Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Walnuts Soaked in Honey

In her "On the Menu" column in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday, January 29, 2012, China Millman sings the praises of walnuts, and especially the marriage of walnuts and honey.  She offers two great dessert recipes:  Grizzly Bear Pie, which sounds like a pecan pie made with walnuts, and Toffee Walnut Squares, both available by clicking on the link above.

She also mentions the Greek specialty:  walnuts soaked in honey.  Here's a great recipe for them--which makes a unique gift.  These can be used in a variety of ways:  serve with a nice log of goat cheese (or feta! or ricotta! or ricotta salata! or cheddar!) and crackers; pour onto vanilla ice cream; use as a topping for waffles or pancakes; or drizzle on yogurt or rice pudding.

1 cup of walnuts, toasted in a 325 degree oven (or a dry skillet) until fragrant--careful not to burn.
1 1/2 cups honey (classic summer honey works well here, especially since it'll show off the nuts).
Pour 3/4th cup of honey into a glass jar (or two glass jars).  Add the nuts and top with the remaining honey.  Seal the jar.  Will keep at room temperature for about 1 month.  Makes one 12-ounce jar or two 6-ounce jars.

Variation:  You can really play around with the flavors here.  Add a sprig of thyme or rosemary or a cinnamon stick.  Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried red pepper flakes for some heat.  Add a handful of dried fruits.  You can also experiment with the nuts, using a combination of unsalted mixed nuts, or cashews or almonds (blanched would be best).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Simple Rice Pudding

We made this simple rice pudding Saturday night, which was the perfect accompaniment to catching up on the Colbert Report. It's adapted from a recipe on Martha Stewart Living. You can make the pudding as rich or simple as you like, depending on whether you use cream, whole milk or skim milk. Because there isn't much sweetness in the pudding itself, the honey is highlighted and each person can sweeten as they please.  

3 3/4 cups milk (whole, 2% or skim; if you want a really rich pudding, you can substitute 1/2 cup cream for some of the milk)
1/2 cup aborio (or short grain) rice
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons honey, plus more for drizzling
Combine the milk, rice, sugar and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 or 25 minutes, until rice is soft and chewy and has absorbed all the milk. Remove from heat and stir in the honey.  Let sit for about five minutes.  Serve in bowls with more honey drizzled on top. Makes four 1/2 cup servings.

Variations/additions:  Tuck star anise or a stick of cinnamon in the milk and rice while simmering. (Remove before serving!)  Add a handful (about 1/2 cup) dried fruit.  Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg once you place the pudding in the bowls.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Family and Friends' Fabulous Recipes

Dylan's Waffle Honey Breakfast
Ardent honey lover, skilled air traffic controller, New York resident and long-time friend Dylan sent us this photo of a recent breakfast, prompting me finally to post a number of honey recipes that friends and family have sent us this year.

Jessica's Great Granola Gifts

(adapted from a recipe on Epicurious)
Jessica is a friend who's become family.  She gave us a mason jar filled with this delicious granola as a Christmas gift this year.  We gobbled it up in less than a week.

1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried fruit

Preheat oven to 300.  Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Place honey and oil in a sauce pan and gently heat over medium low flame until well combined and slightly warm.  In a large bowl, toss the oats, pecans, coconut, brown sugar and spices together.  Pour the honey/oil mixture over mix together being sure that the oats and nuts are well coated.  Spread onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for about 40-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool and add dried fruit and mix.

Ali's Honeyed Carrots with Beets
(also adapted from a recipe on Epicurious)
Our niece, Ali (now becoming well known as "Sam's mom") made these carrots for Christmas dinner this year.  Don't think there was a carrot left on the table.

1 large, fresh beet, roasted and chopped*
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal into 1/4 inch rounds
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1-2 teaspoons fresh tarragon, chopped.

Place carrots, orange juice, butter, honey and ginger in a large skillet, cover and bring to a boil.  Cook for about 3-5 minutes over medium high heat. Remove lid, turn down heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until carrots are soft and glazed.  Stir frequently.  Remove from heat and toss in chopped beets and tarragon and serve.
* To roast the beet:  heat oven to 350 or 400.  Place the beet on a sheet of tinfoil that is large enough to wrap around the beet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt; roast for at least 40 minutes or until soft all the way through.

Kerry's Award-Winning Peanut Butter & Honey Dip for Fruit
Kerry and Tom are relatively new friends (and second-year beekeepers). This wonderful recipe won the fan favorite award at the 2011 joint Burgh Bees / Beaver Valley Area Beekeepers' picnic.
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter (more if you love peanut butter--almond butter also works nicely)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups whipped cream cheese at room temperature
Whip all ingredients together.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.  Serve as a dip for fruit or a spread for crackers.  Easy. Easy. Easy! :)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter Bees

Western PA was hit with our first big snow storm of the winter last night.  The apiary is buried under about six inches of snow.  We often get asked how bees get through the winter, especially since honey bees don't sleep, they don't hibernate and they don't fly around when the temperatures are below 40 degrees.  
So, what do bees do in the winter time?  They cluster. 
As winter’s cold sets in, the worker bees tightly cluster around their queen and vibrate—shiver, really.   Their collective shivering keeps the internal temperature of the hive at a cozy 95 degrees, nearly the same temperature as a normal human body.  The bees move in and out of the cluster so no individual freezes.  They all share the burden.  As the winter progresses, the cluster moves through the hive, munching on the stores of honey they worked so hard to save through the spring, summer and fall. 
A typical colony needs about 60 pounds of honey at minimum to survive the winter.  An experienced beekeeper can lift up a hive from the back to judge the weight and tell if the bees will have enough to eat.  Anything over about 80 pounds is surplus honey that the beekeeper can safely take for herself.  
The job of the winter worker bee is to feed the queen and get the colony through these next frigid months. In the spring and summer, a worker bee will live no more than six weeks.  She literally works herself to death tending to the colony and foraging for nectar and pollen to feed their young and store for the winter.  The winter worker bee, though, can live as long as four to six months—the kind of time a colony needs to survive the vagaries of a Pittsburgh winter.  On a rare winter day when the temperature inches over 40, the bees will break their cluster and take what are called “cleansing flights”; they leave the hive to relieve themselves.  Mostly, though, they shiver and eat their way through winter.  Kind of like the rest of us.

Here's a recipe for Creamy Curry Cauliflower Soup, perfect for a winter's day.  Adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe (a great source for soup recipes!). All the creaminess comes from the vegetables--it doesn't have even a splash of milk.  The honey is mostly a spice or flavoring here. Serve with bread or corn muffins. And don't forget to cluster!

2 tablespoons olive oil 1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 medium tart apple, peeled, cored and chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 clove of garlic
1 large head cauliflower, chopped (about 6 cups)
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (or, if you're not vegetarian, chicken broth)
1 - 2 tablespoons honey, plus more for a drizzling.
1 teaspoon vinegar (cider, rice wine, white wine)
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in olive oil until soft and golden in a stock pan. Add apples, curry powder and garlic and cook until curry powder is fragrant and apples soften a bit.  Add cauliflower and broth, bring just to a boil.  Lower heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the cauliflower and apple are very soft.  Let the soup sit for about 20 minutes for the flavors to meld.  Blend until smooth. Stir in the honey and vinegar.  Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Beekeeping Classes in Pittsburgh Area

Caught the beekeeping bug? You're in luck!  Area beekeeping organizations are offering beekeeping classes in January and February to help you get ready for the spring beekeeping season!  

February 17 and 18 this year.  This is a great place to meet area beekeepers and learn from the best (including our area's Master Beekeepers Joe Zgurzynski and Steve Repasky!).  This seminar is designed for "old" and "new" beeks alike.  Here's a link to the brochure:  Western PA Bee Seminar Brochure.

Penn State Extension in conjunction with the Beaver Valley Area Beekeepers, Westmoreland County Beekeepers, Armstrong/Indiana County Beekeepers and the Central Western PA Beekeepers will be offering Beginning Beekeeping Workshops at two locations again this year -Wexford and Greensburg. (The same information will be presented at each location.)   Here's a link to the brochure:  
Saturday, February 4, 2012, 9 a.m.— 4 p.m.
Soergel’s Orchard
2573 Brandt School Rd., Wexford, PA 15090-7606

Saturday, February 11, 2012, 9 a.m.— 4 p.m.
Westmoreland County Cooperative Extension
214 Donohoe Rd., #E, Greensburg, PA 15601-7552

Burgh Bees will also be offering their popular Beginning Beekeeping 101 class in January as well as Beekeeping 102 class in March for second year beekeepers. The classes are taught by Master Beekeepers Joe Zgurzynski and Steve Repasky. Click on the links below for more information and registration form.  Register now!  The spaces fill up quickly!

Beginning Beekeeping 101: three evening class sessions
Monday, January 23, Wednesday, January 25 and Monday, January 30, 6-9:30

Beekeeping 102:  Saturday, March 10 8-2:30

Monday, January 2, 2012

Honey Whole-Wheat Challah

We obviously aren't following a gluten free diet here at SteffesWood Apiary!  I've been on a bread baking kick and have been having some great luck with challah.  This whole wheat challah recipe produced a lightly sweetened loaf with a soft crumb that is also great toasted.  It makes a gorgeous loaf, too!

1 cup water
1/4 cup honey (I used amber summer honey, but fall honey would be delicious here)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 packet (.25 ounce) rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 whole egg, plus one egg yolk
1 teaspoon (or so) sesame seeds

Heat water, honey and butter in a small pan over low flame until the water is warm enough to melt the butter.  You don't want the water to be boiling hot, but it should be hot to the touch.  Stir to melt butter and dissolve honey.  In a separate bowl, combine 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook (or large bowl).  While mixer runs on low speed, pour hot water/honey/butter mixture into bowl.  Beat the whole egg with a fork and pour it into the bowl, too, and mix until the liquid begins to combine with the flour. Stop mixer, scrape down sides of the bowl and turn mixer onto medium speed.  Knead dough about 5 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup more each of whole wheat and all purpose flours if needed, until dough is soft, smooth and elastic.  If you're doing this by hand, it may take about 8 minutes of kneading.

Three risings:
Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and/or a kitchen towel and set in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).  Fold dough in on itself a few times, turn it over so smooth side is up, cover and let rise again until doubled in size.  Fold dough in on itself again and roll into a long rope, tapered at the ends, about 18 inches long and 3 inches thick.  Roll the rope into a tight curl, pinching the dough on the bottom to hold the curl together (see photo). Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Cover again and let rise for about 1 more hour.

 Preheat oven to 350.  When dough has risen (in loaf form) for the third time, beat an egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and gently brush over entire loaf.  Sprinkle with about 1-2 teaspoons of sesame seeds (try to have a light covering over entire loaf).  Bake in center of the oven for about 45-55 minutes, until the loaf is a rich, brown (almost the color of a soft pretzel).  Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  This recipe makes one loaf.