Cooking With Honey – Blueberry Lavender Martinis

Lavender-Martini-300x225

I was in Chicago this past weekend and had dinner at the delightful French Bistro Aquitaine. We began with two of their lovely specialty cocktails — I had the Blueberry Lavender Martini made with honey. It was fabulous!

Here is my recreation…

Yield:  2 martinis

Ingredients:

6 large ice cubes

8 oz vodka

3 oz fresh lemon juice

4 Tbsp honey lavender syrup*

12 fresh blueberries, muddled

Directions:

In a martini shaker add the ice, vodka, lemon juice, honey lavender syrup, and muddled blueberries and place top on shaker. Shake until well blended. Pour the drink into the glasses through a strainer, and serve!

*Honey Lavender Syrup:

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup honey

2 Tbsp dried lavender

Heat water until boiling, remove from heat and whisk in honey and lavender, until honey is dissolved. Chill well before using in drinks.

Cooking With Honey – Honey Grapefruit Margarita

grapefruit margarita

With the weather heating up, this is a delicious way to cool down!  The honey and the grapefruit combine wonderfully.

Yield:  2 servings

Ingredients

3 oz tequila

2 oz orange liqueur

2 oz fresh-squeezed lime juice (2 limes)

6 oz fresh-squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice (1 grapefruit)

Simple honey syrup, to taste

Salt, for rim

Grapefruit wedges, for serving (optional)

Directions

Mix tequila, orange liqueur, lime, and grapefruit juices well. Add a generous splash of simple honey syrup. (To make simple honey syrup combine equal parts honey and water and heat until honey is completely dissolved. Refrigerate after cooling to save.)

Rub one of the used lime or grapefruit rinds around the rim of two glasses and dip in cocktail salt.

Fill each glass with ice and pour in the margarita.

  • Paloma (moderndayforager.wordpress.com)

My Bees Are In Their New Homes!

The New Hives

The New Hives

Well, for the most part. At least they’re around their new homes…

Even though my new bees arrived yesterday, I decided to wait until today to hive them because it got down to 28 degrees Farenheit last night.  The rest of this week (and with luck, the rest of this season!) is supposed to be above freezing.

I had plenty to do yesterday though, what with setting up the hives, gathering up all my equipment and putting the bees’ sugar syrup into quart glass jars with lids. That’s something new I came up with this year to make the syrup easier to handle.

One of the most important rules of beekeeping is to never leave sugar syrup out in the open around a hive, even for a minute. Sugar syrup attracts robbing insects of all kinds. I learned that the hard way. (Come to think of it, I’ve learned most everything about beekeeping the hard way…)

This year I loaded up a recyclable grocery bag with 4 quart jars of sugar syrup – easy to handle and hermetically sealed!

It was fun having the bees in my kitchen last night. They really do go to sleep. I made sure to turn off all the kitchen lights so they could have a good rest before Moving Day!

Today was perfect for installing a package. Temperature in the 50’s, no wind and partly cloudy. I’m more comfortable around my bees when I’m wearing a full bee suit, so the cooler the day, the better for me. Those bee suits are hot!

The bees still in the box will eventually make it into the hives by themselves.

The bees still in the box will eventually make it into the hives by themselves.

I would love to tell you that I was the picture of beekeeping professionalism. Not so much.

At least I didn’t hop around like I had St. Vitus’ Dance like I did the first time I installed a package. Oh, for a video of that performance!

But there are things I don’t remember until I start the installation process. Like how hard it is to get the frigging bee package open. And pry out the feeding can. And find the Queen cage. And jimmy out the cork at the end.

The frigging box should come with a handy hatchet to help open it!

The frigging box should come with a handy hatchet to help open it!

And get the frigging bees out of the box and into the hive. (I did what I usually do – just left the box there and let them move in by themselves. They’ll go anywhere the Queen is residing.)

And not squish too many. (Oh, the humanity!!)

It didn’t help that my back garden is slightly less steep than Mt. Everest and I put the new hives at the bottom.

The view down Mt. Everest...

The view down Mt. Everest…

The Mean Bees live at the top of the garden, and have clearly indicated that they don’t want any next door neighbors, even if they’re relatives.

The Mean Bees at the top of the garden

The Mean Bees at the top of the garden

But, all in all, a good day on Columbia Parkway!!

P.S. No, I didn’t get stung.  I usually don’t when hiving a package. My average is two stings per season, both while I am in the process of doing something stupid. 🙂

Honey Meringue Cookies

I love meringues!

My hotel in London had a small bag of them waiting for me in my room when I arrived. Much better than chocolates!

Try a little food coloring to brighten them up!

1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup water
5 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch salt
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. ice cold water
1 tsp. vanilla extract or peppermint extract

Preheat oven to 225º F. Line a baking sheet or cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Hot syrup: Cook the honey and water, without stirring, in a small pot over medium heat until it reaches 235 to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meringue: While the syrup is cooking, use a balloon whisk to beat the egg whites with the salt,cream of tartar, and water to soft peaks in a large metal or stainless steel bowl. When the syrup is done, remove from heat and immediately pour into the soft peak egg whites in a slow, steady stream while continuing to whip the egg whites at the same time. If you’re doing this by hand, at this stage it would be helpful to have someone pour the syrup in while you whip it in the egg whites.

Once all the syrup has been poured in, continue whipping the egg whites until stiff and glossy. Stiff peak egg whites should hold and retain their shape. Add vanilla or peppermint extract and rapidly beat for about 2 more minutes.

Spoon or pipe the meringue on to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes to one hour. Open the oven door and let dry for another 10 minutes or until dry to the touch. Remove meringues from oven and cool on the pan, you may hear crackling as the meringues cool and finish drying out. Peel the meringues away from the parchment paper once cool enough to touch. They should peel away easily and should sound like a ping pong ball when tapped with a fingernail.

Arrivederci, Italian Bees…

Italian honey bees bearding outside the hive e...

Italian honey bees bearding outside the hive entrance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I must have had a premonition when I posted about “bee on bee” crime.  I wuz robbed!!

I’m leaving town this afternoon for the weekend, and I went out to check the hives.  My Buckies were flying wildly, but my Italians were strangely silent. Worse than silent. Nowhere to be seen.

Fearing the worst, I opened the hive.  It had been stripped clean of honey and brood.  The only things left were a few sniggering wax moth larvae.  They and the denuded frames went straight into the dumpster.

FAILURE!!

My Italian bees had always seemed a bit too fragile and beautiful for their own good. I didn’t have to smoke them before inspections. They followed me around while I gardened, gentle and curious.

In retrospect, what I thought was aggressive grooming behavior at the entrance to their hive was actually my Buckies subduing their unwelcome adopted siblings. Even though the two hives were nowhere near each other, apparently the Buckies could sense the competition, and were having none of it.

I will have to revise my thinking on robbing situations. They don’t all look like “The Attack of the Killer Bees From Outer Space.”

No, this one at worst looked like “bearding” due to heat. It was a nearly bloodless coup. It probably started the day I installed the package of Italians and fed them that tasty sugar syrup.

So what now?  I called the nearest breeder, but they’re out of packages for the season.

But my Buckie hive is huge!

So I’m going to try an even split.  My first ever!!  If my Buckies don’t want competition, let’s see how they do with creating a second hive by themselves.

More later…

D

Preventing “Bee On Bee” Crime – The Robbing Situation

I’ve been keeping bees for almost seven years now, and for the most part I’ve had good luck.  My two hives are strong and disease-free, and one has successfully requeened itself.

One Of My Healthy Hives

I’m sure my success is due to where I live and the quality of bees I’ve purchased rather than any particular skill on my part.  I’m the only beekeeper for miles, and my neighbors are avid gardeners.  I’ve ordered my bees from reliable suppliers with good reputations in the industry.

I have had one disaster though. I don’t like to think about it because it was totally my fault.  And I lost an entire colony in less than three days.

It happened in September of my second year of beekeeping.  My colony of Buckfast bees was healthy and strong, and had just produced a bumper crop of honey.

Being a novice, I felt guilty about taking their honey and decided to feed them some sugar syrup.  Since nectar was still flowing, the bees didn’t want any of it.  After a week or so, I removed the feeder and dumped the syrup next to the hive.

That was a huge mistake. You should never dispose of syrup near the hive, or even leave uncovered syrup or honey anywhere close to it.  Within hours, my hive was under major attack from every wasp, bee and honey-loving insect for miles.

A Robbery In Progress

It looked like something out of a science fiction movie.  I tried everything to stop it, including covering my hive with a wet sheet. It was too little, too late.

The Wet Sheet Method Of Stopping The Crime

I tried to save the remaining bees, but ultimately they were decimated.  The hive was even invaded by wax moths.  I destroyed the frames and let the supers freeze outside the next winter.  I felt guilty and depressed.

The next year I started fresh with a new package, and haven’t had a major disaster since. But I know the same thing could happen again if I’m not careful.

That incident convinced me that beekeepers underestimate the threat of robbing insects to the existence of their hives.

What can we do to reduce this threat?

First and foremost, NEVER leave uncovered syrup or honey near your hives, even for a minute.  Once a robbing situation begins, it’s very difficult to stop.

Second, protecting your bees from wasps, wax moths, and robber bees begins with a strong colony that can defend itself. Follow good beekeeping practices.

Third, be vigilant. If you see signs of wasps or other robbing insects at the entrance of your hives, use an entrance reducer at the smallest opening, particularly if the colony is small.  If a robbing frenzy has already started, close up the hive and/or use a wet sheet to discourage the intruders. Pray for it to stop!!

I hope this helps you prevent “bee on bee” crime in your neighborhood!!

Honey Divinity

Divinity is an old fashioned Southern candy that was originally made with corn syrup. It’s much better made with honey!

It reminds me of visiting my grandmothers. I guess this is Grandmother Weekend!!

Ingredients:

3 cups granulated sugar (600 g)
1/2 cup honey (120 ml)
2/3 cup warm water (160 ml)
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract (or other flavor of your choice) (5 ml)
1 cup chopped nuts of your choice (I use pecans) (150 g)

 

Preparation:

1. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Combine the sugar, honey and water in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking without stirring until the mixture reaches 250 degrees, firm-ball stage.
3. Beat the egg whites in the bowl of a large standing mixture until stiff peaks form. Slowly pour about half of the sugar syrup into the egg whites, beating constantly.
4. Continue to cook the remaining syrup until it reaches 270 degrees, soft-crack stage.
5. Stream the remaining syrup mixture into the egg whites while the mixer is running. Continue to beat until the candy is thick, shiny and holds its shape.
6. Mix in extract and nuts until fully incorporated.
7. Drop by the teaspoonful onto cookie sheet, and let cool until full set.
Variation: Divinity can be poured into a 9-inch square pan, cooled, and cut into small squares instead of being dropped from a spoon.

My Garden Hive – Third Inspection

The Garden Hive

It’s been three weeks since I hived my Italian bees. I was a bit concerned after my last inspection since I didn’t see any capped brood, and there were some queen cups at the top of the frames. Was Queen Maria Amalia laying eggs? Were my bees trying to replace her?

Queen Cups

I shouldn’t have worried. Today when I inspected the hive, there was an almost perfect brood pattern on four of the eight frames. There was also capped honey stores. The bees are coming along beautifully!

Capped Brood and Honey Stores

Next week I’ll remove the sugar syrup feeder, and my bees should have a good start on the summer!

Honey Bees Love Russian Sage

If you want to plant a lovely perennial that bees clearly love, try Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia). It is a beautiful, easy care addition to the cottage garden, and you’ll be amazed at how the bees flock to it.

It does best in full sun, but it can also tolerate a bit of shade. It’s also deer-resistant!

Honey Bee Cocktail

Ingredients

1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 tablespoon water
2 ounces white rum
1/2 ounce lemon juice

Instructions

Put the honey and warm water in a cocktail shaker and stir it until the honey is thoroughly dissolved. Add the white rum and lemon juice, then shake viciously with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. If this is too dry, or if you’re feeling charitable and generous of spirit, add more honey. It couldn’t hurt!