Bottling and labelling honey
Bottling and labelling honey is a tedious job, but it can be speeded up a lot. Here are some tips:
- I prefer to use only one size of honey jars: 454g glass, squat jars.
- I wash new jars in the dishwasher, 50 at a time.
- I do not use reclaimed jars, unless they have been returned with the label removed.
- A national crown board makes a good tray; it holds 25 jars and they won’t slide off.
- I fill and weigh jars on my own design bottling station, which can be inclined. It took just a morning to make, and I wouldn’t be without it.
- I weigh every jar as I fill it, using an electronic kitchen scale. If you buy one, make sure it has a large long-life battery, not a little flat “coin cell”.
- I fill every jar to between 1lb ¼oz and 1 lb ½ oz. It’s much easier to watch the weight increasing using the imperial scale rather than the metric.
- I use gold plastic lids, unwashed but wiped. I do not reuse lids.
- I hold the jar with a tea towel while fitting the lid, to avoid finger marking the jar.
- I keep a running count of the number of jars of each type of honey.
- I use Thorne’s L12 tamper-evident labels, black and white, with no over-printing.
- I write the batch number on the tamper-evident label using a Stabilo Write 4 All black permanent pen or similar. Biros and other pens will not write clearly on these labels.
- My batch or lot number is simply the month number, ie. August 2012 was 8.
- I keep a tally of each batch number, and the type of honey, eg. Sycamore 230/6 = 230 jars, bottled in June 2012.
- I never have to carry jars over from one year to the next, therefore the month number is unique.
- Most of my sales now are at the Conwy Honey Fair and the Conwy Seed Fair, and I do not record where each batch number is sold.
- I hold a roll of tamper-evident labels on a roll holder, my own design. This makes it much quicker to peel labels from the roll.
- I use Thorne’s 454g honey jar labels, ordered online. I buy in packs of 1000, printed with a Best Before date two years hence. eg. December 2015 for honey bottled in 2013 and 2014.
- I affix the honey label over the tail of the tamper-evident label.
- I use only one style of honey label.
- I store full jars in blue plastic mushroom boxes, with a sheet of newspaper placed in the empty box and folded over the jars.
- Blue plastic mushroom boxes hold 15 jars and they stack well. They can be dish-washed or wiped clean.
- I store honey in a cool, dry dark barn.
- I’ve occasionally had problems with jars of honey fermenting, especially heather honey. This is a catastrophe, especially if a shop returns it. I had to refund the full purchase price, not the wholesale price that I received. This was 15 years ago. I blend all my heather honey now, and this usually prevents fermentation.
- I no longer supply honey to shops, but if you do, make sure that you see where they intend to store it. Insist it is kept in a cool, dark place. It does not need to be kept in a fridge.