Before you reach for that golden honey bear on the pantry shelf, let’s talk about another way to enjoy it – chunk honey. This term is very familiar to beekeepers but the average consumer might be thinking – “what the heck”. Never fear, it is not as drastic as you might think – and it is a delicious taste experience.
There are so many way to enjoy raw honey – why limit yourself to only one. In the hive, the beeswax comb is an integral part of honey, why not enjoy both?
What is Chunk Honey?
Chunk honey is simply a piece (s) of raw comb that is placed in a jar of liquid honey. In modern terms, many folks simply say – “I want a jar of honey with comb.”
The size of the piece of comb and the number of pieces in the jar is up to the discretion of the beekeeper.
In the olden days (40 years ago), finding chunk honey for sale in my region was very common. Many small-scale beekeepers did not have extractors to extract honey or separate wax comb from liquid.
Instead, they would cut squares (or rectangles) of comb from the wooden hive frames. These pieces were placed in the jar – (usually 3 in a quart sized jar) and then covered with liquid.
This was believed to be a good way to make the harvested honey go farther – less liquid was required to fill the jars.
However, now we know using a honey extractor and saving the frames of comb for next season results in a bigger harvest.
The bees do not have to rebuild all the honeycomb. They only have to clean it, refill it and cap each cell.
As beekeeping became more widespread and lower cost extractors available, the selling of chunk honey fell out of favor. Today, if you find any – expect to pay a premium price for the honey.
How to Prepare Chunk Honey
Beekeepers that produce chunk honey often use a special wax foundation for their frames. Sometimes called (cut comb foundation) it is thinner than normal wax foundation.
This beeswax foundation also lacks any support wires – giving you the freedom to cut chunks of honeycomb in any size you wish.
However, due to the lack of support – it must be installed well and you must take some care when moving the frames around.
1. The honey harvest supers are collected and taken to a secure room. As chunks of honeycomb are cut out, each jar receives the correct number of pieces.
2. Sit these aside and put lids on to protect the comb from absorbing moisture from the air. Honey with a high water content will spoil. If you are doing this in humid weather – you can guess what might happen.
3. As you work, gather any extra pieces of honey filled wax from around the edges of the frames. Place them in a clean bucket-lined with a large piece of cheesecloth (today many beekeepers use a nylon strainer bag).
4. Once you are finished, gather up the edges of the cheesecloth to form a bag and secure. (I do this with my wax cappings.)
5. Tie to a strong overhead support in a warm room so any remaining liquid can drip into a clean bucket below. This will be used to fill the jars with comb.
A bit of a balancing act, sometimes it was hard to know how much liquid you would have. Each jar of chunk honey must have enough liquid to cover the comb – otherwise it would dry out.
This means that sometimes you might be a bit over enthusiastic and not have enough liquid to do the job. You can store those pieces of honeycomb by wrapping and freezing them for later use.
Or, you could just go ahead and eat them right away-if you were not already stuffed from the small bites you have already sampled.
A Little Chunk Honey from Wired Frames
If you really want to produce a small amount of chunk honey for your family, you can do so using wax foundation with wires.
The wax is a bit thicker but it is still delicious. Take a knife and cut on each side of the support wire – across the top and bottom. You are limited to small rectangles of comb but they work nicely in smaller jars.
Sure, use a knife to remove a small section of the honeycomb from the jar. Of course, you can chew the raw honeycomb and swallow or spit out the wax. Enjoy eating this honeycomb spread on toast or bagels.
Production costs for producing chunk honey are higher than that of other forms. Each year, the bees have to rebuild all of the comb in the frames.
A jar of chunk honey stores well on the shelf as long as there is enough liquid to cover the wax. Once the honeycomb is exposed to air – it begins to dry out. Placing it in the freezer – wrapped tightly is a great way to keep to fresh for longer.
Some of the terms used to describe honey in the comb vary a bit from region to region. In general though, cut comb refers to square sections of comb packaged individually. Chunk honey is a piece of honeycomb submerged in a jar of extracted honey.
This is beekeeper preference but the old standard was 3-4 in a jar sized jar. Today, you may only get one piece of comb.
A jar of honey with comb inside usually commands a premium price. It is expensive for the beekeeper to produce these products and requires extra work by the bees.
Not everyone will get the chance to experience chunk honey but if you do – be sure to give it a try. It is a taste experience like no other. You can eat the honeycomb and still have the liquid to sweeten your coffee.