Cooking With Honey – BLT And Blue Salad

images (9)

I made this salad on Christmas Eve and will make it again on New Year’s Eve.  It’s best if you make the dressing well in advance so the flavors have time to blend. My family tells me that the leftovers  are even good the next day!

Yield:  4 – 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

6 ounces blue cheese, preferably Maytag, crumbled fine

6 cups hearts of Romaine lettuce (about three heads) You may substitute iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (For how to toast, see below) You may substitute pine nuts

6 ounces crispy bacon

3 Roma tomatoes, finely diced

2 scallions, chopped

Directions:

Whisk together the first 10 ingredients except for the blue cheese. Once mixed, stir in 4 ounces of the crumbled blue cheese; cover and refrigerate until service. Overnight is even better. Taste for and adjust seasoning with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Tear or slice the lettuce into chunks. In a mixing bowl, toss the lettuce with as much dressing as desired as well as half the bacon, tomatoes and toasted nuts.

Place the salad mixture into individual bowls or on plates, pour on dressing as desired,  and sprinkle with remaining blue cheese, bacon, tomatoes and nuts. Garnish with chopped scallions. Enjoy!

How to toast Hazelnuts:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a baking pan toast hazelnuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly colored and skins are blistered. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don’t worry about skins that don’t come off) and cool completely.

toastedhazelnuts

New English Garden Bee Plants – “Purrsian Blue” Nepeta

New Nepeta

I love nepeta aka catmint, and this new variety looks like a winner! It’s available from Wayside Gardens.

Bees love catmint, but so do cats. By the end of the summer, all my catmint is cat-shaped in the middle.

According to Wayside Gardens, ‘Purrsian Blue’ is the solution! Apparently, it is “flop-proof”!

Naturally rounded, this fragrant little plant covers itself in bright blue blooms from the first hint of warm summer weather until autumn arrives. The flowers themselves are periwinkle-blue, surrounded by a darker violet calyx. Showy, intensely bright, and so profuse, they really pop in the perennial border or herb garden!

Bees and other pollinators are drawn to ‘Purrsian Blue’ for its nectar, while rabbits, deer, and other nibbling creatures avoid it because of its fragrance. I will definitely be ordering this for my borders!

Mais Ou Sont Les Neiges D’Antan

Krehbiel Picnic Bench

This famous and beloved poem is by François Villon (1431 – 1463, approx.), a rebellious young man whose wild reckless life has inspired many a budding poet, and no doubt led some of them to reject their dull bourgeois upbringing for a life of adventure and lawlessness.

Rebel, thief, quarrelsome hothead, Villon was condemned to several prison sentences for serious crimes, but he probably matches Harry Houdini in his ability to slip out of bondage, only to return as quickly as his bad temper could get him into another fix.

He was not heard of after 1463 when the courts banished him, so the exact length of his life is not known.

Let’s let his joie de vivre inspire our New Year!

Ballad of the Ladies of Bygone Times

Tell me where, or in what land

is Flora, the lovely Roman,

or Archipiades, or Thaïs,

who was her first cousin;

or Echo, replying whenever called

across river or pool,

and whose beauty was more than human?

But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Where is that brilliant lady Heloise,

for whose sake Peter Abelard was castrated

and became a monk at Saint-Denis?

He suffered that misfortune because of his love for her.

And where is that queen who

ordered that Buridan

be thrown into the Seine in a sack?

But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Queen Blanche, white as a lily,

who sang with a siren’s voice;

Big-footed Bertha, Beatrice, Alice,

Arembourg who ruled over Maine;

and Joan, the good maiden of Lorraine

who was burned by the English at Rouen —

where are they, where, O sovereign Virgin?

But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Prince, do not ask in a week

where they are, or in a year.

The only answer you will get is this refrain:

But where are the snows of yesteryear

New Year’s Eve In Verse

New Year's Eve by Alexander Jonsson

New Year’s Eve by Alexander Jonsson

There are many great poems about New Year’s Eve, but this one resonates with me. Maybe it’s the bells. 🙂

I wish you all a wonderful year, full of love, happiness and wishes come true.

Deborah and Romancing the Bee

 

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

 

 

The Winter Solstice And The Bees

060211_snowbees

The Winter Solstice is the real beginning of the cycle of the New Year.

It marks the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is the lowest.

The Solstice officially arrived at the same instant for all of us on Earth – 11:12 UTC – but our clocks say different times due to varying time zones.

This year the Winter Solstice in Cincinnati happened this morning at 6:12 a.m. EST.

hive in winter

After the Winter Solstice the days gradually get longer until spring season arrives. It’s  important to honey bees and how they manage their hive throughout the winter.

Within the darkness of the hive, unable to see that the light lasts a bit longer each day, the Queen Bee senses that the Solstice has arrived. The Winter Solstice is one of the first signs to her that it is time to take up one of the survival tasks of the hive: to begin rearing additional young bees.

Shortly after the Winter Solstice, maybe the next day, maybe several weeks later, the colony raises the core temperature of the winter cluster to about 95*F, the optimal temperature for rearing new bees.

When the colony reaches the desired core temperature the Queen will lay a small patch of brood, using the cells that were emptied of their honey during the preceding weeks of cold.

At first, the amount of brood rearing is small, less than 100 cells. However, as the spring approaches, and the first flowers begin to blossom, the Queen will begin rearing bees at a much higher rate.

The process is slow at first because rearing bees during the winter and keeping the brood nest at 95*F consumes a lot of extra winter stores, more so than if the bees were just clustered together at a cooler 75*F temperature.

They keep warm in the same way we do. They shiver.

Winter Cluster

Winter Cluster

In cold weather, the bees huddle tightly together. Bees on the outside of the cluster form an insulating shell while bees in the center of the cluster generate heat by shivering their flight muscles.

By eating honey (a high-energy food) the bees can generate just over 100*F in their flight muscles. At the center of the cluster is the Queen, where she remains warm and protected from the cold winter air. As bees on the outside chill, they rotate to the center of the cluster.

The bees are starting their cycle of life once more.  Happy Winter Solstice!

Christmas bees

Samhain And The Bees

The ancient Celtic calendar follows the agricultural year more closely than our modern calendar. This is especially true for the beekeeper.

It “officially” becomes Winter on December 21st by the standard Western calendar, but in the ancient Celtic calendar, it begins a lot earlier.  On November 1st, Celtic winter begins with  the season of  Samhain (pronounced SOW-in).  The beginning of Samhain is traditionally celebrated on October 31st.

The Celtic seasons  are:

1. Samhain    (Winter) November 1st, the beginning of the new year, to January 31st.

2. Imbolc    (Spring)  February 1st to April 30th

3. Beltain    (Summer) May 1st to July 31st

4. Lughnasadh   (Fall)  August 1st to Oct. 31st

Why does the Celtic Winter start so early?

For beekeepers, it means that the queen stops laying and the bees go into their winter cluster with the queen always at the center, huddling together for warmth until Imbolc arrives in February and the queen again becomes active.

For most “believers”, Samhain,  means “End of Summer”, and is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this day.

October 31st is one of the two “spirit-nights” each year, the other being Beltain. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands.

This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits.

Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning.

The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person’s fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.

Celebrate the Lifting of the Veil with a Samhain Cocktail.

1 1/2 oz. Vodka

1/2 oz. raspberry liqueur

1/2 oz. honey

1 oz. cranberry juice

Mix together in a shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cranberry.

Apples And Honey On Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins at sundown tomorrow, September 16.  Like most Jewish holidays, there are food customs associated with it. One of the most popular and well-known food customs on Rosh Hashanah has to do with dipping apple slices into honey. This sweet combination stems from an age-old Jewish tradition of eating sweet foods to express our hope for a sweet new year.

In addition to symbolizing our hopes for a sweet new year, according to Jewish mysticism the apple represents the Shekhinah (the feminine aspect of God). During Rosh Hashanah some Jews believe the Shekhinah is watching us and evaluating our behavior during the past year. Eating honey with apples represents our hope that the Shekhinah will judge us kindly and look down on us with sweetness.

There is also symbolism implicit in the apple. Solomon writes, referring to the romance between G-d and the Jewish people, (Song of Songs 8:5), “Beneath the apple tree I aroused you[r love].” On Rosh Hashanah we try to, once again, remind G-d of our mutual love.

According to Kabbalah,the apple is an allusion to the mystical level of “chakal tapuchin kadishin” (the Holy Apple Field).

When Jacob came to receive his father, Isaac’s, blessings, he had the scent of an apple orchard upon his clothing. This incident took place on Rosh Hashanah.

Also, when you cut an apple in half horizontally you will see ten little holes and a five pointed star. Ten is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter Yod, and five is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter Hey. Together they spell out G-d’s name. Those two letters are also an acronym for the words “Hand of G-d”. This reminds us that if we look closely and pay attention we will discover G-d’s hand in our life and the world around us.

According to the book of Exodus, when the Hebrews wandered the desert for 40 years they ate “manna,” which was like “honey wafers.” Israel itself, of course, is a land “flowing with milk and honey.”

The Blessing For Apple and Honey

Though apple and honey can be eaten throughout the holidays, they are almost always eaten together on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. Jews dip apple slices into honey and say a prayer asking God for a sweet New Year. There are three steps to this ritual:

Say the first part of the prayer, which is a blessing thanking God for the apples: Blessed are you Lord, our God, Ruler of the world, Creator of the fruit of the tree. (Baruch atah Ado-nai, Ehlo-haynu melech Ha-olam, Borai p’ree ha’aitz.)

Take a bite of the apple slices dipped in honey.

Now say the second part of the prayer, which asks God to renew us during the New Year: May it be Your will, Adonai, our God and the God of our forefathers, that You renew for us a good and sweet year. (Y’hee ratzon mee-l’fanekha, Adonai Elohaynu v’elohey avoteynu sh’tichadeish aleinu shanah tovah um’tuqah.)