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How I Cook With Honey

How I Cook With Honey

I’m a beekeeper in great part because I love the taste of honey. I consider honey as a “Food of the Gods” and Royalty. It is beyond my belief, even after years of beekeeping, that tiny bees produce this delicate, sweet substance.  

Before my interest grew from a happy consumer of honey into the work of beekeeping, I knew honey by drizzling it on my English muffin and stirring honey into a cup of tea.

Now that I am a beekeeper, my honey recipe repertoire is expanding, and I would like to share some of my favorites with you.

 

Sweeten Hot Drinks

Honey melts in a hot liquid like tea, coffee or milk. A cup of hot tea flavored and sweetened with a teaspoon of honey truly soothes and softens my nerves in the midst of a hectic day. A honey lemon and hot tea also soothes a scratchy throat.

I make a Coffee and Honey Miel – see recipe at Buzzsavoriesllc.com – search for Miel. A Miel (either hot or iced) offers another way to relax a busy mind or enjoy the delicious blend of coffee, hot milk and honey.

 

Bake

I often bake with honey because the sweetness of honey lingers less in my mouth than the cloying taste of sugar. I use less honey than sugar to acquire the pleasant sweetness I want in the recipe meaning fewer calories per serving.    

See a recipe for a Honey and Pecan pie that is so fine that I advise you to invite friends when the pie comes out of the oven, or you may eat the entire pie before guests arrive. See this recipe and another for a Honey Cake and Honey Biscuits in a strawberry Short Cake dessert or a Biscuit and Rhubarb Compote Dessert, Honey Graham Crackers, Honey Rhubarb Crisp—all tasting marvelous and with healthy components. Homemade Honey Buns, Pear and Honey Ricotta Tart, the list goes on. Recipes found at Buzzsavoriesllc.com.

 

Glazes and Marinades

A honey/mustard glaze flavors smoked meats on the barbecue and seals the moisture into the meat because both honey and mustard have properties to retain moisture. Honey contributes to browning and adds an appealing char to grilled meat and vegetables.

At BuzzSavoriesllc.com, you will find recipes for oven-baked corn beef with a Honey Mustard glaze, Grilled Chicken with Spicy Beer Mustard and Honey Glaze, Grilled Pork Tenderloin, Baked Ham with Honey Mustard Glaze, Sweet Mustard Pork Chops and Maple Mustard Grilled Chicken (substitute honey for maple syrup in this recipe).

 

A Cheese Board

To add interest to your Cheese Board, arrange a honey dipper and a bowl of Buzz Savories honey with the cheeses. The sweetness of honey compliments the salty flavors of cheese and smoked/cured meats.  

 

Roast Vegetables

A vegetable’s natural sugar caramelizes when roasted. Honey increases the natural sweetness of onions, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, asparagus and more by drizzling vegetables with olive oil and honey before roasting. Vegetables may become the star of the dinner instead of the side dish.

 

Salad Dressings

Honey mellows the acids in vinegar and the blend of honey and vinegar intensifies the flavors of salads. The bowl empties and you hear, “May I have more salad?” Blend the usual vinaigrette, add ½ tsp of honey to your dressing jar, and shake vigorously because honey does not dissolve in liquids at room temperature. Taste and possibly add more honey. See Buzzsavoriesllc.com and search salads for recipes for Honey-Lime Cabbage Slaw and Memphis Slaw. Honey can substitute for the maple syrup in the Maple Vinaigrette dressing.

 

Cocktails

Honey in syrup form is an ideal addition to your home bar and will elevate your cocktails to the next level. For cold cocktails, make a simple honey syrup by warming honey and water to a simmer then chilling the syrup and store for weeks in the refrigerator. See the recipe for Honey Syrup in The Blushing Bee recipe and try both Blushing Bee and the Bees Knees cocktail.

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Why Do Bees Sting?

What Bees do in August

Why Do Bees Sting?

Bees sting only when provoked. 

When a bee stings, the stinging barb  sticks in the skin of her victim so that when the bee flies, the flight pulls her guts out, and she dies.  Bees sting only when provoked.

            What provokes a bee?  Opening the hive, knocking on the hive, moving the hive and standing directly in front of a bee flying alerts the bees or in the case of standing in a flight path, a single be,  to fight status.   

Who are the fighters in the beehive?  Every  hive assigns guard duty to a selection of the bees in residence.  When the guard bees note aggressive actions pertaining to the hive box, they emit pheromones that alert all bees to react to the aggression, meaning fly out of their hive and attack the aggressor. 

            How do beekeepers limit  triggering the alarm mechanism in the beehive?  (note I said “limit” and not  “avoid.”)  The work of a beekeeper involves opening the hive boxes to check on the health of the bees, to medicate the bees, to split a hive, to requeen a hive, to lift off the honey supers.  Each of these actions sends a message to the guard bees to emit the alarm pheromones, and then thousands of  bees swiftly charge out of the hive to dissuade the intruder from interfering with the bee’s lives and their work.

6 methods beekeepers practice when working in the apiary

  1. Use smoke.  Beekeepers burn a natural material like wood chips, raw cotton, dried grasses in their smoker, and when working with the bees they send a stream of smoke around the hive and into the hive.  Smoke appears to calm the bees, and many of them return to the hive.  The smoke dilutes the pheromones sent out by the guard bees and may dilute or confuse the “fight” message.
  1. Wash hands and gloves between working each hive because pheromones carried to the next hive send alarm signals to the bees.          
  1. Beekeepers work their hives in mid-day (the hottest part of the day) when the majority of the 6,000+ bees per hive are out collecting honey and pollen.  By late afternoon all bees return to the hive, and any intrusion will trigger aggressive behavior from a full house of bees.
  1. Observing expert beekeepers work their hives is similar to watching a slow dance. Beekeepers slow down and work with care  and quietly  so they don’t alarm the bees.
  1. Wear light colors around a beehive. Dark colors alarm the bees.  Bee suits are made of a thick white cotton for a reason.
photo by Don Brockmeier
photo by Don Brockmeier
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Lessons from the bee yard

What not to do as a beginner Bee-keeper

Lessons from the bee yard

Lesson 1 

Do not mistake bees for pets. Honeybees never welcome nor appreciate your opening and exposing the interior of their home/hive.  Bees have millions of years history of bears ravaging their stores of honey, and I imagine that I seem similar to a bear in their sense of things.The guard bees emit alarm pheromone that a bear has come to rob them, and thousands of bees whirl out of the hive boxes to drill their stingers into the ears, eyes, head of the bear (me).  Bees belong in the category of wild.    

Lesson 2 

Use smoke: Beekeepers use smokers to dilute the alarm pheromone.  Learn the skill of preparing a smoker and then smoke, smoke, smoke the hive and the bees when working with the bees. 

Lesson 3 

Start right – get good equipment. Buy a bee suit that protects the wearer. Bees live in 3/8-inch spaces, so bees easily find entry into a partially zipped suit or a tiny opening between glove and sleeve.  When I started beekeeping, I bought a bee suit with a hood that fit over a wide brimmed plastic helmet. The hood fit over the helmet and tied under the collar of the bee suit with a closure that zipped up to the collar. A bee found her way between collar and tie.  I felt her crawling over my cheek and panicked and in my haste to rip off the helmet, she stung me, and when the bees recognized a way to attack, they swarmed into my hair and stung me many times.  Bee stings cause intense pain.  My current bee suit has an attached hood with velcro closures under my chin and a sturdy zipper that zips from ankles to collar.  

Message 

My messages to me as I step into the bee suit before working with the bees is, “Zip, snap, press Velcro, wear gloves and move slowly and quietly and use smoke and attend to your task and work quickly with the least disturbance as possible.”

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Who Are the Pollinators, and What Do They Want?

pollinator plants

Who Are the Pollinators, and What Do They Want?

Pollinators and Pollinator Plants go together because plants need to replicate themselves.  They  produce flowers/seeds/fruit when their female part, the ovule is pollinated by the male part, the stamen.  The stamen bears the pollen, and pollen fertilizes the ovule.

And this is where pollinators step, crawl, fly or blow into the scene. Pollinators are abundant in nature and include wind, bats, spiders, beetles, butterflies, bees (hundreds of species of bees), wasps, ants.

Flowers are designed to attract these pollinators.  Their visit is the method plants use to transfer the pollen from the stamen  onto the ovule, and thereby fertilize the egg to assure another generation for the plant.

Flowers serve as the bee’s grocery store.  Bees need pollen for its protein and they sip the nectar for carbohydrate and other essential nutrients.

Bees need flowers to live and people need bees to live.  Bees pollinate the majority of the fruits and vegetables that nourish us, and currently millions of acres of former habitat for pollinators has been repurposed for roads, city scapes, golf courses, corn fields and other uses unfriendly to pollinators and the plants they require for life.

How do we maintain bees and other pollinators to continue their work of pollinating the fruits and vegetables that we eat?

We grow the plants that pollinators prefer for feeding themselves and their young.  Most pollinators prefer to forage among specific plants.

What plants do bees visit for pollen and nectar?  For answers to this vital question,  I recommend 2 easy-to-read  sources – 100 Plants to Feed the Bees by the XERCES Society and on-line PrairieMoon.com.   Information in these sources will present the reader with “pollinator plants” suitable by location in North America.

I am planting seeds for pollinator plants that will grow with gusto in Nebraska, and I recently sowed seeds in the strip of grass between the road and the sidewalk on the west side of my house.  Butterflies and bees and beetles and all the other local pollinators will be guests in my yard this year.

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The Great Migration

Sandhill Crane Migration, photo by Don Brockmeier.

The Great Migration

Traffic flows on the highways and by-ways of Nebraska skies. Millions of  Canada geese, Snow geese, White Fronted geese, Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes, Blackbirds, Robins, Bohemian Waxwings, wading birds, ducks and more ducks are flying overhead and then dropping down to eat grain leftover from last year’s harvest.  I also see Bald eagles soaring.

The Great Migration has started, and Central Nebraska is the place to be from February until early May.  Come, join us.  See photos by Photographer Don Brockmeier.

Buzz Savories’ bees huddle at the top of the hive box most of February because temperatures drop below 50 Degrees F, and they stay in until temps reach above 50 Degrees.  We seldom open their hive because of the chilly outside air.  I’m hoping they are eating bee candy and keeping warm.

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4 Things you Need to Know About Cooking with Honey

4 Things you Need to Know About Cooking with Honey

4 Things You Need to Know About Cooking With Honey

  1. Honey consists of sucrose and fructose.
  2. Honey tastes sweeter than table sugar, so less honey offers the same or more sweetness and you’re likely consuming fewer calories. In cooking for example replace 1 cup of honey with 1 ¼ cups sugar.
  3. When baking with honey, search and find a recipe developed especially for honey because simply replacing sugar with honey fails to account for the many properties of honey that differ from sugar, i.e. honey is a liquid, honey has browning qualities so oven temperatures need to be reduced.
  4. Breads and cakes baked with honey as an ingredient stay moist longer than sugar sweeteners because honey is hygroscopic, which means it collects moisture from the air around it.

Eat Well.

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Minus 20 Degrees – and Bee Candy

Minus 20 Degrees!

Minus 20 Degrees! And Bee Candy

Buzz Savories bees are maintaining an interior temperature of 70 degrees F whereas Central Nebraska and beyond on the prairies temps dropped to minus 20 degrees F.  Nutrition during  frigid temperatures concerns beekeepers because the bees form a tight cluster around the queen and shiver their bodies to warm the air around the cluster.  The cluster stays tight until temperatures warm to 50 degrees F and above.

Bees will not travel even 2 inches outside the cluster to eat during these critical low temperatures.  Food can be 3” from the cluster, and they cannot access it. Bees can starve during these extremely cold temperatures.  The cluster travels up in the hive because heat rises, and the hive is warmer under the lid of the hive.

Beekeepers make a candy called Bee Candy and place it under the cover beside the cluster and within easy access for the bees.  

I cooked the Bee Candy earlier this month, and it is curious and interesting process.  I learned how to make the bee candy from Richard Homer and the video on his website – homershoneybee.com 

Bee Candy

Homer’s Bee Candy 

Ingredients 

16 oz. water 
8 lbs. sugar 

Process 

  • Pour water in a 2 qt. straight sided sauce pan 
  • Turn heat on high to bring to a hard boil and in the meantime pour the sugar into the water and stir with a large spoon until the sugar dissolves in the water. 
  • Lower the heat to medium.   Continue the boiling process until the liquid reaches 238 Degrees F.   Scrape the sides and bottom of the pan as the mixture boils. 
  • Turn off the heat when candy reaches desired temperature 238 Degrees, and let it cool to 180 Degrees.  An interesting phenomenon occurs as it is cooling and crystalizing.  The candy will start boiling without the additional heat.  It will tur a chalk white as it boils.  Crystallization creates heat.   Whisk or mix with a hand-held mixer every ten minutes to break up the crystals of sugar.  Scrape sides and the bottom to avoid the candy forming large clumps of sugar.
  • Pour into paper plates that were sprayed with vegetable oil.  Cool. 
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How do honey bees survive winter?

bee hives blanketed in snow

How do honey bees survive winter?

Here in the northern hemisphere when winter arrives and daylight shrinks, the bees form a cluster inside the hive; the bees maintain a cool resting temperature of about 70 Degrees F, and then the queen stops laying eggs.  The bee population is at its lowest before the Winter Solstice. As daylight hours increase, the bees increase the temperature of the hive to a brood rearing temperature of 95 Degrees F.  The increase in warmth spurs the queen to lay eggs.  She will build a small brood nest and gradually over the course of many weeks, the hive population  grows and by spring will explode and the hive emerges healthy and ready to gather pollen and nectar and begin another season.

(wintering bees facts was derived from Hive Tracks found at www.Hivetracks.com)

 

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December Pheasant

December Pheasant, photo by Don Brockmeier

December Pheasant

I’m writing The Buzz on December 2, a day when snow id drifting down from a gray sky. The bees are eating from their stored honey stash and keeping warm. 

To give Buzz readers a glimpse of the habitat and climate for bees and the rest of us Nebraskans, I check out  photos by photographer, Don Brockmeier.  He often publishes his current photos on his Instagram account. Today I found a brilliant photo for December that I would like to share with you. With permission from the photographer, please see and marvel at a cock pheasant styling the glowing colors and intricate patterns in his display of feathers.

December Pheasant, photo by Don Brockmeier
December Pheasant, photo by Don Brockmeier

Don noticed this handsome fellow in the corn stubble near Eustis, NE.  Pheasants, quail, and prairie chickens peck among the dried cornstalks to glean kernels of grain left after the corn harvest.

 

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