> Holiday honey November 01 2017
Time for everyone to stock up on honey for the holidays! If you live in the Nashville area, or plan to be visiting before Christmas, below are our last three shows of the year.
We will have a brand new product at these shows, our new Honey Sampler Set (better photo coming soon). This set contains one mini jar each of our regular raw honey, Tennessee Snow whipped honey and Barrel-Aged Honey. (We'll have 'em online soon, and you may currently find them at Savory Spice Shop in downtown Franklin, Tenn.)
Come and see us!
* Made South Holiday Market, Nov. 17 and 18, at The Factory in Franklin (use discount code "trubee" for 10 percent off advance tickets)
* Hollyday Marketplace, Dec. 1 and 2 at Tennessee Miller Coliseum in Murfreesboro
* Porter Flea Holiday Market Dec. 8 and 9 at the Tennessee Fairgrounds
> Bloom April 06 2016
Each spring when I rediscover our "bloom calendar," it's like walking through the blossoms of the past few years.
You see, the bloom calendar is the same paper calendar book, dated 2008, where we record each spring's bloom, with each year being a different color ink. For example, 2009 was black pen, 2012 was blue marker and this year is purple Sharpie.
It's interesting to compare when things bloomed each year, and the difference is amazing. In 2012, when we had an early spring, I recorded on March 25, "black locust still in bloom," suggesting these trees had been blooming for a week or two. Last year, black locust didn't start blooming until late April, a whole month later.
Last year, on March 29, we had temps in the 20s, while this year cherry trees were in full bloom on the same date.
Other things find their way into the calendar. In 2009 on March 18 we found five bluebird eggs in a nest, the same day we sowed crimson clover, and on March 29 the eggs hatched. The same year also was a terrible tick year, with a notation at the end of April of "ticks everywhere!"
Also in 2009, a neighbor brought us a swarm of honeybees he found hanging from a fake floral arrangement at a cemetery, and we caught another swarm on our basketball hoop.
While beekeeping isn't typically thought of as farming, I love how this trade keeps us in touch with Nature. Everything about honey is dictated by the weather. Spring, especially in Middle Tennessee, is unpredictable, so each year we look forward to tasting our spring vintage.
It's the condensed essence of a volatile and unpredictable season, always different and always perfect.
> Honey Cough Syrup saves the night March 07 2016
Since two members of the hive recently came down with a bout of "walking pneumonia," we've had experience with some serious coughing.
While not a cure-all, and certainly not a substitute for medical advice if you're as sick as we were, we've found relief in the National Honey Board's "Tahitian Honey Cough Syrup." Here's our version of the recipe:
Honey Cough Syrup
1 cup honey
2-4 sprigs of fresh mint leaves (or more, to taste)
6-8 limes (enough for 1/2 cup juice)
Wash mint and limes. In small saucepan, warm honey for 4 minutes (don't boil). Add mint to the warming honey. Let the honey cool with the mint in it. Add lime juice and stir. Strain to remove mint leaves and any lime seeds. Store in a clean jar for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.
This is a wonderful throat soother by the spoonful, or you may add it to cool water or warm tea. Put a couple of spoonfuls in your water bottle if you're about to speak or sing in public. Another option is "coughsicles," which you can make by mixing 1/2 cup honey syrup with 1.5 cups water and freezing in molds, ice cube trays or a small container.
> Honey, it's cold. January 13 2016
It's the time of year when folks open their pantries looking for honey because it's wonderful in tea, coffee and cocktails, and it can be a great cough remedy too. Unfortunately, when raw honey has been sitting in a cold, dark pantry, it often doesn't look like it did when it was put there.
In fact, here's a recent e-mail:
I have a sealed jar of summer wildflower honey in my cabinet. It is sealed, but has been sitting there for a few months while I finish my previous jar. Just looked at it and it has a lot of crystallization toward the top and the honey is a little cloudy. I didn't see an expiration date, so wanted to ask if this is normal over time/ok to eat or if it might be any kind of contamination?
I'd appreciate it if you'll let me know what you think!
Hi, L--! So glad you wrote to us and didn't throw away the honey. There is no expiration date on the jar because pure honey never "goes bad."
The honey is perfectly fine. Our honey is raw and unpasteurized. Because we don't treat the honey with heat, it tends to crystallize over time. This is perfectly normal, and the honey is safe to eat.
Here's what to do to return your honey to a perfect texture: remove the lid, and place the honey in a small pot of warm water. Let the water simmer, stir the honey a wee bit, and it will be good as new. This shouldn't take more than a few minutes; you don't want to overheat or boil the honey.
You may be interested to know that some honey vintages tend to crystallize faster than others. For example, our spring vintage rarely crystallizes at all, while our Wildflower Summer vintage (which I think you have) crystallizes quicker, especially when kept in a cold environment. So much about honey, from taste and color to sugar content and crystallization rate, depends on what the honeybees were foraging when they made the honey.
I hope this helps, and please let me know if you have any other questions.
Thanks again for giving us a chance to save your honey!
> Small Biz Saturday not about us November 28 2015
We love the idea of Small Business Saturday, also called Shop Small Saturday and Shop Local Saturday.
It's the special day sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday that's designed to boost sales for small business owners. While we are small business owners and farmers, we don't have a brick-and-mortar store.
But we sell to many, many folks who do.
These are people who have taken the leap and invested in a storefront. They dust the shelves, sweep the sidewalks and carefully plan how much inventory to buy from us each month. They represent our product, carefully display it and sometimes offer customers a little taste (because when they taste they buy!).
These are folks like Hollie, owner of the Savory Spice Shop in Franklin, Tenn., and Barry (pictured at right), owner of The Produce Place in Nashville. There's Ted, owner of Watson-Kennedy in Seattle. Louise of the Artisan Cheese Company in Sarasota. Kevin and Megan Ouzts, who own and operate The Spotted Trotter in Atlanta.
These are the small business owners that took a risk on us and take risks on others like us. They bought our products when we thought two cases of honey and a dozen beeswax lip balms was a huge order!
We think Small Business Saturday is about them, not about us. This weekend, we hope you'll hit the sidewalks of your local downtown, wherever that may be, and look for independent retailers who sell products from local farmers, artisans and crafters.
We hope you'll shop small, shop local or shop 'til you drop! And if you happen to see some local honey, by all means buy it.
> From rum, to gin, to honey September 09 2015
An oak barrel that's been around
The thing about the folks at Corsair Distillery is they're not afraid to experiment.
So, having heard of our Barrel-Aged Honey, they kindly handed us one of their used, still-wet barrels and said, "Put some honey in it and let's see what happens."
The oak barrel's first incarnation was as a vessel for Corsair's spiced rum. Then they did a barrel-aged gin the same barrel. And that's when we got the barrel. It was still dripping with moisture and gin, the wood swollen tight, so we loaded it with our 2014 Wildflower Summer vintage and let it sit.
While this is all very exciting, the truth is we forgot about it. Spring and heavy beekeeping came around, and what was happening in that Corsair barrel was the last thing on our minds.
Just imagine our delight when we remembered it a few months later and tasted it. Wow! The wheels were turning with cocktail ideas, which teas to stir it into and, well, just how much could fit on a spoon.
This limited-edition Corsair-Barrel-Aged-Honey is lighter and more spicy than our original Barrel-Aged Honey, which is aged in oak barrels from a whiskey distiller. Corsair launched the honey at September's 3st of the Month and used the honey in a Bees Knees cocktail.
You can buy this honey only at Corsair in Nashville or from us on September 12 at either the Made In Nashville festival or the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival. We only have a few cases left of this delicious collaboration, and when it's gone it's gone.
> Spider webs September 08 2015
Spider webs are everywhere lately.
I'm not talking about Halloween decorations in stores, but between the tall grasses of our pasture and bee yard. Every morning the dogs and I ramble a bit while things are still wet from dew, and the sun breaks over the trees.
I'm guessing there aren't more spider webs this time of year, but I just happen to notice them.
You see, with the cool nights and hot days, there's an early morning fog that settles on our land, just before the sun comes up. The fog passes over and through the grasses and wildflowers, then the sun stops it in its tracks. Moisture settles on the plants like a clear glaze, before it burns off in the heat.
So, for a window of time on these late-summer mornings, the Earth in this little postcard of land is glowing with fresh light on twinkling plants and webs.
My favorite plants are the little bottle-brush-like grasses, their hundreds of short, feathery wisps glazed with dew. But they can't compare to the glistening spider webs, their symmetry stringing through the air.
Most of the webs are shaped in what I think of as "cobweb" style, a center circle or octagon that repeats itself like a pebble in a lake, echoing over and over. Many of these are straining under the weight of the dew, so they look worn out as they span the grasses. They're like tattered streamers at the end of a raucous surprise party, making me think I arrived a wee bit too late.
There's something reverent and small about these webs. Even in their wet disarray, their simplicity and complexity takes me by surprise. Like much of Nature, they're there all the time, but we don't always notice.
It just takes certain conditions — conditions in us and around us — to reveal them.
> Snow in August August 10 2015
Can it snow in the South during the summer? Well, it kinda just did.
Usually, our Tennessee Snow whipped honey is a seasonal item, since it doesn't hold up well in cold temps.
However, we've made a special batch in celebration of being number one on Food & Wine magazine's "Editors' Top 10" list (August 2015 issue).
F&W staffer Julia Heffelfinger described our honey, saying, "This is so creamy, I'd spread it on a biscuit instead of butter."
We use this honey, which is also known as "spun" or "creamed" honey, on anything that calls for a spreadable topping, including biscuits, toast, cinnamon rolls and peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. (Try it with something from Nashville-based Nut Butter Nation, like the Brown Sugar Cinnamon Peanut Butter.)
It also can be stirred into tea and coffee — or, of course, eaten straight out of the jar.
Since you're on our website, you know you can buy it here, but if we're out try one of our retailers, including Savory Spice Shop in Franklin, Tenn.; or The Produce Place and Anderson Design Company, both in Nashville. This time of year, it's only in local shops where we can be sure it arrives safely and remains in an air conditioned environment.
> 'Not much to look at' April 30 2015
"Well, they're not much to look at," he said, "but they make good honey."
After moving to Tennessee from coastal North Carolina a few years ago, this was our introduction to the black locust tree. The old man at the farmers market, who asked if we had black locust honey, added to his description:
"It's just a regular old tree, but in the spring they get these shabby-lookin' blossoms," he said.
This prompted a search to identify the black locust tree. And "shabby" is a good word to describe it, at least from a distance. The blooms hang in a pendulous cluster, sort of like a bunch of grapes, but from far away they look like a bundle of tattered tissues. Up close, you'll see delicate, white, sweet-smelling blossoms — which I have heard are edible (and sometimes deep fried) but haven't tasted (or fried).
Right now, at the end of April, which is a late bloom for this tree, you can see black locust trees in bloom all over the middle Tennessee area. Native to the southeast, and considered invasive in some areas, we have seen many of these trees along I-40, and on the edges of fields and pastures, where they haven't yet been crowded out by more aggressive trees.
More importantly, our bees are feasting on these blossoms! Black locust honey is sought after because it is a hard nectar flow to "catch." Tennessee springs are usually wet, and often cold, two things which keep honeybees from foraging this short-lived nectar source. It's a special treat to have black locust nectar filling out the taste of our spring honey, and we're looking forward to finding out what this vintage will taste like.
Black locust trees may not be "much to look at," but their nectar is really something to savor.
> Come see us! April 13 2015
We know it's finally spring when we start planning our weekends around local festivals and events. We're still working out the details on a few shows, but here's a quick list of where you can meet us, sample our honey and maybe take a peek at our observation hive this spring and summer.
- Green Door Gourmet Spring Festival, 11 to 6 on Sunday, April 26 at 7011 River Road Pike, Nashville, TN 37209.
- Sevier Park Festival, 10 to 6 on Saturday, May 2 in Sevier Park and along 12th South Avenue, Nashville.
- Produce Place Strawberry Festival, Saturday, May 9, 4000 Murphy Road, Nashville, TN 37209.
- International Biscuit Festival, 9 to 4 on Saturday, May 16 in Knoxville, TN (Biscuit Bazaar area).
- Tomato Arts Festival, 9 to 6 on Saturday, August 8 in East Nashville's Five Points area.
Follow us on Twitter @trubeehoney to get more details on what we're bringing to these shows and any specials we might have.
> The perfect snack January 14 2015
We're often asked for our favorite honey recipe.
Everyone knows our staple meal is peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches, but we get the feeling this doesn't count as a "recipe."
We're not sure if this counts as a recipe either, since there's not much more prep than with the sandwiches, but it's still the one thing that seems to unite a range of foods into one big taste.
So, try this:
Take a 4 oz "log" of plain, chilled chevre (we fancy Noble Springs), roll it in chopped pecans and drizzle with raw honey. Serve with thin apple slices, such as a not-too-tart Golden Delicious, or with a crisp, chewy baguette.
This is a great low-carb snack, and is also a wonderful appetizer at cocktail parties.
Trust us. You'll leave with an empty platter.
> It's not about corners. We don't cut strings. August 01 2014
In some ways, the hang tags for our new Barrel-Aged Honey were a turning point.
Now, these aren't any old piece of paper with information, mind you. They are the Cadillac of hangtags, complete with scoring, a hole punched in the corner and an elastic string that goes through the hole and — get this! — the string is tied in a little knot.
These hang tags cost an extravagant 24 cents each.
If you have a small business and are interested in such details, it's interesting to know we could have gotten the tags for half that.
But, well, there were little preference boxes on the order sheet, with questions like "Would you like these scored?" Our tags fold in half, like a little book, but we thought, "Oh no, we can do that ourselves."
Then the question, "Would you like holes punched in the corners?" Well, we have a hole puncher, don't we?
Then they asked about the strings.
"Would you like us to cut and attach the elastic strings for your hang tags? If so, how long do you want them?"
Wait a minute. Did they say "cut and attach," meaning that the hang tags would arrive in turn-key condition, ready to put on the bottles?
Did they say, "Friend, you won't have to sit up late one night, measuring strings, feeding them through holes and tying knots in them"?!
You see, we've grown a lot lately. While there was a time when we did everything ourselves, some of the best advice we've gotten is to learn to let go.
In fact, it's easy to micro-manage your small business, but it's not always best. It's important, we've been told, to find your strengths and use them. Equally important is to identify the activities someone else can do.
And let them.
> TruBee in ... Antarctica? February 28 2014
It's not often we get a letter like this.
For years, a customer in North Carolina has been buying our Beeswax Rub for her son, a global explorer. We first heard about Kevin when he was working on a fishing boat off the coast of Alaska. His mother thought he could use something for his chapped hands and face.
Well, Kevin seems to have a thing for cold, harsh conditions. Now he's in Antarctica, and his mother continues to send him our Beeswax Rub.
We received a letter from Kevin, along with photos from "the deep field camp (Byrd) on the West Antarctic ice sheet."
Here's what he said:
"Dear Laura —
I wish had words for how thankful I am for your Beeswax Rub. It's kind of an inside joke that Antarctica is a "Harsh Continent." That's always everyone's way of explain a problem.
It is harsh and dry on your skin. Antarctic winds chap your face. And while your product is incredible for hands and faces ... the smell is what I fell in love with. There are very few smells in Antarctica. Nothing frozen smells, and everything else never thaws enough. So, your rub's smell was the highlight of two seasons in Antarctica. Thank you. Kevin."
It's hard to get a better testimonial than that!
> Eat the Press February 22 2014
Small-batch offerings, with an emphasis on knowing where your food is grown or made, are all the rage, and we're tickled to be featured in two lifestyle magazines right now.
The March 2014 issue of Southern Living is a double-whammy of attention for us. Our creamed Tennessee Snow honey is on page 95 with a big feature about cooking with honey. The SL website fleshes out the piece with an article "We're Sweet on Southern Honey" that profiles our creamed honey and our 2013 Tennessee Spring vintage.
In addition, our Summer Wildflower honey appears on page TN8 (between pages 61 and 62 — it's like the Harry Potter train platform 9 3/4 that only Tennesseans can see). We're there with a full-page feature on Batch, a subscription box company based in Nashville that was kind enough to include our honey in its debut "Rise and Shine" box.
We're also thrilled to be on the ingredients list of our friend (and owner of Piebox) Adrienne Blumthal's latest pie recipe on MarthaStewart.com. She makes a good point, that honey is a good substitute for fruit during the bleak winter months.
After all, honey is the concentration of nectar from thousands of flowers and plants. Her Honey Goat's Milk Pie recipe might just tied us over until spring.
> Not easy being Queen February 13 2014
My “Wizard Of Oz” theory came to mind yesterday.
We often joke that being small business owners is like dashing around in front of and behind a curtain, doing all kinds of jobs, wearing all kinds of hats.
The “wizard” of the famous movie was a ticket taker, lever puller, wizard and even, if you will, a life coach.
Between Jeff and me, our responsibilities range from keeping bees, hammering together hive equipment, harvesting honey, bottling honey, graphic design, photography, branding, accounting — and sometimes even sales!
So, imagine my delight to get a letter yesterday addressed to the “Complaint Department.”
“Well, that’s a new one,” I thought, then opened the letter, wondering what the head of the newly formed Complaint Department should wear to work each day.
It seems that a customer in Washington received one of our honey sampler crates for Christmas, but one of the jars leaked. She kindly asked for a replacement, followed with best wishes and blessings from God.
We sent her a replacement the next day, along with two beeswax lip balms (since people in Washington probably need them more than anybody) and a handwritten note.
I’m hoping that’ll be the end of the Complaint Department, but with growth come other challenges and more hats to wear.
For example, I got a call the other day from a potential buyer who condescendingly asked, “Are you in a position to authorize samples being sent to us?”
I wanted to say, “Not only am I in a position to, as in standing over boxes and tape, but I am The Queen Bee and can authorize anything I want.”
Instead, with a wink at my dog, I said, “I think we can take care of that for you.”
> If you plant one thing February 07 2014
I was about to say, "If you plant one thing for your honeybees, plant crimson clover."
But I'm rethinking that already. We have a little land, and Jeff plowed about an acre of it in 2010 and sowed crimson clover seed. We have enjoyed this clover probably as much as the bees have. It's attractive, it's a great nectar source and it keeps other growth at bay.
But there are other plants just as easy that work for small patches of yard or for patios. One of my favorites is anise hyssop. A perennial herb, mine is in full sun and comes back each year. The foliage is a deep green, smelling of anise, and the flowers are a lovely lavender color that honeybees seem to fancy.
Lavender is another perennial that bees go crazy over, but it can be difficult to maintain in Tennessee's wet springs and humid summers. We have about 40 lavender plants that have thrived only because they are in full, baking sun and rocky soil. The same goes for rosemary — bees like the delicate blue-purple flowers, but rosemary likes well-drained soil and lots of sun!
If you're interested in building up the "backbone" of your landscape, and also want evergreens, hollies have almost imperceptible little white flowers in the spring that are a prolific nectar source. The same goes for privet and pittosporum.
All this to say, there's really no need to plant things for your bees. They will fly up to three miles from the hive, and they are designed to forage.
In fact, in much of the Southeast, it's quite easy to help provide for the bees — just put off mowing the lawn a few days. That's our excuse, at least. Ignoring the lawn will probably result in lots of white clover, something the bees really like.
So, I'm coming full circle here. I've gone from "if you plant one thing" to "if you ignore one thing."
See? It's that easy to make honeybees happy.
Wildseed Farms, a seed catalog that offers regional wildflower mixes. We sowed an acre with the southeast blend a few years ago, and many of the flowers, like cosmos and gallardia, have re-seeded themselves.
Feed the Bees, a Community Campaign — encourages sustainable bee populations by offering bee friendly planting ideas
The Honeybee Conservancy — lots of garden ideas, plus information about bees that burrow
> Honeybee facts January 06 2014
There is never an end to the questions we're asked about honeybees! Below are answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions. (We saved the best for last.)
• Honey bees fly up to three miles from their hives to collect nectar and pollen.
• It would take about eight honey bee stings for each pound you weigh to kill you.
• Male bees have no stinger and only one job; to mate with the queen. After they do their job they die.
• The honey bee's wings stroke incredibly fast, about 200 beats per second
• A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.
•The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
• A hive of bees will fly 40,000 miles, more than once around the earth, to collect 1 pound of honey.
• It takes one ounce of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world.
• A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.
• Only worker bees sting, and only if they feel threatened. They die once they sting.
• Queens have a stinger, but they don’t leave the hive to help defend it.
• During winter, honey bees feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months. They form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm.
• The queen bee can live up to 5 years and lays up to 3,000 eggs a day during the summer months
• Yes, we get stung.
> Sample a 'Taste of the South' November 15 2013
Currently featured by Garden & Gun as one of the magazine's "Southern-Inspired Stocking Stuffers."
When we came up with the idea of a honey sampler crate, it seemed only natural to showcase a taste of southern classics.
Unsung heroes, if you will.
Our 2013 limited-edition honey crate features Coastal Spring, Wildflower Summer and Tennessee Snow honeys, all tied up in a pine crate made by a southern craftsman.
The honey in this set represents the earthy, scrappy nature of the South and its native plants.
Coastal Spring honey was made from the gallberry bush, a scrubby, coastal plant and a prolific nectar source which honeybees love, found along the southern Atlantic and Gulf coasts. This honey is a tribute to the salty survivor, like a lot of us Southerners — maybe not much to look at, but worth our weight in sweetness.
Wildflower Summer is the condensed, ephemeral taste of hot, country pastures and plains, full of clover, thistle, dandelion and privet nectars, and, of course, magnolia pollen. This variety jumps onto the tongue with a bold, classic taste (that’s the clover for you), then finishes with a tang, a tip of the hat to the non-native herbs that southerners are kind enough to plant.
Tennessee Snow honey is a tribute to our sense of place. While we’re not from Nashville, we love it here. We’d love it more with a little bit of snow in the winter … so we just made our own. Our creamed honey (also called spun honey or whipped honey) is perfect as an all-natural topping on cinnamon rolls, toast and even stirred into tea.
> Find us at these holiday events: October 29 2013
We carefully choose a handful of area craft and food events to attend each year.
We've already enjoyed Made In Nashville, a benefit for the TN Literacy Coalition, as well as the Southern Artisan Cheese Festival, which draws foodies from all over the Southeast, and the Edgehill Village Artisan Fair, a small neighborhood show in the hip and crafty Edgehill Village 'hood.
Now we're gearing up for holiday shoppers with four more events.
* Barn in the Bend (Madison, Tenn.) — Nov. 8 and 9 with a sneak peak the evening of Nov. 7 (Never done a barn sale, so can't wait to try a new experience!)
* Porter Flea Holiday (Nashville, Tenn.) — Dec. 6 and 7 (We were totally unprepared for this show last year — sold out before one 'o clock — so we'll be armed with lots of honey sampler crates and other gift items this year.)
* Studio Be Holiday Market (Nashville, Tenn.) — Dec. 6 and 7 (Met Shannon Wille at Edgehill Village Artisan Fair, and she handpicked us for this show; looks like a nice assortment of handmade crafts, gourmet food and art! There will be food and wine on the 6th.)
> Tasting notes from a sommelier September 26 2013
The owner of Franklin Wine & Spirits, Dave Clark, was kind enough to taste our current honey vintages and help us describe them. Honey, like grapes, is affected by the weather (rainfall, sunshine, earth), so we thought it would be fun to have a wine expert give us feedback.
Here's what he said:
The honeys were tasted from the lightest color to the darkest. Each was tasted alone, then with several food items. The honeys were tasted similarly to how I taste wines. First, the color was noted, then the aroma. Finally, the honeys were tasted and paired with foods.
2013 Summer Honey: Light gold color. Sweet aroma of honeysuckle. Although it tastes sweet, the honey has a little tartness, with a hint of lemon. Pairs well with prosciutto and soft, mild cheddar. The bit of tartness makes it pair well with meats with some marbling, as the tartness and fat balance each other. (Beekeeper's note: the spicy, balanced sweetness also makes this vintage good with coffee, and with bleu cheese.)
2013 Spring Honey: Medium amber color. Hint of orange blossom on the nose. Thicker consistency than the summer honey, but not quite as sweet. A nuttier flavor, with a hint of almond on the finish. Pairs well with hard, aged, dry cheddar, cashews and bread. Nuts and yeasty breads would pair very well with this honey. (Beekeeper's note: this vintage has a lingering, fruity tartness, making it good with tea, especially green tea, and with goat cheese.)
2012 Coastal Spring Honey: Dark amber color, almost caramel. On the nose, the honey had notes of honeysuckle but with more floral fragrance than the summer vintage. The aroma made me think of a field of wild flowers near the edge of a tree line. Sweet up front but with a slightly bitter finish. (Brought back the taste of Tootsie Rolls when I was a kid.) Finishes with toasty notes. Went best with bread and nuts. This honey had a tendency to make cheese taste a little sour. Would be great to have a glass of Brut Champagne with this honey. (Beekeeper's note: the earthy, smokey hints in this vintage make it a great ingredient in barbecue sauces, beans and even tomato bruschetta.)
> Honey-Pumpkin Muffins September 25 2013
I make these muffins year round, because they are my daughter's favorite, but they seem to taste better in the fall. I think it's the spices — cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg whet our appetites for warm sustenance and mirror the warm colors of autumn.
These muffins are not gluten-free, vegan or anything else like that, but they are full of Vitamin A, protein, fiber and other healthful things. They make a simple, filling breakfast, and they travel well for weekend get-aways! This recipe is for a huge batch; I don't have lots of time to bake, so when I make 'em, I make 'em! (They freeze beautifully, but this recipe can easily be cut in half.)
(makes 24 regular-size muffins, or 48 mini-muffins)
Dry ingredients — mix all these together:
3 cups whole wheat flour; 1/4 cup flax seed, ground after measuring; 1.5 tsp. baking powder; 1.5 tsp. baking soda; 1/2 tsp. salt; 1 cup brown sugar, not packed; 2 tsp. cinnamon; 1 tsp. nutmeg; 1 tsp. ginger
Then add these:
2 cups cooked, puréed pumpkin (or one 15 oz. can); 3/4 cup honey; 3/4 cup vegetable oil; 4 eggs, lightly beaten
Mix everything together, but don't over-mix. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (or 325 degrees convection). Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake regular-size muffins 25 minutes (20 in convection), or bake mini-muffins 20 minutes (14 in convection). You may leave the flax seed out with no serious consequences to taste or texture.
> Barefoot in the clover July 19 2013
"You know, when I was a kid, I was afraid to go barefoot in the clover because I'd get stung," people say. "But now, well, I don't see any bees."
Unfortunately, this dearth of bees in the clover is a result of all the hardships honeybees have faced in the past few years. Diseases have wiped out large populations of honeybees, resulting in lawns flecked with nectar-rich clover ... but no honeybees to forage it!
In our Arrington bee yard, things are a little different. We have tons of clover, and there are honeybees all over it. In fact, during mid-summer in Middle Tennessee, many of the big nectar sources have reached the end of their natural season, so we always look forward to the staple of clover to keep our bees happy and fed.
Clover nectar gives our annual summer vintage (harvested in late July or early August) that familiar richness and tang that folks seem to associate with "grandpa's" honey.
On another note, we also look forward to the clover because it turns into a nice excuse for not mowing. Jeff will come home and say something about the yard looking a little tall. He seems reluctant to start up the tractor, so I say, "Yes, I guess it is, but there's a lot of clover coming up."
"Well, I wouldn't want to cut that down, with the bees and all," he says.
"Yeah, that's true," I say, and we decide that leaving nectar for the bees is more important than having a well-manicured yard (can't exactly call it a lawn).
So, if the front yard of our Arrington apiary starts to look a little wild, don't think for a second we're lazy, or even too busy, because it's neither.
We're leaving it for the bees ... and we're not going barefoot.
> Honey Vanilla Ice Cream recipe July 11 2013
Lots of people have been asking for this, so here it is! Very simple, and no sugar.
Honey Vanilla Ice Cream
2 cups milk (I use 2 percent)
3/4 cup honey (wildflower honey, of course)
dash of salt
2 eggs beaten
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
In saucepan, heat milk but don't burn or "scald" it. Stir in honey and salt. Pour small amount of warm liquid into eggs; return to milk mixture and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or less, stirring constantly. Cool thoroughly. Stir in cream and vanilla. Chill. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. Makes about 5 cups and is delicious on a hot summer evening!
> NY Mouth asks all the right questions. May 17 2013
We just did an e-mail interview with one of our newest customers, New York Mouth, which specializes in small-batch foods. They asked some fun questions, so here's a sneak peak:
Where did you grow up? I'm a Carolina girl.
Was food always important to you, or did you develop a passion for food at a particular place and time? The only thing I knew how to make as a child was biscuits, and I always mashed up the Ritz crackers for squash casserole in the summer. Other than that, I never knew how to cook from elemental ingredients until I joined the U.S. Peace Corps. I served in a third-world African country, where I learned to appreciate freshness and simplicity of ingredients. Everything was made from scratch, and I learned to cook there. (Sometimes we had crazy Peace Corps parties where the main event would be to roll out and fry our own corn flour chips and then dip them in our own fresh-made guacamole. Our biggest resource was time, so why not?)
How did you get into beekeeping? My husband, Jeff, grew up near a beekeeper and was fascinated by it. I knew he really wanted to learn how to keep bees but would never take the leap, so I bought him a bee hive for Christmas 10 years ago. He bought me a stand-up bass the same year, for the same reason.
Tell us about deciding to go into business – How did it happen? What made it possible? We've been selling our honey at farmers markets (in North Carolina and Tennessee), and the decision to move from that to a larger market was a result of the reception we've received from these marketplaces. Our customers embrace our commitment to purity, our concern about the fate of the honeybee and our emphasis on the ephemeral nature of honey from year to year. To completely answer the question, our customers make it "possible" every day for us to continue our commitment to sustainable American agriculture.
What do you think makes your product stand out in its category? Our honey is unique in that we celebrate the indigenous plants that produce it and we don't manipulate the harvest and nectar flow to produce a singe-source product. (Single-source varietals are the ones everyone's heard about, like orange blossom, tupelo, etc.). For example, to offer orange blossom honey a beekeeper is likely involved in commercial pollination. While commercial pollination is necessary, especially in these days of big agriculture and bee shortages, trucking bees to an orange (or almond or apple) grove to perform a service, while exposed to pesticides and herbicides, is not healthy for the bees and not a sustainable method of agriculture.
>>> Our bees are "free-range."
While the "free-range" thing started as a joke (because who is really going to stop a honeybee from going where it wants to?), it has come to denote a commitment to healthy, natural nectar sources for our bees. We say that our bees forage everything "under the country sun," and it's true. We're lucky enough to live near a small pick-your-own blueberry farm, but, other than that, our bees forage nectar and pollen from various natural sources, from fruit tree blossoms in the spring to pesky clover and herbs in the summer.
Also, when we do a regional "sampler," we work with beekeepers like us, who have a commitment to healthy bees and the glory of wild, indigenous nectar sources. For example, our Coastal Spring vintage was made by honeybees enjoying the native gallberry plant (in the holly family) that grows wild along the coasts of the Southeast. It's sort of an unsung hero in the bee world — a prolific nectar source that nobody cares enough about to spray for anything! The bees love it, and they're not exposed to harmful pesticides and herbicides while they forage it.
What’s your favorite part about producing honey? Least favorite part? Favorite part of having a bee farm is going out in the bee yard after sunset in the summer, when it's still light, and watching the light reflect off the bees as they return to the hive. Least favorite = being sticky!
What do you see as your biggest challenges? Our biggest challenge right now is combating diseases, such as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), that are affecting honeybees all over the world. Almost everyone has heard of these problems in one way or another, and we're encouraged when we go to markets and festivals and have customers who are sincerely interested in the fate of the honeybee. (We have wonderful, thoughtful customers who are sincerely curious about our trade and how it affects us and our food sources.)
What is the most interesting part of owning a business like this? The nature of the honeybee is endlessly fascinating. It's interesting to observe how they work together, how they communicate, how they are cranky on windy days and how the queen bee dictates the mood of the hive (mean queen = mean colony). I could go on and on.
Do you have a funny story to share? This wasn't funny at the time, but early in my beekeeping days I made the mistake of wearing my beautiful, hand-engraved sapphire wedding ring while in the hives. I got stung on the tip of my ring finger and didn't think about it until I got home, but it was too late. My finger looked like a hot dog with a tight silver band around it. (None of the Google remedies for getting rings off worked.) My doctor said that if there was still circulation in the fingertip I'd "probably be ok," so I toughed it out so I wouldn't have to get the ring cut off. The next day the swelling went down a little, but I couldn't get the ring off for a month. So, the moral of the story is: don't wear rings when you're working in the hives.
Did you have a role model/mentor/inspiration in the small batch field before you got started? If so, who? An old man named Mr. Smith was kind enough to sell us our first bees in NC, then help us get through that first year, which can be overwhelming. (More about that here.) We try to pass his kindness along by helping other beekeepers get started.
When you’re not producing honey, you are most likely . . . . Spending time with our daughter, who just turned 8. Unfortunately, though, the life of a small business owner is pretty seamless when it comes to work and personal time! Business and home life sort of intermingle ... but I do cut out some time to read and to write a little.
Favorite way to use/eat your own product: We couldn't survive without peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and our favorite treat is goat cheese and honey. I take a 4 oz "log" of plain chevre, roll it in chopped pecans, drizzle generously with honey and serve surrounded by thin apple slices (Golden Delicious is my favorite). This is an easy, healthy treat that's also a nice party or cocktail appetizer.
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