Bottling and labelling honey

Bottling honeyBottling and labelling honey is a tedious job, but it can be speeded up a lot. Here are some tips:

  1. I prefer to use only one size of honey jars: 454g glass, squat jars.
  2. I wash new jars in the dishwasher, 50 at a time.
  3. I do not use reclaimed jars, unless they have been returned with the label removed.
  4. A national crown board makes a good tray; it holds 25 jars and they won’t slide off.
  5. 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.
  6. 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”.
  7. 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.
  8. I use gold plastic lids, unwashed but wiped. I do not reuse lids.
  9. I hold the jar with a tea towel while fitting the lid, to avoid finger marking the jar.
  10. I keep a running count of the number of jars of each type of honey.
  11. I use Thorne’s L12 tamper-evident labels, black and white, with no over-printing.
  12. 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.
  13. My batch or lot number is simply the month number, ie. August 2012 was 8.
  14. I keep a tally of each batch number, and the type of honey, eg. Sycamore 230/6 = 230 jars, bottled in June 2012.
  15. I never have to carry jars over from one year to the next, therefore the month number is unique.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. I affix the honey label over the tail of the tamper-evident label.
  20. I use only one style of honey label.
  21. I store full jars in blue plastic mushroom boxes, with a sheet of newspaper placed in the empty box and folded over the jars.
  22. Blue plastic mushroom boxes hold 15 jars and they stack well. They can be dish-washed or wiped clean.
  23. I store honey in a cool, dry dark barn.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.

Labelling honey
Peter McFadden
February 2013

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