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This Sunflower honey is:
At this time of year raw honey can crystallise quite quickly.
This is a process that many people aren't familiar with - often because they have previously bought honey in a place that is a lot warmer than the UK or because they have got it from a mainstream supermarket. A warm climate delays crystallisation.
Crystallisation doesn't tend to happen to supermarket honey because it has usually been pasteurised and fine filtered.
Pasteurisation delays the crystallisation for a year or more - you see heating honey breaks down the natural crystals in the honey so they don't grow. (More than this pasteurisation damages the antibacterial properties of the honey - and generally degrades the flavour and properties of the honey.
There is something else that the supermarkets do that drastically delays the setting process - they put put it through very fine filters, which removes the good bits - a lot of the pollen, propolis, beeswax and sometimes bits of royal jelly. These bits help to 'seed' the honey - it starts setting around the bits.
So I hope you can see that raw honey is completely different to processed honey. Unfortunately what the mass producers do completely changes the honey. The end result is a bland substance that doesn't resemble the fine living liquid that the bees make.
So if your honey starts to solidify (or has solidified) it's not something to worry about - in fact it is a sign that your honey is raw.
However, if you would prefer it liquid do this:
Put it on a radiator and drape a tea towel over the jar(s).
Leave it overnight. If it's not liquid by morning then leave it a little longer.
You might think that the heat from this process will damage the honey - the important thing is that you don't heat the honey beyond 40 degrees (which is how hot the hive can get in the summer when the bees are at work evaporating moisture to thicken the honey).
If the radiators are very hot then put something like a book under the jars and then drape a tea towel over the jars.
The book will protect the honey from direct heat above 40 degrees from the radiator and the tea towel will ensure that hot air can circulate around the honey helping to liquefy it.
Let me tell you how we started selling raw honey
An obsession with raw honey grew from a life changing discovery after visiting the Spanish Pyrenees during a family holiday in about 1997 or 1998.
It had been a very hot summer, really really hot. We were roasting in the south west of France and saw on the map a lake 'just over the border' in Spain. So we decided to head for it for a refreshing swim.
I don't think we ever reached the lake because our 'just over the border' was about 80 miles along windy mountain roads. However, we spent the next week camping the Pyrenees, in an incredibly wild area where it really did seem like time had stopped. This was the Spain of old, not the fast developing Spain of the late 90s boom.
On the way back to France we stopped at a little border town, Bielsa, high in the mountains to pick up some gifts. It was here that we discovered Ramon's honey.
There was about four shelves stacked with this honey in big one kilo jars. And there were lots of varieties I had never heard of - like Oak and Orange.
I don't think we opened any of the jars until we got back to England. When we did, I was flabbergasted by the strength of the flavour and the thick consistency.
This was unlike anything we had ever tried before. There was no comparison with the supermarket honey we had been eating before.
This really was a moment of revelation - the discovery of proper honey.
From then on the trips to the Spanish Pyrenees became an annual event for us. Always we would stop at the shop in Bielsa to buy larger and larger amounts of Ramon's amazing honey..
We couldn't meet the demand from friends and family - this alerted us to the fact that we might be onto something really exceptional.
So one year we decided we would try and go and see Ramon and ask him if he could sell wholesale honey to us.
That proved difficult. He didn't have a web site and he didn't seem to answer the phone. We had bought ferry tickets and were close to our leaving day but still we hadn't been able to get any response from him.
Eventually the night before we were due to get the ferry to France he returned our call. He said he would be pleased if we visited him.
I suppose we were expecting a little old man dressed in a beekeeper's suit, but as we were to find, Ramon looked somewhat different. Quite a hip looking dude, but not in the least bit pretentious and very very earnest about his honey.
Finding Ramon's house was a mission and a half. He lived a two hour drive from the Pyrenees. But actually finding his house proved very difficult - you have to remember that this was in the days before satnav. In the end he came out to try and find us as were completely lost.
So we got to meet Ramon, his wife Begona and their three sons Jonathon, Mario and Alessandro. They were in involved in running the family's honey business and running a small holding. They really were living the self-sufficient life, although it was a way of life for them, not a fad.
Begona had prepared a feast for us and as it was a cold day we sat in front of a roaring fire whilst Ramon told us about his philosphy of beekeeping and we tried different types of honey on freshly buttered baguettes.
What we heard was pleasing and reassuring. Ramon was very committed to raw honey and to a traditional style of beekeeping.
He told us that he never pasteurises his honey because that would destroy the health properties and how it is only run through a coarse filter so that pollen remains in the honey (which gives it health benefits)..
He said he wanted to produce 'a honey, like the honey of old'. That he doesn't give his bees antibiotics, or any chemical medicines.
Ramon doesn't add anything to his honey or take anything away.
So that evening we loaded up my van with boxes of Ramon's honey and began the journey back to England. That was the beginning of The Raw Honey Shop.
Later, we met an organic beekeeper called Antonio. His hives are based in the mountain ranges to the north of Madrid. His honey is raw and certified organic. Antonio is the fourth generation in his family to keep bees for honey.
There are a few other beekeepers we get honey from now. Luisa and Mario live in Asturias in the north-west of Spain - bear country. They produce a limited range of raw organic honeys that are creamed. Bernard produces raw organic Manuka in South Island, New Zealand.
We spend a lot of time researching the honey. We go to see the hives for all the different floral varieties of honey we supply and witness the honey extraction process. As well as this we ensure that the supplier has all the required documentation.