After tasting my honey, several people have been known to ask:
"Your Honey Tastes Better Than Any Honey I've Ever Had. I Thought Honey Was Honey. What's the Difference of Your Mo' Honey?"
I give them this answer: The character and quality of honey is determined by two factors. First, the major factor is the floral source of the area in which the bees gather nectar, and the second factor is the care given to the honey by the beekeeper when the beekeeper harvests the honey from the bees.
And the truth is, you need to tend to both factors, your floral source and the care you give your honey. My honey is 100% local honey. My bees have access to some of the best ground and flowers in Cape Girardeau County. After I harvest the honey, I treat it like a rare commodity. My honey is uncooked, unheated, unfiltered and about as straight from the bees as you can get.
But what's the big difference in Mo' Honey?
Consider for a minute the wide variety of flowers we have in the Cape Girardeau area. My bees visit neighborhood flowers, sunflowers, honeysuckle, vetch, clover and too many flowers and plants to begin to sum up what makes this honey so unique.
Larger producers place their honeybees on single varieties of crops (cotton, soybeans, etc.). They end up with a single variety of honey. Single varieties have unique tastes, but you get the taste sensation of 60,000 flowers in my honey. Also, different seasons of the year produce different flowers, and those flowers produce a different character of honey.
When the honey is harvested from the honeybees, I run the honey through a course strainer to remove particles of wax. Then I put my honey in a large bucket to pour in jars at a later date. My honey harvested early in the year is light and mild. The summer honey is a little more golden and has a "fruity" sensation. The fall honey is darker, almost an amber color, and has a deep, full flavor. The experienced honey taster can detect certain plant species in the honey of different areas or seasons. I prefer to keep my honey in seasonal jars rather than homogenize it into one product.
When the large honey packers receive their honey, they blend it. They buy American honey from a variety of smaller producers, but they also buy honey from around the world. They blend American honey with cheaper foreign honeys, and they often offer their honey for less. The mix becomes rather homogenized, which fulfills their desire for a consistent product with a consistent taste, at a price they can wholesale through a warehouse grocer.. Every jar of my honey is from Missouri, hand packed and individually labeled.
Large producers sell honey on a national scale and they want every jar to be representative of their label qualities. Foreign honey is thought to be suspect to its purity. Some foreign honey has been tested and found to contain the sugars of ordinary corn syrup. Real honey is pure, not adulterated with syrups and refined sugars.
Large, national producers also process honey so that it is brilliantly clear, and also so it won't crystallize, which it naturally wants to do. Some honey will crystalize faster than others, and it depends largely on the floral source. Crystalized honey has not gone bad. The natural sugars simply coagulated into a solid.
These national producers heat treat honey to keep it from crystallizing. Heating honey to 160 °F destroys its natural enzymes, those that give it character and flavor. But you also get a jar of honey which will not crystalize. Many consumers reject crystalized honey, but it's the same honey that you can eat with a spoon!
Large, national producers also refine and filter honey, taking out pollen and other materials that not only have flavor, but nutrients. The result is, in reality, a "honeylike syrup", instead of the real thing. But small localized producers like myself are making honeys that are distinctive. Some of my honey will crystalize, and by gently warming it to 104 degrees, I can return a solid bucket of honey to it's original liquid form without destroying the natural qualities of the honey.
My local honey also contains a great deal of local pollen, thought to be helpful in desensitizing the body to allergies from plants. The large, national producers force their heated honey through fine filters to remove these particles of pollen. The presence of pollen accelerates the crystalization process.
You'll also notice on the nationally labeled honey, the significance of a grading scale, usually "Grade A" or "Fancy." This means it is a clear honey, but such designations do not define the character of the honey, nor the care given to the beekeeper to retain the original quality of the honey as it came from the honeybees.
There is another difference, one that you likely cannot taste or see in Mo' Honey. I do not use chemicals to treat my honeybees. I allow the bees to develop natural resistance to "mites" and diseases. Every year I lose some bees. They die, and all beekeepers have this problem. But I also propagate my "survivor" honeybees. I continue to raise my own queens bred to my drones to have locally adapted honeybees that know how to live and prosper in this area.
If you really want pure honey, the best way is to get to know the honey producer. Most local producers like myself take great pride in their product, and with our name on the label, we stand behind every jar for your satisfaction.