If, when it was founded in 1883, the Ribeiro Sêco factory mainly produced brandy, today it is the only one on the island to dedicate exclusively to sugarcane honey. An option that dates back to the 30s of the last century.
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If, when it was founded in 1883, the Ribeiro Sêco factory mainly produced brandy, today it is the only one on the island to dedicate exclusively to sugarcane honey. An option that dates back to the 30s of the last century – due to restrictions imposed at the time on the production of sugarcane spirit – and which remains until today, as is the family nature of the company, currently managed by João Carlos Melim and brother-in-law Luís Camacho, but where the next generation is already making its contribution.
For eleven months of the year, absolute tranquillity reigns in this Funchal factory, where only eight people work permanently. It is between mid-April and May – “when the sugarcane reaches the ideal brix degree”, says Luís Camacho – that the fuss takes over the facilities, with the arrival and processing of the raw material. "During this period, we don’t stop, the factory works 24 hours a day."
Each campaign uses around 120 tons of sugar cane, a part of it produced biologically, for the honey with the respective certification, which, explains Luís, “is richer in minerals, such as copper and iron”. Both traditional and organic honey do not contain any additives, colourings, or preservatives. “Only the way the sugarcane is produced changes”, guarantees the person in charge.
The process of making honey from sugarcane still follows the method that João Carlos' father, Vasco Melim, saw doing when he worked there in the 1940s: the cane is squeezed, the juice is sieved and goes to a first deposit pulled by a pump, before being cooked and filtered several times, becoming more and more concentrated, until obtaining the final viscosity in the vacuum boiler, which removes the remaining water.
The bulk of production – 80% – is in Madeira, where the characteristic flavour of this product is highly appreciated, quite distinct from floral honey, for example. The local sweets also give him prominence in some recipes, such as the typical honey cakes or “broas”, which Fábrica Ribeiro Sêco sells in the respective shop.