> Celebrating 10 years with a new/old jar January 18 2021
As of January, we had weathered the pandemic storm of 2020, but couldn’t say the same for our supply chain. The metal lids we use were out of stock everywhere, unless we could wait ’til February. Glass bottles? Well, get in line.
Basically, packaging was our toilet paper, except there wasn’t any to hoard.
That’s when The Mistake Jars came to mind. You see, we made a mistake early in our small business journey. We ordered a pallet of our “tall” jars, which we have screen printed, but we had miscalculated the weight of the honey. Honey is measured by weight, and the jars said they contained 12 ounces and not 10.
That’s right. We have had a pallet of paid-for jars sitting in our barn for years because we made a mistake but didn’t want to misrepresent the product. We kind of forgot about these jars … until the end of December.
Was there a way we could fill the gap in our supply chain, buy some time, by using these jars? Was there a way to use the jars without misrepresenting the contents? Put some honeycomb in the jar to bump up the weight? Could we scrape the 12 off and replace it with a 10?
Well, running a small business is all about learning to be creative with resources, flexible with problem solving and willing to accept mistakes.
That’s when it hit us: we have an anniversary coming up! It’s been 10 years since we officially signed up for this wild ride, so why not turn The Mistake Jars into a celebration of mistakes and creativity? The black-painted jars were our original packaging, and we even won an award for the design, so it could be a fun throwback!
Yep. We’re using The Mistake Jars to mark 10 years of ups and downs. We’re adorning them with a bright special label that both covers the 12 ounces and celebrates our journey.
We are planning a few changes this year, but we want to start 2021 with an acknowledgement of how far we’ve come. We want to celebrate! We want to embrace the flexibility that got us this far! We finally know how to pivot!
Also, we really need to use those jars.
> 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, 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!
> 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.
> 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.
> 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.)
> 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.
> It's official: we're awesome. April 11 2013
Think about it. There's nobody who hasn't heard the words "honey" and "mustard" together.
Or "honey" and "barbecue."
That's why our honey was included in Bespoke Post's April "Box of Awesome."
Each month Bespoke Post, a monthly subscription service, curates a box of high-end and, well, awesome stuff from all over the world. Each box has a different theme; for example, there's been a "Weekender" box, a "Shave" box and many more.
Our honey is offered in the "'Cue" box. As in barbecue. Click on the photo above to read about the other great products in the box. There are specialty corn chips, cedar grilling planks and other seriously awesome things.
Oh, and don't forget to check out their "Behind the Brands" spotlight. All the products Bespoke Post features have an awesome story too.
> 'You are what you eat.' October 16 2012
Sylvia Ganier reminded us of this last Sunday during the second annual Fall Festival at her Green Door Gourmet farm in Nashville.
She was tasting our seasonal honeys, along with our friend and fellow beekeeper Jay Williams, and I told her how folks seem surprised to learn that honey changes with the seasons.
You see, when sampling our spring and summer vintages, I tell customers what the honeybees were foraging when they made each harvest. For example, our spring vintage tastes floral and light because the bees were foraging spring-blooming plants, like apple, pear and black locust trees.
Our summer vintage has a bigger, more herbal flavor, probably because bees were foraging lavender, rosemary and, of course, the ever-present clover.
The store at Green Door CSA (pictured here) features local products ranging from cheese and honey to granola and body care products.
"See?" Sylvia said. "It's true for bees too. You are what you eat."
She has a unique perspective on this, since her farm is dedicated to helping her customers eat healthy, organic, local foods. We are thrilled to work with her, and tickled to learn that our honey makes an occasional appearance in her CSA boxes. (If your shopping for the holidays, we just delivered our limited-edition 2012 Honey Sampler Crates to her farm. Get 'em there and avoid shipping costs!)
She also has a lovely grocery on site, where she offers local foods, from milk and cheese to salsas and skin care products. In addition, her new events barn is already booking vintage-style country weddings. Learn more at greendoorgourmet.com.
> Spring harvest ready to eat May 29 2012
Just a three days ago, the honey pictured at right was in a hive.
Colonies of honeybees gathered and tended nectar and pollen, organizing their days by what was in bloom.
We've been doing that too. Throughout this glorious early spring, we've watched what the bees are interested in, what they're foraging here in Middle Tennessee.
We did this because you want to know what's in your wildflower honey. You want to be able to savor, as much as we do, the transitory nature of each drop of nectar — and each grain of pollen — that the bees found to create this unique harvest.
In fact, if you search the tag #2012springhoney on Twitter, you'll find our "bee menu" reports, where we've documented the changes in nectar and pollen flow throughout the spring.
For us, this intimate knowledge seems to make the honey taste even better. We hope you think so too.
> Look around, Dixieland. January 27 2012
According to Bon Appétit magazine, the South — and its culture of no-holds-barred, we're-not-afraid-of-you food — is hot. If you want fearless, experimental flavor with sentimental devotion to real, tangible ingredients, this is the place to be.
The February issue of Bon Appétit fearlessly takes on the South, in all its bigness, leading the cover with nothing less (or more?) than fried chicken.
In the "New Southern Pantry" feature, what the foods have in common is that they are traditional southern favorites which come from the earth, like pecans, peanuts, cucumbers and sweet potatoes, but with a twist: hell-fire and spice in the pickles and jelly, chili in the chocolate, sweet potatoes turned to hot sauce. Taste, taste, taste!
What's wildflower honey?
While TruBee Honey is thrilled to be on the shelf with these products, we don't feel as innovative. In fact, some might think us simple because we don't haul our hives around on trailers to collect high-dollar nectar from orange, tupelo and sourwood trees.
But, sometimes, simple is good. Traditional, even. Our bees enjoy nectar from indigenous southern plants — like passionflower and those pesky, pokey blackberry brambles creepin' on everybody's fences.
We don't dictate the diet of our "free-range" bees, and our honey changes every season because of it.
Bon Appétit described our honey as "nuanced," because it always changes. We'll see that and raise it: our raw wildflower honey is so unique, so special, that each distinct vintage is a flavor never to be repeated in Nature again.
Come to think of it, that's what Bon Appétit is getting at. Delicious, hip, of-the-moment flavors, but with old-school ingredients — that's what today's southern foods are all about.