BEE-cause I Love You Honey

(Lessons from a Beekeeper Master, aka my Dad)

I became accustomed to eating really good honey (you know the kind with the honeycomb in it?) when my dad was actively involved in beekeeping when I was growing up. We had the best honey for years. I used to think all honey was as good as Dad's, but boy have I learned differently.

Dad was named “Beekeeper of the Year” by the Texoma Beekeepers Club in 1984. I still have that Denison Herald article. This reward was voted on by secret ballot and was based on interest, enthusiasm and progress made during the year. I learned that Dad got a lot of his beekeeping knowledge by attending an annual bee seminar that Texas A&M hosted in Savoy, Texas. Three Ph.D. entomologists always taught his seminar and he attended with his good friend Mr. McKnight.

The wonderful news is that at the age of 90 Dad has the same enthusiasm he had years ago in everything that has to do with bees. There is rarely a time I am at home that we don’t have a bee conversation. I’ve actually started recording these valuable bee lessons and more importantly, the quality time with my dad. He is so witty and so knowledgeable--and he can really talk. Hmmm, I wonder where I got that from?

When I was home last month, Dad and I went out in the barn and started looking through some of his bee equipment. It was too hot to stay out there long, but I was amazed at how much of his bee equipment Dad still has. I saw his full bee suit with the big helmet, racks, the little box that they queen bee would be mailed in (that’s a real interesting story). When the weather cools down a bit, we are going to dig out all of his equipment. I’ll be sure and share the pictures.

Bee box for queen bee 2
Bee Box for Queen Bee

Since I now have to purchase my own honey, one particular honey I’ve grown to enjoy is from a company called Pacifica, which I discovered during one of my many LA visits. Pacifica Honey is only available in California and Nevada. They make the raw, unheated, unpasteurized honey like my siblings and I were accustomed to eating. They also make a variety of flavored honey like Sage, Coastal California Wildflower, and, of course, one of my favorites is their basil honey.

I always pick some up when I’m in LA. I recently picked it up at Bristol Farms in West Hollywood. I’ve also seen it in some of the Whole Food stores there as well as Gelson’s Market.

If interested, here’s a link Pacifica Honey.  http://www.honeypacifica.com.

For my Texas friends, here’s a link to where you can find great honey in Texas. http://www.honey.com/honey-locator/find/state/texas

Health Benefits of Honey

One of the best types of honey for medicinal purposes is Manuka Honey. It’s pretty expensive at about $36 a jar, but so well worth the benefits. Adding a couple of teaspoons a day to your diet does wonders.

Did you know that honey protects against damage caused by bacteria? Some honey also stimulates production of special cells that can repair tissue damaged by infection. In addition, honey has an anti-inflammatory action that can quickly reduce pain and inflammation once it is applied.

But not all honey is the same. The antibacterial quality of honey depends on the type of honey, as well as when and how it's harvested. Some kinds of honey may be 100 times more potent than others.

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/manuka-honey-medicinal-uses#1

 

 

 

 

Let’s Make a Conserve

I have an extensive library of both old and new canning books, magazines and recipes that I have collected over the years, and I still refer to several of my old books from time to time for a good throwback recipe. I discovered several of my favorite conserve recipes in some of these classic canning books. One of my books is titled “Putting Food By” – which is what they used to call it back in the day when my Great Grandmother, Mother Dear, we called her “Mu-dear” was growing grapevines and canning all sorts of things from her garden. What great memories. I remember sitting on her front porch shelling a bushel of purple hull peas, which were then canned or frozen.

SO WHAT IS A CONSERVE?

Conserves look just like jam and they have the same consistency, except they take it up a notch or two. A Conserve is made with a combination of fruits, including citrus, nuts and/or raisins. Conserves are excellent paired with meat and poultry dishes, and also very good as a topping for desserts –or just on a good biscuit.

I’ve canned quite a few combinations of conserve recipes over the years, but my favorite by far is Peach and Orange Conserve with Slivered Almonds. I know I have made hundreds of jars of this Conserve.

There are now some very interesting contemporary combinations that I plan to try. Some include the use of cardamom and pistachio nuts. Here are some other combinations for Conserves to think about.

Apple-Sour Cherry Conserve With Toasted Almonds
Cranberry and Orange Conserve with Chopped Pecans
Fig, Orange and Pistachio Conserve
Cranberry Apple Conserve with Walnuts
Cranberry Pear Conserve with Fresh Ginger
Rhubarb-Strawberry Conserve
Apricot and Pineapple Conserve
Pear and Orange Conserve
Tomato-Apple Conserve
Cantaloupe-Peach Conserve
Gooseberry Conserve

Check out my Peach and Orange Conserve Recipe.

 

Sealing Summer in a Jar

Every summer I really look forward to canning something from my garden, eating something fresh or canned from my mom and dad’s garden, or just grabbing some amazing organic produce from one of my favorite markets or farmers to can.  I grew up always having a jar of something available to pull out of the pantry during those cold winter months when it was no longer available and have carried that tradition forward for many years.

I recently canned a few of my favorite recipes including peach and orange conserve, strawberry jam, mango chutney, and of course my signature salsa.

Since I grow and cook with so many fresh herbs, which I also use when cooking for my clients, it just makes sense for me to have an interest in creating my own herb infused jams, jellies, chutneys and condiments that I can pair with some of the great dishes I prepare. So now I am experimenting with some really good herb infused jams, jellies, chutneys and even some dessert drizzles that you can use on those “gotta treat yourself  kind of things," like on pound cake, ice cream, Belgian waffles, or French toast!

I also made some Cucumber Mint Jelly and the combination of the fresh cucumber juice and the mint is amazing.  I used pickling cucumbers from my garden and extracted the juice using my juicer.

So what to do with Cucumber-Mint Jelly?  How about a glaze on grilled lamb chops.  I had to try this and it was delicious.  Check out the picture.  I know it’s also going to be good on Salmon.  You can also mix it with cream cheese and cut up some fresh vegetables to dip in with.

This is a very exciting time for me. I’ve been canning and preserving for over 25 years and am having a blast watching a new generation begin to embrace this wonderful “lost art of canning” that has been such a big part of my life as long as I can remember. As a Personal Chef, I am also enjoying pairing so many of my condiments with meals that I prepare for my clients. I have so much more to share, so stay tuned…

Cucumber-Mint Jelly Recipe

Want to learn more? Host a Fresh From the Gardens Canning Party in your own home with 10 or more of your friends or family. And check out my short “Five Reasons” video on why you should learn Canning.

Book your holiday canning party now! October 17 through November 14.

 

Herb Pesto

I've said before that even if you don't have a green thumb, growing herbs is easy and fun to do. A sunny kitchen windowsill is a great place to grow herbs if you don't have garden space. I like to grow basil and thyme in little terra cotta pots in my kitchen since I use these two herbs most and its convenient to have them near when I'm cooking. This year our garden has an abundance of herbs and since people always ask me how to preserve herbs I'll share some quick and easy ideas and recipes.

imageimageMaking pesto is the perfect way to use up those herbs. I love any kind of pesto and having a variety of fresh herbs on hand lets me get creative. You're probably familiar with basil pesto but did you know that parsley, mint, oregano, cilantro, and oregano can be used to make pesto? Not crazy about pine nuts? Use almonds, walnuts or pecans instead. Here are a couple of simple recipes for adaptable pestos that can be used on grilled fish, chicken, roasted vegetables and steaks. I also like to flavor mashed potatoes and soups with pesto and I've been known to dip my french fries in basil pesto too.

Herb Pesto
 
Ingredients
  • Fresh Mint Pesto
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup almonds, toasted
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh Herb Pesto
  • ⅔ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup loosely packed torn basil leaves
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp oregano leaves
  • 1 tbsp rosemary leaves
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Process: Add everything to your processor and whirl it around until it has a thick paste-like consistency. I like mine on the chunky side but you may like it smoother. If it's too thick , add a bit of water.
 

Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays and added to other recipes long after herb growing season is over. Just fill ice cube trays, freeze, then pop into a plastic baggy to store in the freezer.