Tag Archives: honey

4 Ways to Beat the Heat

It’s been bloody hot the past few weeks. There were a few days when things cooled down a bit and I felt I could catch my breath, but otherwise I’ve been “perspie” as my Grammy Thompson used to say.  “Perspie” was her delicate way of saying perspire. Since we don’t have air conditioning I’ve come up with four great ways to beat the heat.

"swimming hole"

My favorite swimming hole

1. Clean your basement. Seriously, the basement is always cooler than upstairs. I’m not talking heavy lifting, just some rearranging, a few loads of laundry. You’ll cool down and be happier. Heck, just tell everyone you’re going down to clean the basement and instead grab a folding chair and a good book and read for a while.

2. Find a Swimming Hole. This tip is for folks in the country. There are several near and far from me (unfortunately nothing within walking distance). What you’re looking for is something on the icy side so you can bring your core temperature down. Don’t forget to put an extra towel on your car seat so you don’t fry your bottom when you leave.

3. Turn on the Brooklyn AC. When I lived in Brooklyn there were no swimming holes, and we couldn’t afford the electricity an AC unit sucked down so we made our own AC. First set up a chair with a towel on it. Beach or bath it doesn’t matter. Second position an oscillating fan in front of your chair. Third grab all the bandanas you own and soak them in cold water, wring out most but not all of the water. Fourth strip naked. Then sit on the chair, place the damp bandanas all over your body and turn the fan on high.  It will feel like you have AC. Re-wet the bandanas as they dry.

4. Make a pitcher of ice tea. I covered the basic concept for ice tea here. My friend Hilary Zaloom made this divine ice tea for our monthly knitting group when we were crazy enough to meet during a similar heat wave last summer. We ended up at Hilary’s house because she has AC (and not the Brooklyn kind) and she also makes the most delicious drinks. Needless to say between the beverages and the AC we were all happy to sit there for several hours chatting with a bunch of wool in our laps.

"Hilary's Ice Tea"

Hilary’s Herbal Ice Tea with Honey Water

Hilary’s Herbal Ice Tea

The genius of this ice tea isn’t just in the flavor combination, but in the sweetener. Instead of using a simple syrup (one part water to one part sugar) Hilary adds honey and some warm water to a squirt bottle. Once shaken to combine the honey water can be squirted into any cool beverage as a sweetener without clumping as it is want to do in cold drinks. Brilliant!

Red Zinger or Hibiscus tea

1 orange

2-4 spring mint

honey water* to taste (I make mine at a 1 part honey to 2-3 parts water)

Place teabags in a large pitcher of water and let soak 3+ hours or overnight. Remove bags and add mint sprigs.  Slice half the orange and  juice the remaining half. Add juice and slices to the tea. Sweeten to taste with honey water.

*Store honey water in the fridge if you don’t use it immediately, it will keep for a week or so.

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Winners of the Honey Giveaway

"Jar of honey"

Whately Wildflower

Were it that we were swimming in honey right now so everyone who entered the honey giveaway could receive a jar. I agree whole heartedly with Carol that the best part of contest was getting to read all the great stories, recipes, and poems (though I’m sad I might never get to experience Lynne B.’s honey balls). I am also so grateful to Isabelle and Russell who were home from school yesterday (their school was closed so families could celebrate the Jewish New Year Rosh Hashanah-a sweet coincidence) and volunteered to put on a blindfold and pick the winners because I didn’t have the heart to choose.

"winner nancy"

The first winner

The first winner is Nancy H.~Congratulations!

"picking the second name"

Picking the second name

The second winner is Stephanie O.~Congratulations!

It was a wonderful contest. Thanks to everyone who helped harvest the honey as well as everyone who entered with their stories and recipes, musings and poems. I loved them all.

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Giveaway: How Sweet it Is

I didn’t think we’d get a honey crop this year. My bees swarmed three times (that I know of) and I’m sure several more times that I was blissfully ignorant of. Don’t they know they’re supposed to give their landlord (me) notice when they move out??? Of the three swarms I knew about I caught only one, thanks to a helpful iPhone video my husband sent me showing me which tree the swarm had landed in, and with the much appreciated assistance of my bee savvy neighbor Jeff  who came over to help capture them.

"frame of honey and brood"

Honey "ceiling" above brood–this is not a frame for extracting.

What keeps me from getting an annually consistent honey crop? Well I could blame it on the weather. We’ve had some rainy summers and cold winters. I could also say it’s the Russian bees I keep, who do so love to swarm. But to be humbly honest, my lack of an annual honey crop may have more to do with my mediocrity as a beekeeper than factors like mother nature and the million year old instincts of Apis mellifera. Many beekeeping books write about how people get into beekeeping because they’re intrigued by bees, but leave the hobby after they’ve been overwhelmed by the honey. Eight years in and I’m still waiting to be overwhelmed by a honey crop. Despite the swarms, rain, hurricane, and loving neglect my bees have suffered through this summer I still had one hive that produced for me.

"Nearly capped honey"

Almost ripened honey.

Ideally you harvest honey sometime before or during August in New England so that the bees still have time to store up enough goldenrod honey to see them through the winter. That is unless you’re a procrastinator like me. So it was in September that I put on a bee escape. The worker bees dutifully left the honey supers for a night so they could go down and nestle in the brood supers with the queen and larvae, but come the dawn when they went to return to their work of ripening honey they were confounded by the maize. One of the joys of beekeeping is using the bees own instincts (in this case the instinct to huddle up in the evenings with the brood and queen) against them. Sneaky, yet satisfying.

"honey extractor"

Honey extractor and honey bucket ready for this year's crop.

I borrowed an extractor from a guy in my beekeeper’s club, then waited for a day when the kids could help. Honey extracting is more fun to do with other people. In the past I’ve borrowed extractors that were so big you had to sit on them to keep them from dancing around the room. This extractor was a two framer which Shawn screwed to a couple of boards he had lying around. The set up allowed us to stand on the boards and hold the extractor in place while we whizzed the frames around and around letting centrifugal force draw the honey from the comb.

"Removing the cappings"

Removing the cappings from the honey

First we removed the cappings with a thin knife dipped in hot water. It slid right through the wax and exposed the ripened honey underneath. When bees collect nectar it is anywhere from 90-97% liquid. In order for nectar to turn into honey bees add some enzymes and amino acids from their bodies then “ripen” the nectar until the moisture content is 15-17%. The ripening process has two stages–an active stage and a passive stage. The active ripening occurs as the bees blow bubbles with the nectar, much like you would blow little bubbles of saliva with your mouth (babies are very good at spit bubbles, though they have a tendency to drool). After 30-50 minutes of bubble blowing the tiny drop of nectar is placed in a cell and other bees fan their wings to facilitate additional evaporation. This is the passive stage. Once the nectar has had enough moisture removed so that it will keep without spoiling the bees put a cap of beeswax on top (which is also created from nectar, but I’ll save that story for another day).

"honey frame in an extractor"

Place the uncapped frame in the extractor and...

"extracting honey"

spin like crazy

Then we place the uncapped frames two at at time into the extractor. Then comes the spinning. For a successful extraction you want to spin the frames as fast as you can. It reminds me a little of the tea cup rides at the New York State Fair my brother and I loved to go on because we could make the teacups whirl so fast you thought your head was going to snap off. The liquid honey is ejected out of the cells and onto the side wall of the extractor, where it then starts oozing down the walls and gathering in the bottom of the extracting tank. When we can’t spin any more frames because there is so much honey the spinner can’t move we open the gate and watch the honey glug out. I strain it through a couple of sieves to catch little bits of wax, propolis, and pollen which come off during the extraction. After the honey has had a few days to settle in the bucket it’s time to bottle it up.

This year’s crop tastes amazing. It’s a fragrant mix of nectars from within a two and a half mile radius of our house in Whately, which is why we usually call it Whately Wildflower. I wish I had more so I could share some, but we love honey in this house too much to give it all away.

Which brings me to my blog giveaway. I’m going to set aside two jars of honey to give to two of my readers who post a comment (are you listening family–this means you too!). All you have to do to qualify is leave a comment below. Tell me about your favorite recipe using honey. You can also write “count me in” or “I want to win” or something else to let me know you want to be entered into the giveaway. Your choice. You will have until midnight on Wednesday, September 28 to enter a comment. I will then randomly choose the two winners and notify them by email. Good luck everyone!

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The Comfort of Bee Milk

Bee Milk was an obsession of mine long before I had my first hive of bees. A bazillion years ago when I was at Smith College I would wander down to the Iron Horse Cafe, take up an entire booth with my homework, and proceed to nurse a steamy mug of Orgeat while pretending to hit the books. Orgeat was a delicious concoction made from steamed milk, honey and almond syrup. Continue reading

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