Cyber Monday!

The season for gifts is approaching. I’ll admit that I don’t do many holiday gifts–if I find something I want to give a friend, I’ll just do it so I’ve very little “Christmas” shopping to do–and it’s already done! But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have some things that would make great gifts for the right person:

  • For the beekeeper or pollinator enthusiast on your list: some beautiful ceramics from www.honeybeeceramics.com--and I’ll admit that I don’t often find ceramics that I really like. There are clocks, decorative tiles of various sizes, and more utilitarian things like switch covers and outlet covers that are still beautiful.
  • If you know a honey fan (who doesn’t keep bees but loves varietal honeys) there is a great selection from Old Blue Raw Honey –admittedly not a new suggestion, but there are so many possibilities here or from www.beeraw.com.
  • For the “foodie” not honey- or bee-oriented Bull City Olive Oil has a wonderful selection of extra virgin olive oil–all harvest dated. I’ve found some excellent ones from places that I had not even thought of as producing olive oil, e.g. Australian Hojiblanca.  The selection will vary with the seasonal harvest.  You’ll also find a selection of fused and infused oils that are very tasty, varietal honeys, and balsamic vinegars. Not in Durham? Orders can be shipped.
  • If you have a beekeeper on your list who complains about how hot it is in the summer when using protective clothing, here is a real gem. From Beetle Jail the really cool (figuratively and literally) there’s the Cool Blue beekeeper’s jacket.  It really lives up to is name–you really can feel breeze through it, and I’ve had no stings while working in it.
  • Another that’s not new, but it’s unusual: the Potato of the Month Club. What can I say–I just love potatoes.
  • Then, there is always the Instant Pot. I finally succumbed and after a lot of research on the pros and cons, I bought an Instant Pot–and I love it. It adds a new set of functions to what I had in the Krups multi-cooker with the third-generation pressure cooking function.
  • Should you opt for the Instant Pot you might include a cookbook (or two) that provides a good introduction to using that kitchen appliance. The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook by Coco Marante fills that slot nicely.
  • Melissa Clark’s Dinner in an Instant is a wonderful book to start using the pressure cooker or Instant Pot. It’s a realistic look at what you can do with these multifunction appliances.
  • For chocolate lovers, Chuao Chocolatier is one of my favorites–good chocolate and some pretty fantastic flavor combinations. I’m especially fond of the Spicy Mayan bar and the Enamored collection–especially the blueberry and lavender combination.
  • Valrhona chocolate has a collection of single estate origin bars that provide a lot of sensual delight for the chocolate lover.

There are more gift suggestions here, here, and here–with some redundancy because some things are just too good to give up.

Disclaimer:  I have no affiliate links and receive no monetary or other considerations from any of the sources I’ve listed in these pages. They are strictly my personal preferences.

A son gôut!

 

 

Cool stuff for hot weather

pickling and Amira cucumbers side by side

This hot weather has me looking for cool things–ways to beat the heat. Cucumber is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of cool, refreshing things–with tomatoes in salad, or with mangos. But thinking really cold, I started  skulking through my old recipes for a dimly remembered recipe for cucumber sorbet with eucalyptus honey.

Eucalyptus honey is fairly dark, with an assertive earthy, spicy flavor with a slightly cool overtone like mild menthol. For some it might be called medicinal, but I found it an interesting combination, with the cool cucumber plus the extra little kick of coolness from the eucalyptus honey. (If you don’t have eucalyptus honey, this sorbet will still be tasty.)

Problem–someone (no names here) didn’t write down the quantities or the source of this recipe–or maybe it was an off-the-cuff invention with whatever was around at the time that obviously included eucalyptus honey.

So, some research. Going to The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz (one of my two favorite sources on frozen dessert stuff), and Jenis Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer (my other ice cream favorite) I found what I needed to fill in the missing quantities for the sorbet.

Cucumber and Eucalyptus Honey Sorbet

Ingredients

  • 2 English or Japanese cucumbers–about 2 pounds–coarsely chopped
  • 5 ounces eucalyptus* honey
  •  1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of salt

Preparation and notes

  • I prefer the English or Japanese cucumbers because you don’t need to remove seeds. This would take about 2 cucumbers. Peeling is not necessary. If you have slicing cucumbers, remove seeds.
  • Combine honey and water; heating is not necessary.
  • Combine ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.
  • Pour into prepared ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions
  • To make without an ice cream maker, use the method for granitas: pour into a shallow baking dish and place in the freezer. Stir with a fork about every 30 minutes until firm. (This breaks up ice crystals although the texture will not be as fine as with an ice cream maker–but still tasty.)

*A note on honey: Eucalyptus honey is a varietal honey; made from the nectar that bees collect from flowering eucalyptus trees. It is not an “infused” or “flavored” honey–those are made by adding flavoring to wildflower honey. I found the eucalyptus honey in my local Harris Teeter grocery store, next to the orange blossom and wildflower honey.

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Some other interesting recipes that I found whilst trolling the internet:

 

 

Hive report: harvest!

Big day! Yesterday, take off the super, and today–extraction!

I turned into a wuss yesterday and donned the bee jacket and gloves since I was going to pull a super of honey for harvest. I thought I might need to use the bee brush to get the girls off of the frames of honey. Even the calmest of girls can get a bit testy when you start pushing them around, but they were extremely calm and the escape board had worked very well.  (I hadn’t had the full jacket on since last July and I hope not to have it on again for a while.) The thermometer on my shaded back porch was reading 88 degrees Fahrenheit when I pulled that super of honey; I was dripping like a soaker hose. I did have to do a little brushing. The frames were almost all full and almost completely capped–felt like 35 to 40 pounds when I lifted it down from the hive. Much more when toting it from hive to kitchen even though the hives  are not far away.

20160628_101041My first extraction. I really appreciate Brushy Mountain Bee Farm’s video library, especially since I’ve not gone through an extraction with another beekeeper. I know part of the video is to sell stuff, but there’s good information on things to do and not to do.

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The kitchen was transformed into the honey room last night: plastic drop cloths  covering the table and the floor, the honey extractor, uncapping bucket, honey bottling bucket and the super of honey (but I did manage to leave a path to the espresso machine for morning coffee before I started the extraction this morning.

I’ve discovered one thing that I thought I didn’t need that I will have by the next extraction: a method of stabilizing the full frames over the bucket that I’m using to catch the cappings as I take them off the cells. It gets rather drippy and slippery as you’re lifting those nice little white caps off of the cells filled with honey. A full frame weighs about 4 or 5 pounds, and holding it up with one hand really exercises some muscles that I didn’t think about until almost the second frame! Why did I decide that I didn’t need the gadget that fits over the bucket and is designed specifically to rest and stabilize the frame?  Beats me now as I’m uncapping!  Hindsight is always so much better than foresight! Sigh!

20160628_103735Since the extractor is a tangential, hand-cranked one, it’s a rather long process and I’ve discovered that how you open the cells makes a huge difference in the amount of cranking you have to do. I opted for a capping scratcher, but it takes longer to spin out the honey with scratching as opposed to actually lifting off the cappings (or cutting with a knife)! After the first scratched frame, I resorted to lifting the caps off. But…next time I’ll try to arrange things so that I can use a knife. (I tried a bread knife, but the comb in these frames was uneven enough that it didn’t work well.

Seeing that first honey drain out of the extractor is a thrill.  Awesome. This was the first real taste I’ve had of the honey from my bees–my local honey. It is certainly different from the jars of supermarket honey that go as “wildflower” honey. True, what I’m extracting is “wildflower” honey, but it’s much more aromatic. I’m only straining–not filtering or heating at all to preserve as much of the character as I possibly can. My kitchen smells so good.

My kitchen smells so good.

I made less of a mess than I thought I might! I’m being un-ecological and not even trying to clean up that drop cloth. The honey  the bucket doesn’t look that impressive, but it is a five-gallon bottling bucket, so there is really a reasonable amount of honey there. Now to clean up the extractor.

The honey in the bucket doesn’t look that impressive, but it is a five-gallon bottling bucket, so there is a decent amount of honey there. I am anxious to see how many bottles/jars I have when I can bottle it after it has stood for a bit to let air bubbles go away (although I’m not entering it in any contests or the state fair–this year). I’m just happy to have it to share with friends.

Now to clean up the extractor and the other bits and pieces associated with this process. Most of it was easy to clean–a little soap and warm water.  I think the extractor is going to have to go outside for a good rinse with cold water from the hose! I’ve heard that I could let the bees come clean away the residual honey from the extractor;  but after a conversation with a Facebook friend, also a beekeeper, that might lead to bees stuck in the honey that’s still on the sides and bottom. Not good–don’t like stuck, dead bees!  I’m letting it sit overnight since honey is still draining down the sides to the bottom; I’ll see what has accumulated in the morning. For now, I feel like it was a good day’s work.

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I’m hoping to have a little cut-comb from the outside frames even though the ladies decided that would make a good brood chamber (along with the other three medium boxes). That will certainly be easier to process than doing extraction like this, but it is very taxing for the bees since they have to make new comb. With this extraction, they get the comb back to repair and reuse.

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Hive report: 21 June 2016, and addendum

Wow! I’m NOT good at judging how fast my ladies work. I inspected both hives this afternoon–and made a trip to Bailey Bee Supply for more supers to put on the hives and some the basic paraphernalia need for my first honey extraction. I need only worry about the small stuff–the Durham County Beekeepers Association, our local bee club, has an extractor that I can rent–and I’ll pick that up on Sunday.

I’ve put the escape screen on the hive to let the bees out of the honey super, but not let them get back in. In a couple days, I’ll go back and remove the super with the honey and do the extraction.

Much to my chagrin, I discovered that I have brood and pollen stored in the super that was intended for cut-comb honey. The bees had virtually propolized the queen excluder closed so I, in my “newbee” wisdom, removed it.  Seems that ladies didn’t think that they had room enough to raise brood. So–now to figure out what to do about that. Looking at the number of frames that they have already drawn, I suspect that just became a brood box at least until later this fall. Next time around, I’ll know to keep the queen excluder on.

This morning (24 June 2016) I put a new honey super on Salvia–I’ve set my beekeeping software (Hive Tracks) to remind me to check in no more than a week to see what progress the bees have made on that new super. 20160624_112955