Com’è fatto il miele? Composizione e lavorazione

Il miele è il dolcificante naturale più usato nonché il più antico; tutti conosciamo bene il miele, però forse non tutti sappiamo com’è fatto e come avviene il procedimento con il quale le api lo producono e di cosa è composto; vediamo, quindi, di fare un po’ di chiarezza su questo alimento dalle tante proprietà benefiche.

Come si forma il miele

Per produrre il miele le api raccolgono il nettare o la melata dalle piante e lo trasportano all’alveare; le gocce di nettare vengono passate da un’ape all’altra dando il via a due fenomeni che provocano alla formazione del miele, ossia la concentrazione e la trasformazione enzimatica degli zuccheri.

La concentrazione avviene per evaporazione dell’acqua presente nel nettare o nella melata grazie all’aria calda dell’alveare e dalla lingua allungata dell’ape che è una superficie di scambio ideale. La goccia di nettare viene depositata nelle celle dove avviene, poi, un’ulteriore concentrazione fino ad ottenere del miele maturo; una volta che le celle sono piene, vengono sigillate con un tappo di cera.

La trasformazione degli zuccheri avviene grazie alle secrezioni ghiandolari delle api che possiedono degli enzimi in grado di cambiarli; ad esempio c’è l’azione di invertasi, che fa scindere il saccarosio in glucosio e fruttosio.

Cosa sono il nettare e la melata

Nella formazione del miele sono essenziali due elementi: il nettare e la melata; il nettare è un liquido zuccherino derivato dalla linfa dei vegetali, composto da acqua e zuccheri, come glucosio, saccarosio e fruttosio, in concentrazione diversa a seconda della pianta; il nettare si può trovare sul fiore o su altre parti della pianta.

La melata è prodotta da insetti chiamati produttori di melata, ovvero quelli che succhiano il nettare della pianta; la melata contiene enzimi prodotti dall’insetto che formano una quantità di zuccheri diversi da quelli del nettare.

La composizione del miele

Vediamo ora quali sono i componenti principali del miele; innanzi tutto gli zuccheri, che costituiscono circa l’85% della sostanza totale; i due zuccheri più importanti sono il glucosio e il fruttosio che determinano la dolcezza, l’indice glicemico e la tendenza alla cristallizzazione del miele; poi c’è l’acqua, che ne influenza la lavorabilità e la conservabilità; il contenuto medio di acqua è intorno al 17% ma può arrivare al 14 o al 21%.

Altre sostanze contenute nel miele, seppur in piccole quantità, sono proteine, grassi, vitamine e sostanze minerali. Il miele, inoltre, contiene anche diversi enzimi in grado di modificarlo, responsabili, tra l’altro del suo livello di freschezza, in quanto si rovinano con il tempo e con i vari trattamenti chimici.

I processi di lavorazione del miele

La qualità del miele è proporzionali ai passaggi di lavorazione ai quali viene sottoposto: meno ne subisce e meglio è; la prima operazione alla quale viene sottoposto il miele è quella di estrazione dai melari e consiste nell’eliminazione dei copercoli di cera che chiudono le celle che lo contengono e poi nell’estrazione per mezzo di appositi macchinari.

I passaggi successivi sono quelli di decantazione e filtrazione, ossia nella “purificazione” del miele dai residui di cera, bolle d’aria e altre impurità; la decantazione consiste nel far riposare il miele ad una temperatura di 25-30 gradi per alcuni giorni, in modo da far emergere in superficie le varie impurità; la filtrazione, invece, consiste nel filtrare il miele attraverso degli appositi filtri. A questo punto il miele sarebbe già pronto per essere consumato, ma generalmente viene sottoposto ad altre lavorazioni, primi fra tutti i processi di prevenzione della fermentazione.

La fermentazione dei lieviti, infatti, è l’unica alterazione microbiologica che può avvenire nel miele a causa, soprattutto, della quantità d’acqua; per prevenire questo fenomeno si usa la tecnica della concentrazione per evaporazione forzata oppure quella della pastorizzazione che, però, a causa delle alte temperature alle quali viene eseguita, fa perdere al miele una buona parte delle sue proprietà, soprattutto in termini di aroma.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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