Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorial Day Picnic Recipes

Dark fall honey makes a great substitute for molasses in baked beans. These beans are quite spicy, so if you want to tone that down a bit, add a little less (or omit altogether) the chipotle pepper.
2 cups dried navy beans (we've actually used black-eyed peas for this recipe with great results)
2 teaspoons
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried ground chipotle pepper
1/2 cup dark fall honey
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper to taste

Rinse and pick through beans to be sure there aren't any stones. Place in a bowl and cover with cold water three inches above beans. Place in fridge and soak over night. (If you're short on time, you can place beans in a pot, add water to cover three inches. Bring just to a boil--just until the small bubbles appear around the edges of the pot. Turn off heat and cover for 1 hour. You'll be ready to continue with the recipe.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large, oven-proof pan (like a Dutch oven) and saute onion and garlic until soften. Drain beans, rinse well, and add to pan. Stir in 4 cups water, chipoltle pepper, tomato paste, honey and salt and stir well. Cover pot and place in oven. Cook for 3 to 4 hours, checking about once an hour to stir and see if the beans need more water. Add more water as needed. Serve hot or at room temp. Beans should be very soft and the sauce quite thick.

Another vegetarian addition: Add a few pats of butter when you remove from the oven to make the beans even more...mmmm!

Omnivorian addition: You can fry 4 or 5 strips of bacon (cut in 1/2 inch pieces) until crispy. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and reserve. Saute the onion and garlic in the bacon fat. Add the fried bacon when you add the beans. Makes about 8 to 10 servings

Very simple--but deliciously tangy. You can also use sour cream instead of the Greek yogurt (that is if your calorie budget can bear it.)
4 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons celery seeds
Combine well and chill. You can add some shredded carrots for color.
Makes 8 servings

We sent this recipe out last year to the folks who subscribe to our email newsletter list recommending this marinade for the delicious skirt steaks the McElhaney Family Farm sells at the St. James Farmers' Market (and elsewhere). One reader wrote that McElhaney steaks are so good, nothing should be added to them! So, if you want to "gild the lily," try this recipe.

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup summer (or fall) honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup canola oil
2 pounds skirt steak

Combine everything except the steak in a jar with a good-fitting lid and shake to mix well. Add the steaks to a zip-lock bag along with the marinade and refrigerate over-night (but not longer). Prepare grill for cooking on medium-high heat. Remove steaks from the bag and discard marinade. Grill for 6 to 8 minutes on each side (slightly less for very thin steaks). Let rest 5 minutes (crucial step!). Slice thinly against the grain and serve slices with freshly grated horseradish or horseradish sauce. This recipe serves 4, but if used for sandwiches it will serve 8.

Looking for dessert? Check out our honey rhubarb pie recipe previously posted!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rhubarb and Honey Recipes

Rhubarb is about the only thing thriving in our garden right now. Even the peas seem a bit anemic. We have three big rhubarb plants near our shed. Though most instructions for growing rhubarb stress that it prefers full sun, ours gets about four or five hours of direct sun a day (that is, when the sun actually shines in Pittsburgh!) and seems to do just fine. We named our "pure-bred galoot" (an 80-lb hound mix) after one of my favorite desserts: Rhubarb "Ruby" Pie. She would not turn down a slice of rhubarb pie if you offered it to her!

Ms. Rhubarb "Ruby" Pie

Here's a very simple rhubarb pie recipe that you can augment in many ways (swap out some of the rhubarb for strawberries or blueberries, add some cinnamon or a teaspoon of vanilla). It comes complete with instructions for my favorite super easy pie crust, which is all-butter (and truly no fail). I know that hard-core pie bakers swear by crusts that use lard, but this crust does it for me. To make it as easy as possible, rather than make a top and bottom crust, I just roll the dough out in a big circle (like making a rustic tart), put it in a pie pan, add the filling and fold the overlap over to form the top crust.

Rhubarb Honey Pie with No-Fail All-Butter Pie Crust
For the filling:
4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 and 1/3 cups summer (amber) honey
7 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon finely chopped almonds (or walnuts)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar
dash of cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the rhubarb, honey, flour and salt in a bowl and mix well to combine. Make crust (see below). Sprinkle chopped nuts on the bottom of the crust. Add filling and dot with butter. Fold overhanging crust over filling as if you were making a rustic tart and being sure to leave the center open for venting. Brush top of crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar (and cinnamon or nutmeg, if using). Place on a cookie sheet to catch drips and bake in center of oven for 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for about another 50 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, check and tent with foil if crust is over-browning. Cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.
For the crust:
1 and 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (12 tablespoons), cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in the freezer while you gather the rest of the ingredients.
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/3 cup ice water
Briefly (about 5 seconds) pulse the flour, salt and very cold butter in a food processor until the butter is pea-sized. Sprinkle water on top and briefly pulse again to evenly distribute it. The dough will be in loose pellets. Pour onto a lightly floured surface and knead it three or four times to bring it together. Form into a flat disk. Roll out to about 16 or 17 inches (1/4th inch thick). Fit into a 9-inch pie plate, letting dough hang over the edge (this overhang will be folded over the filling to form the top crust).

Rhubarb & Honey Ice Cream Topping
You can make a delightful ice cream topping simply by cooking a couple cups of chopped rhubarb with a pinch of salt in a little bit of water to keep it from scorching. When the rhubarb releases its juices and begins to bubble, slip in a cinnamon stick and about 1/4 cup of honey--or more to taste. Remove from heat and add about 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Let cool a little bit and the spoon over vanilla ice cream.

Up for something savory with your rhubarb bounty? Check out this lentil dish, which is great with rice--and also on its own. The inspiration came from a recipe in the June 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times. I've embellished it a bit, with honey, of course!

Lentils with Rhubarb, Spinach & Honey
Olive oil for the pan
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup raisins (or currants)
1 1/2 cups brown lentils, rinsed, picked over for stones, and drained
4 cups broth (I used chicken, but you could use vegetarian)
1/2 lb rhubarb cut in 1/2 inch slices (about 2 cups)
6 cups spinach, rinsed and cut in strips
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup honey
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a sauce pan and coat bottom with olive oil. When oil is hot, add onion, a pinch of salt and saute for a few minutes. Add mustard and cumin, stirring in and continuing to sauce until onion begins to brown just slightly. Add ginger, garlic and raisins. Stir and heat for a few minutes. Add lentils and 3 1/2 cups of broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 25 minutes. Stir in rhubarb and 1/2 cup more of broth and cook for about five minutes. Stir in spinach and cook for about five minutes more. Taste for salt and pepper and also to see how much honey you want to use. You can either stir the honey in or serve it in bowls and drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of honey on top of each. Makes about 8 1-cup servings.

Get Your Veggies & Make the World a Better Place!

Want to subscribe to a great local community supported agriculture (CSA) program AND help out a great cause? Look no further!

Glade Run Lutheran Services, with headquarters in Zelienople, provides a range of vital services for kids in need. Part of those services include Glade Run Adventures, which offers therapeutic horticulture and animal programs for the kids in their care and for people in the community.

This year, they've started Glade Run Adventures Cooperative CSA. When you subscribe to the CSA, you get a weekly box of fruits and vegetables and other treats from their garden. We'll be working with them to be sure the subscriptions include a jar of honey on occasion. Click on the link above for information about how to subscribe. It'll make you feel good not only because you'll be eating your veggies, but also because you'll be supporting a wonderful agency that does much good in the world!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rain, Rain Go Away!

This relentless rain does not bode well for the 2011 spring honey crop. Foragers don't fly when it's raining and the wet weather can wash out the nectar in many spring blooms. There's a small stand of black locust trees near our apiary. When the creek don't rise--as it is surely doing now--showy black locust tree blooms (pictured on the left) produce copious amounts of nectar that bees love and turn into a delicate, delightful and delicious spring honey. My hopes for a strong spring honey crop wane with every rainy day. (Photo by Jennifer Anderson at the USDA-NRCS PLANTS database.)

What else to do on a rainy Sunday, but make pancakes for lunch or dinner?

Adirondack Honey Pancakes
These light and fluffy pancakes are simple to make. Serve with more honey!

2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon honey (I use our amber, summer honey)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk (skim or 2% is fine)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
More honey for serving

Beat the egg whites until they hold a firm peak and set aside. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks and honey, mixing well, then gradually add the milk while stirring constantly. Add the melted butter to the milk mixture and stir well. Sift the flour and baking powder onto some wax or parchment paper. Whisk the flour into the milk mixture, stirring to be sure the batter is uniformly moist. There will be some lumps. Scoop about 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the batter and fold in to lighten the batter. Add the rest of the egg whites to the batter, gently folding until no streaks of egg white remain. Heat a griddle or large frying pan and lightly coat with cooking spray. When a drop of water sizzles on the surface, spoon batter into pan making three 3-inch pancakes (or any size you want, really). Let rise and brown on one side--about three minutes. Flip and brown the other side. Serve immediately with more honey to drizzle on top. Makes about nine 3-inch pancakes.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Bevy of Honey Salad Dressings

It's been great weather for salad greens this year, though this batch of lettuce we planted in our cold frame has been bitter from the start.  Nothing like a nice honey-based salad dressing to offset any bitter green! Read on for a selection of dressings for any of the greens you may be enjoying before the weather really heats up.

Poppy-Seed Dressing
1/2 cup summer honey
1 tsp. dried mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon finely grated sweet onion
1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
In a small food processor, add the honey, mustard, salt, vinegar and onion.  Process until well-blended.  While the processor is going, slowly pour in oil until the dressing is well emulsified. Pour into a bottle or jar and add poppy seeds. Makes about 1 1/2 cups dressing.  Store in refrigerator--keeps for about 2 or 3 weeks.

Mary Helen's 3-3-3 Salad Dressing
One of our regular customers at the St. James Farmers' Market in Sewickley shared this simple, versatile and delicious dressing recipe with us last year.
For one cup of dressing:
1/3 cup honey (summer honey is best)
1/3 cup vinegar (we've used cider vinegar, red wine vinegar and home-made raspberry vinegar all with good results)
1/3 cup oil (we've used extra virgin olive oil and canola oil)

Combine well, taste and add salt and pepper. To this basic dressing, you can add chopped garlic or minced onion, herbs such as parsley, dill or thyme, a little Dijon mustard--let your imagination be your guide.

Honey Mustard Dressing
This recipe comes from Kim Flottum's Honey Handbook (reviewed in Review of Honey Cookbooks, Part I).  He claims it's a salad dressing "to die for" and we tend to agree!
1 3/4 cups mayonaise
1/2 cup summer honey
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Makes about 2 cups.

Chopped Salad Recipe with Honey & Garlic Dressing
The ingredients in this chopped salad can be adapted to include whatever produce happens to be in season.  All vegetables and fruits should be chopped in about a 1/2 inch dice.

1 tart apple, cored but not peeled.
1 tablespoon raw cider vinegar
1/2 small head red cabbage
1-2 carrots
6-8 medium-sized romaine lettuce leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Anxiously waiting for our 2011 garlic!
1/4 pecans, toasted
Honey & Garlic Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 small garlic clove, finely diced
salt and pepper to taste
Combine the dressing ingredients in a food processor or jar and blend well.  Placed the diced apple in a salad bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon cider vinegar.  Add each veggie to the bowl as you dice it, waiting to add the lettuce, cranberries and pecans until you're ready to serve.  When ready to serve, add the lettuce, cranberries and pecans and drizzle on half of the dressing, tossing well.  Taste and add more dressing if needed.  Remaining dressing can be stored in the fridge for a week.  Makes 4 servings and is easily doubled.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Why and How Do Bees Swarm?

Swarming is the way that honeybees reproduce their colonies. It is, as Robert often says, a "blessed event" for them--like a birth. When they sense that their colony is strong enough to divide, they stop feeding the queen so that she will be light enough to fly. The old queen takes off with about one-third to one-half of the worker bees, leaving behind several developing queens in swarm cells.

A number of factors can trigger honeybees to begin making swarm preparations. One of the most common is congestion in the hive. If they sense that they're running out of room for the queen to lay eggs, they'll prepare to swarm.

Though a blessed event for honeybees, for beekeepers, a swarm means losing up to half the bees in a colony and so beekeepers try their best to manage swarms using a number of techniques. One way they try to prevent swarming is to be sure the colony has plenty of space. They will intersperse empty frames and add more supers (boxes) to the colony to add more room for the colony to grow. They will also make "artificial swarms" or "splits" to give the bees the impression that they have already swarmed. Here's a great YouTube video of how to make a split:

For more information about swarms, check out this link from the University of Nebraska's Department of Entomology.

Swarm Season!

May is the start of swarm season in Western Pennsylvania and Saturday was a busy day for swarms. Steve Repasky, in the photo above, captured this large swarm from a small tree in Wilkinsburg.

Swarms are dramatic to witness, yet don't deserve the fear they often evoke. Swarming bees rarely sting for a few reasons. One is that, before leaving the original hive, the worker bees engorge themselves with nectar so that they will have something to eat in their new home. Often, they're so full of nectar that they can't extend their stingers. Another reason they're unlikely to sting is that they do not (yet) have a hive to defend.

Local beekeeping organizations like the Beaver Valley Area Beekeepers' Association and Burgh Bees keep "swarm lists" of beekeepers who, like Steve, will try to recapture a swarm. In a future post, we'll write about why bees swarm in the first place.

Jay Ressler's Gorgeous Photography!

Local photographer, Jay Ressler stopped by the Gallery on 43rd Street yesterday for Lawrenceville's Blossom Tour and took some fantastic digital photographs of the busy bees in our observation hive. He has a wonderful close-up of the turquoise-marked queen. She has an injured back leg and hobbles a bit--an injury that would likely mean she is not long for this world. We've put her into service as a "show queen"--a job she performs very well!

Check out all of Jay's photographs at and at his blog Thanks for showcasing honeybees, Jay!

Friday, May 6, 2011

See You at the Gallery on 43rd Street in Lawrenceville on Saturday!

Join us on Saturday from 11 to 1 at Gallery on 43rd Street for Lawrenceville's annual Blossom Tour.  We'll be joined by legendary beekeeper Jim Fitzroy and his wife, Eileen.  Jim was instrumental in extracting a feral honeybee colony from a building in Braddock in 2009.  Check out this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article: Braddock Abuzz.  Jim's the guy on the scaffold in the photo working with bees without a veil.   Robert's standing next to him fully suited.

We'll have an observation hive and honey to taste--bring your mom!

Asparagus with Honey Garlic Sauce

If you can bear to add anything besides a bit of salt to the wonderful bumper crop of asparagus we're having this year, this recipe from the National Honey Board is worth a try.  It's sure to impress Mom, too!

1 lb fresh asparagus
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup dark ale or beer
1/3 cup honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Wash and trim woody ends from asparagus (or use a vegetable peeler to peel them if you want to savor every last bite).  Add asparagus to boiling salted water and cook, covered, about 2 minutes until just barely tender. Combine mustard, beer, honey garlic & thyme.  Taste and add salt if needed.  Drizzle on cooked asparagus. Serves 4.