Behind the scenes: The sweet taste of competition at the State Fair

Honey judge Bob Wellemeyer

Judging took place Wednesday afternoon in the honey competition at the fair. Bob Wellemeyer, an apiary inspector for the Virgina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, talked with us about what goes into judging a jar of honey.

Honey is judged on moisture content, absence of crystals, cleanliness, flavor, uniformity and container appearance. In fact, honey is disqualified if it’s moisture content is more than 18.6 percent. “High moisture will cause honey to ferment,” said Wellemeyer.  “It will be runny, watery and might have a sour smell.” A refractometer is used to measure the moisture content of the honey. Honey with too low moisture levels will get points docked from the judges score. “If the moisture content is too low, the honey will be stringy and have a burnt flavor,” Wellemeyer added.

A refractometer is used to measure the moisture conent of honey.

While moisture content may be the most important criteria in judging honey, competitors are also scored on appearance.  Judges are looking at the cleanliness of the jar, the absence of honey on the lid, that the one-pound jar is not over-or under-filled and the absence of foam, dirt or crystals in the honey. Foam on top means that too much air has gotten into the honey in the extraction process. A polariscope is used to denote crystals in the honey, the honey with the best score will have the least amount of crystals.

Finally, 20 percent of the score is based on the flavor of the honey. “I like some honeys better than others,” Wellmeyer said. “What I am really looking for when tasting the honey is if there has been any processing that adversely affects the taste.” Judges taste the honey by pulling out a sample from the jar using a toothpick. I was able to taste a jar of honey that was entered into the creamed honey competition and it was delicious.

A polariscope is used to view crystals in the honey. The fewer the crystals the better the honey.

Wellemeyer judges the honey competitions at several fairs each year.  The honey competition at the N.C. State Fair is open to all North Carolina residents.  It must be honey that was produced during the current season. To check out the winning entries in the honey competition visit the Exposition Center at the Fair.

About Funhouse

On the blog I go by Fun House (AKA Heather Overton). At the Fair you'll find me checking out the blue ribbon winners or hanging out in Heritage Circle. It would be hard for me to pick a favorite part of the Fair, but I can tell you one thing I hate - leaving it on the last day. I can't wait for opening day!

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