Frequently Asked Questions
Z Specialty Food began as Moon Shine Trading company in 1979. Many ask us about our honey. Almost everybody knows a little about bees…the ladies do all the work; make honey, pollinate flowers & crops, care for the queen, and protect the hive!
We get asked questions like these all the time and will update this list with more when you call us because you can’t find the answer, or…you are just hungry for MORE!
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Oh, stop flattering me! Well, it's a work in progress, you know? After 37 years in business, you start to learn a few things! So we'll just keep on being awesome, and listening to all of your suggestions to make us even more awesomer!
Ok, seriously, from the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU. We are who we are and we do what we do because of you. You have fueled this out of control hobby through the good times and the times that felt like it was all over. Over 37 years, it's never all rainbows and daisies...and we are reminded daily about why we provide the service that we do through the interactions we have with each of you. Thank you.
This is a great question, and brings up why beekeeping and the type of business we have here is really quite a form of art. We have developed quite a serious collection of honey, and even if a beekeeper comes to us saying that their honey is produced exclusively Blackberry Honey (for example), there is no way to really tell until you taste the extracted honey in a barrel. 100's of beehives may produce similar honey, but when it all gets mixed together...does it taste like Blackberry Honey??
Producing varietal honey comes down to being in the right place, at the right time, with the right equipment, and pulling off the finished product with the same punctuality.
We like to distinguish our honeys in two categories. One is honeys produced from blossoms from irrigated crops. These honeys are generally more reliably produced each year, and easier for a beekeeper to target because they may be able to bring their hives to an area with 100s of acres of Orange orchards (for example), at the perfect moment when they are the only blossom around. Other honeys that fall into this category are Meadowfoam, Blackberry, Pomegranate, and Coriander.
The other category are wildly blooming plants that produce nectar for honeybees. These honey varietals are harder to produce, source, and ensure of their purity. Some honeys in this category are: Eucalyptus, Sage, Fireweed, Star Thistle and Buckeye.
Worry not, good honey eater...crystallization is actually a good sign that your honey has been minimally processed, minimally heated, and is still a very natural honey!
Much of the honey purchased in big box supermarkets will remain liquid for a long time due to the manner in which it was processed, with high heat and microfilters. These methods remove honey's beneficial pollens, enzymes, and distinct flavor and color characteristics, but makes a product that the mass consumer wants - liquid honey, for days. Science has shown that most of this honey, in fact, does not even meet the basic requirements to be called 'honey' anymore!
Simply put, the less honey is processed the more of its natural characteristics are retained! Crystallization is one of those characteristics. That being said, however, two of our honeys have the rare natural characteristic that they are very slow to harden. It may take years for our Florida Tupelo and Black Button Sage Honey to crystallize! On the other side of the spectrum, three of our honeys are sold in a crystallized, creamy form: Hawaiian Lehua, Southwestern Mesquite and Creamy California Yellow Star Thistle.
Crystallized is the correct word. Not ‘sugared’. Not ‘gone bad’. And, honey doesn’t spoil. Do not throw it out! Honey has been found in the tombs of ancient Egypt and it was still edible...after 2000 years!
What to do? If your honey has crystallized and you prefer your honey in a liquid state, you have many options. They are listed here in order of what we like the best (which is first).
1) Create a simple double boiler on your stove top and gently heat water with the entire container of honey inside of the water. Extra science points for using a thermometer, and not letting your honey get above 120 degrees! Leave this contraption covered for a while until desired consistency is achieved.
2) Just baked some cookies? As your oven is cooling down, put your honey on a shelf in the oven and allow the excess heat to liquefy your honey (Glass Jars Only).
3) Live in a place like we do? Put the honey in your car and park in a sunny spot. Your honey should be liquid in time for dinner!
4) Last resort: Microwave. Microwaves work in mysterious ways and they heat things up really fast! If you are going to use one of these contraptions to liquefy your honey make sure you use a very low power level and only heat it for short periods of time (e.g. Power Level 3 (out of 10) for 15 seconds). Take it out, stir it up, and repeat if necessary.
The short answer: Yes. We take our time to ensure a gentle warming and straining process, that leaves as much of the product exactly as it was when it was waiting inside the honeycomb.
Bees store their honey in their honeycomb, not in jars! That means that honeycomb is the only truly raw form of honey, because it is literally untouched, exactly as it was created. Every single drop of honey out there that you see in a jar, has been processed to some degree, out of it's comb, through a sieve, and into that precious jar you picked up at your local co-op.
Technically speaking, there is no *official* definition for either of these terms; Raw and Natural. That doesn't mean that you don't have your own definition, or that you didn't hear your friends' definitions. It just means that the government has not set any boundaries on who can and can't use the terms to describe their honey.
That also means that the companies who obliterate their honey with extreme heat and ultra filtration, removing all traces of origin, enzymes & pollen, are welcome to call their honey 'Raw & Natural'. At the same time, as Texas A&M Researcher Vaughan Bryant concluded, that product no longer meets the definition of 'honey'. So much has been removed, that it's technically not even honey any more!
We are proud to offer our slow food version of honey. Our production process may take up to a week to transfer honey from a drum to a jar, and you will taste, smell and see the difference. Our gentle process keeps all of the volatile characteristics of your honey intact. It's as natural and raw as it gets without eating honey straight from the comb.
Well, thank you for asking! Yes, all of our products are certified Kosher [except for Royal Jelly (an inherently unkosher honeybee secretion) and Propolis Chewing Gum (which is processed at another facility)].
We are proud to introduce our new kosher supervisor, Rabbi Ben-tzion Welton of Sunrise Kosher, Va'ad Hakashrus of Northern California.
Ah, another long answer! The simple answer is no, we currently do not have any certified organic products. However, we are certified as organic handlers and are therefor licensed to package organic products that can bear the certification on their label. If we find some worthy Organic Certified honey down the road, we will be happy to start offering it to you under our own label!
For those of you who have stuck with it, the longer (and much more interesting) answer, is that there is very little to NO certified organic honey produced in the US. Check the label on that jar of Organic Honey you just bought...it probably has a statement somewhere on there that says something like, 'honey produced in Vietnam, Brazil, India & Argentina.'
What is happening here is that other countries have different rules about how honey can become organic certified. The rules in the US actually make sense, such that no beekeeper of any commercial scale can become certified because they have to move their bees all over the place!
At this point, we do not trust the vast volume of honey being imported into the US and sold as Organic Honey. One day, we hope to find an ecofarm in the jungle somewhere in the world that can provide us with a delicious & reputable source for Organic Certified Honey!
Oh, if only it were that simple! We have a different answer for each of our product categories!
Honey: Will NEVER go bad! Honey has been found in egyptian tombs that is still considered edible after 2,000+ years! Your honey may crystallize over time, but that doesn't mean you should toss it out! See above for tips on liquefying honey
Honey Fruit Spreads: We have brought together two things that will never go bad; dried fruit and honey! This product may darken over time with oxidization, but we have yet to discover that this product has 'gone bad'...and we have some OLD honey fruit spreads around the office!
Nut Butters & Chocolate Nut Spreads: We suggest eating your deliciousness as soon as you receive it, but just in case it gets lost in the back of the shelf: the best way to store these products is in the fridge. Refrigerated they will keep for many, many years! Without refrigeration, we can safely offer a one year shelf life from your date of purchase. That being said...eat it already!
Bee Pollen: When frozen, Fresh Bee Pollen will stay fresh indefinitely! The bags that we package our pollen in are specially designed so that they can be frozen & unfrozen multiple times without any moisture entering or leaving the package. This protects your pollen both in the freezer and in the fridge. Bee Pollen should always be kept refrigerated. In the fridge, we can offer a one year shelf life from your date of purchase. If you purchased a big bag, put some in a smaller bag in the fridge and store the rest in your freezer!
Royal Jelly: When frozen, Fresh Royal Jelly will stay fresh indefinitely! If refrigerated, we offer a one year shelf life from your date of purchase. If you purchase a big jar (or Kilo!), decant some into a smaller jar to keep in the fridge, storing the bulk of your stash in the freezer.