson wrench on that honey jar and back that off or take your Milwaukee heat gun and set that up, so none of this hot water, upside down. I'm kidding. We've all struggled-

Kim: Yes.

Jim: -with stuck lids on something somewhere and there's always a story about the surprise that what happened when that lid became unstuck.

Kim: [laughs] One of the things, also, to consider when you've got these jars, and this jar, you've got the lid off, is to stir the honey. Initially, it's going to be, if it's hard as a rock, it's going to be hard to stir. I have chopsticks and that's what I use to stir. I don't use them for anything other than stirring honey because I can't make my fingers work. For stirring honey, I poke them down in there and I turned the chopstick around the circumference of the top a little bit, take it out, and then I put that chopstick in another empty honey jar because I don't want to waste the honey that's stuck to the chopstick.

Jim: Okay, but I hadn't thought of that, have a stick and you could just lick it off.

Kim: Well, there's that. [laughs]

Jim: I guess if it's a pound deep, you're going to stick that chopstick too far down your throat. No, I can understand. You know, that's a topic we probably discussed at some point about how messy the smallest amount of honey can be. I love honey, and I love making it, I love talking about it but a little bit on a cabinet top goes a long way so I can see, of what you're doing and storing and mixing and doing these things we're talking about, it just takes four drops of honey for you to get a real bad reputation in the kitchen.

Kim: Well, before we go any further I think it's time we take a quick break for our sponsor.


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Kim: I don't know if you remember Ann Herman. Ann Herman had a saying that an ounce of honey can completely coat everything in your kitchen in less than a minute.

Jim: Yes. [chuckles]

Kim: I think she's probably right, so keep that in mind, but if you're going to do it in a pan on the top of a stove, get the lid off, stir it on occasion so that the honey that's liquefied can rise, and the honey that's still solid can come to the top and mixes it up, and you'll get it all liquefied eventually. Earlier, you mentioned microwave. I think right here is a good place to talk about microwave. I want to go back to plastic containers because they too are very different. The problem with a microwave is that if you put a jar of honey in a microwave and you try and get it exactly centered on where that beam is-- That beam is going to go across from one side to the other, but it's not equal, and you're not going to heat that jar equally. If you leave it in there, put it for one minute, look at it, "Oh, it's starting to liquefy." That's good. Put it back in. Do it another minute. Another part of that honey is going to liquefy, but the part that was already liquified is going to start to get overheated, and then you got a problem. You're going to ruin that jar of honey.

Jim: Yes. Well, I hope ruining the jar of honey is all that happens. If that honey begins to boil-

Kim: Yes.

Jim: -and comes out of that jar, it's going to be a miserable mess to clean up in the microwave.

Kim: Exactly. The other half of this equation is using plastic jars. If you've got plastic, a plastic bear or a plastic tube, or whatever your plastic is, you're going to have to approach this a little bit differently. There's some discussion on what happens when you put a bear in a pan of warm water on your stove or just in your oven or in the microwave anywhere, when you pull it out, that water is no hotter than you can put your finger in, but when you pull that honey out after you stirred it several times and it's all liquid, that bear is going to be deformed. It was too warm for the bear, and therein lies the discussion. Is this honey in that bear edible? Would you eat honey that had been in plastic that had deformed? I'm asking you, Jim.

Jim: If you're asking me, I'm assuming people are listening in and so this won't be a private response, but my response would be to you very directly, no, I would not be comfortable eating that honey.

Kim: I think I agree with you. Here's what you can do with honey in a plastic container. If you've got more time than money, [chuckles] you can dig it out. Get a spoon, get a fork, get whatever you can in a container and dig out what you can, and have it go into a small pan or some other container. Dig out what you can. You'd be surprised it's not that difficult no matter how hard it is.

You can squeeze the bear a little bit, that will loosen it. You can squeeze the tube a little bit, that will loosen it, and you can get it out and dig it out and have it fall into a small pan. Then from there you can heat it. You can take that honey and then heat it and warm it and decrystallize it in any manner of ways that work. Heating plastic, I'm with you. I wouldn't want to eat it because I don't know what, where, or how much plastic went into that honey. I just don't know.

Jim: Kim, two things. First of all, I want to remind the listeners that we're talking about customers talking to beekeepers. We're not really talking to beekeepers today. If you're a beekeeper and one of your customers came back and asked you such questions as this, that's what we're reviewing. Secondly, while you were talking, I wonder if you can sell honey in a plastic container and then go home while it's liquid and transfer it to the glass container of your choice,-

Kim: oh, there's a slice.

Jim: -I've never thought of this, and then be done with the plastic container forever. Drain it out, wash it out, recycle it, then it's out of here. That way if you know it's going to take you six months to eat a pound of honey, get it out of that 1-pound plastic container and get it into glassware. The third thing I was thinking is can I take a serrated kitchen knife and just cut that honey bear right in half and then scoop that stuff out and put it in the pan, liquefy it, and then put it back in a glass jar. These are really almost bordering on nonsensical thoughts but you are making me think what to do with a small amount of honey in a plastic container in a kitchen with nothing else to work with.

Kim: I never thought of cutting it in half. That's just a grand idea.

Jim: Well, I was thinking it was simple. I'm not going to reuse the container again because I was waiting for you to say, after it's liquid, pour it back into the honey bear. Let's just say it was a honey bear. All the seed crystals are in there. It's just going to cause it to granulate again, then you got to wash this bear, and all that. I'm thinking if you have this trouble with it before, don't use it again once you've got the honey out of it.

Kim: Bingo. Bingo.

Jim: All right, I'm done. I'm just sitting here while you're talking, letting my mind wandering as an old guy. I probably shouldn't do that. It doesn't always come back home when it should.

Kim: Well, a customer came to me a while back and was talking to me about the honey that he'd bought, not from me, but from a friend of mine at a farm market over the course of the summer crystallized. Come fall, he was ready to use it, going to put some in his tea like he did all winter long and, of course, the honey had crystallized over the summer sitting in his cabinet. He knew that warming it was a way to do this. He thought, "How can I-- I got a dishwasher." He said, "I made sure the cap was tight and I ran it through the dishwasher and it came out liquid." Now I don't know the temperature of dishwasher water, but I'm going to bet that it's not any hotter than when I wash dishes in the sink, which my hands can compare. You can find out. You can find out somewhere in a book, it's going to have the temperature of the water.

If it's hot water heater hot, it'll work just fine. Just stick it in there, run it through a cycle of dishwasher when you're doing supper dishes tonight. Maybe you have to do it twice. You take it out, stir it, put it back in, run it again, and get it. There's something to think about if you got a dishwasher. I don't have one so this is something I've never had to try.

Jim: [laughs] I'm sorry, Kim. This is turning into a strange thought segment for me because I'm thinking, "All right, just put it in a glass jar and just store your honey in the dishwasher," but, no, I'm not going to say that because the water at my house is hot, you can't put your hand on it, but it's not boiling. When you said put the lid back on, I could probably put a caveat there, "All right, under these conditions you can." Plus if it blows up, it's going to be in the dishwasher and it'll kinda clean itself up except for all the glass shards you got to deal with. I've never put granulated honey in a dishwasher. I probably going to let some of the listeners tell me how that goes rather than run the risk of me having a bad reputation here at home if this thing doesn't work in the dishwasher.

Kim: Find out what the temperature of the water is in your dishwasher. Is it heated up before it goes in? That's one thing. If it's just out of your hot water heater, you kno how hot it is. Like I said, mine isn't hot enough to-- I can put my hands in it. Here's another easy way to do this and this is, you go back to my stove, every stove that I've ever known and every stove that I've ever seen has one burner on the top that is used as an escape for the heat from your oven when you're using your oven. You can turn your oven on, run your hands over the burners, and one of them's going to be warm. You set your oven at 220, or whatever, and when it gets to that temperature, it needs to cool itself off and that vents it through one of the openings in one burner.

Kathy, my much smarter better half sets her honey next to that burner when she's using the oven because it's not hot. It's warm. It's quite warm, but it's not so hot. You can't put your hand on it. She'll put four or five jars of honey around the burner, not on it but around the burner when she's using the stove. She'll just leave them there until they're liquid if they don't get in the way. Sometimes they get in the way and you have to move them but you can put them back. There's a one-time thing. You can put it on the back, leave it there, wait until it's liquid and you're not using, you're not doing anything weird or untoward towards your honey.

Jim: I've never really looked at my stove. I've got one of those porcelain top stove things. I never have really looked at it. I'm the guy who's always splashing scrambled eggs on the stove. I'll check it and see. Kim, before you get any further away, I need to go way back to that dishwasher thing because there's a thing that needs to be mentioned, I think. Some of those dishwashers have a heating coil in them and they have a drying cycle.

Kim: Oh.

Jim: That heating coil turns on just like an electric stove. I don't think it gets as hot but it heats the inside of that dishwasher box and dries the dishes. I don't know what happens in that cycle. I don't know how hot that gets. If someone listened to us, be aware that that drying cycle element could very well be hotter than the water that was splashing around in there in an earlier cycle. I don't know what to do with that knowledge of that dryer cycle going on.

Kim: Good point. See, I don't have one, so I'm not aware exactly of how dishwashers work so good [crosstalk]

Jim: Well, I've got an old one, but I don't get it. I don't have a close loving personal relationship with it. Dishes in, dishes out. I've never been asked these kinda detail questions about it before.

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: All right, back to your discussion.

Kim: I got another one that I would've never thought of that a friend of mine uses. He's got an old electric blanket and he takes his jars of honey-- He usually has two or three because he likes different flavors. He likes dark strong, medium, and then a light, really delicate. He'll get three or four jars that are partially crystallized and partially full. What he'll do is he will take those jars, put the covers on real tight, takes his electric blanket, and holds it up into like a little bit bigger than a plate, as small as you can comfortably get it. Put those jars right in the middle, put a couple three books on top of the blanket so it doesn't unfold. Plug it in, come back in after a couple three hours and those jars are liquified because they've been warmed by that blanket. Not too hot and it's easy to do and almost no input from you. Make sure the covers are tight.

Jim: Well, I have a dishwasher, but I don't have an electric blanket-

Kim: [laughs]

Jim: -so I've got to turn that over to someone else. [chuckles]

Kim: Okay. I haven't tried it, but I can see where it would probably work pretty well. What's the cost? You got to look at electricity costs and how high it's going to get. Here's another one. A friend of mine says, I asked him when he came to the, again, I was at this farm market and working with somebody who was selling honey, and I asked, I said, "What do you do when your honey crystallizes?" because he is a regular customer here and he buys honey at least once a month. He says, "I put it in a box, I leave it in the back window of my car in a hot day, roll up the windows, and by supper time it's liquid." I'm going, "Duh." How much more simple can you get? The question is how hot does it get in that car and I don't know that, but you can measure it. If it's not over 100, 110, you can liquefy your honey in the back of a closed-window car.

Jim: Boy, there's parts of the country where you could do that almost on a whimsical basis in the hot season of the year. I was thinking while you've been telling all these things, people really want their honey in liquid form, don't they?

Kim: Yes. I do.

Jim: You just discussed this for nearly 20 minutes about how to- and I'm thinking good grief, eat it before it crystallizes or scoop it out, put it into a hot cup of coffee, or whatever, and-- My wife and my grandkids want it liquid. They want it to be just like the syrup that comes out of a Log Cabin bottle.

Kim: Yes, exactly right.

Jim: It's that image of other liquid sweeteners that they're comparing this honey to granularly.

Kim: I got one more home remedy, and then, I think, we need to call it a day here. I've got friends who live in an apartment in an older house and they still have water radiators. They just put a wooden block, a board on top of the radiator, put the honey on top of the board, tomorrow morning it'll be liquid. This is during the winter, of course. During the summer, this isn't going to work, but when the radiators are heating your house, you put a board on top of the radiator and just set your honey on the board and come back tomorrow morning and it'll be pretty much liquid.

Jim: That would be simple to do, wouldn't it?

Kim: Yes.

Jim: I would say just leave it there and it'll stay liquid, but if you leave it there, it's going to slowly cook off the volatiles and the honey. I don't think you'd want to leave it under steady heat. I don't have radiators, but if I did, I'd--

Kim: Yes.

Jim: You're going to tell me to put it on my car manifold now, aren't you? I know what's coming. You're going tell me when I come home or to do what that guy did years ago and cook a fish while you're driving your car by laying it on the car manifold, engine manifold.

Kim: I don't think I'm going to do that but-- Well, this has just been some ideas when a customer comes to you and is reluctant to buy honey because the last bottle that they bought crystallized and they couldn't use it, here's some suggestions that you can give to that customer that they can do in their house. Beekeepers who have pails of honey and barrels of honey have way more sophisticated ways to do this and they're set up to handle crystallized honey where the normal consumer probably isn't quite that prepared. Maybe here's some ideas that people can do at home with stuff that they already have.


Jim: It seems to work for me.

Kim: Well, I think that's enough for today. We've given people more than they can handle. They can go back and re-listen and write down all these ideas and maybe one of them will stick. Let's hope so. A way to sell more honey is to keep your customer happy. Tuck in next time, Jim.

Jim: I'll be right here waiting.

Kim: Okay.

Jim: All right. Bye-Bye.


[00:25:54] [END OF AUDIO]