Monday, July 18, 2011

Canning And Preserving Using Honey

Canning time is upon us! My mom canned a little bit when I was a tiny lass until she had a major canner explosion and was scared ever since.  So I really didn't see anyone can or preserve food when was I was younger, and didn't know anyone who did it when I became an adult.  At least if they did, it was a well kept secret, and it wasn't until a couple of years ago that my good friend Tricia showed me how to do it.  I had always preserved simply by freezing or drying up to that point, but now I'm a canning convert.

Canning parties are gaining popularity right now, especially with folks in the city.  Canning fresh, organic foods in season is the only way to truly obtain the best foods possible for your family through the winter months. You could certainly buy foods out of season, but that also means it's been picked while green, shipped and trucked thousands of miles--using tremendous resources we can hardly afford anymore--and it's usually pretty bland in taste.( Folks who have never tasted a fresh tomatoe right out of the garden have no real idea of how a true vine ripened tomatoe tastes.) You can buy factory canned food, loaded with salt, preservatives, and other things unpronounceable, but common sense, science, and our doctors are telling us now that these processed foods are not good for us.

Before you start canning, you must know how to can.  I would recommend you get the Ball Complete Guide to Preserving. If you are getting a new canner, read the guide thoroughly.  If you are using a used canner, and it doesn't have a guide, please make sure you are either a seasoned canner, or you can call the manufacturer and ask for a book. If you don't know what your are doing, or you do some steps incorrectly, you can run the serious risk of hurting or making sick yourself or others you feed.

You can can and preserve with honey! Most canning manufacturers say you can substitute up to half the sugar called for in a canning recipe with honey.  If you were to use all honey, which some do, it will make your finished product much darker, and can cause some issues with any pectin you are using, but you be the judge.  In recipes using a commercial pectin, you can replace regular sugar with up to 1 cup of honey with good results. Otherwise, substituting honey for sugar is all a matter of taste.

Try this applesauce recipe for canning.  Follow YOUR manufacturer's directions for canning with YOUR canner.

Applesauce with Honey
16 c apples- peeled, cored, cut up
1 c water
2 t lemon juice
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t allspice
Start with 3 T honey, up to 1/4 c of honey to your taste

Put apples, lemon and water in pot, bring to boil and cook until soft.  Add the honey and spices at the end, cooking a few more minutes.  Either smash with wooden spoon if desiring chunky, or put in blender if desiring a smoother texture. Follow your manufacturer's guide to canning.  Can be frozen in containers with good results as well.

Here's a couple of recommended resources for more information: Canning and Preserving Without Sugar by Norma McRae and Putting It Up with Honey by Susan Geiskopf.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

HAS Musings and a Honey Cake

David, Karee, Christian and I had the opportunity to attend the 10th annual Heartland Apicultural Society (HAS) meeting in Vincennes, Indiana this past week. We saw a lot of old friends, many of our customers, and met some new folks who follow us on our blogs and podcasts. David and I both taught classes--he taught summer management while I taught extraction classes.  I don't know about him, but the folks in my classes were a lot of fun and I learned a few things myself.

It's always interesting going to these meetings.  The beekeepers themselves run the gamut.  Some beekeepers are very organic, natural minded folks with a top bar hive or two and then you'll have the big commercial guys who have thousands of hives that pay their mortgage. You see old women, and teenage boys, Amish and homeschooling families, and city professionals. Most beekeepers tend to be the most honest, hard working and creative people I know.  A lot of them have small family farms like us and then again, some live in the concrete jungle--just as interested in raising and eating good fresh food like we are. 

The workshop classes can be very interesting, or aggravating at best.  You'll hear a teacher in one class tell you to do one thing, and then the next teacher in the next class tell you to do the exact opposite. (You've heard the old saying: put 10 beekeepers in a room, ask them a question, and you'll get 12 different answers.) And the truly frustrating thing is that they are both right! You simply can not bee keep the same way in different environments. Some teachers are just good 'ol beekeepers, while others are entomologists at big universities.  Some teachers haven't ever really beekeeped but do mostly research on honeybees, or perhaps only produce craft projects from the products of the hives or provide "bee-tique" items. Which ever they are, generally speaking, the teachers have excelled in their area in one way or another and can provide good information. 

I enjoy the most the teachers who ask me to stretch a little--these are the passionate teachers who are more philosophical about beekeeping than perhaps practical.  Practicality is important in beekeeping--you have to get the work done, and with as little money and time as possible. But when you approach beekeeping from only the practicality issue, you miss opportunities to be a better person, to make life better for yourself or maybe even others. Some take the philosophy too much to the extreme for me, as an example in one class I attended the general idea put forth was that natural, sustainable beekeeping can only be truly done in a top bar hive--which is certainly not true.  But since I was sitting in a big class full of Michael Stivicks (All in The Family) and I was afraid of being hit over the head with a protest sign, I thought I'd keep quiet.  But I'll get my chance when I teach my own natural, sustainable beekeeping class later this fall.

All in all, quite an enjoyable event and ran pretty smoothly as far as I can see. We enjoyed a big birthday cake on Friday, so I thought I'd put in my recipe for honey cake for you all to enjoy.

Honey Cake
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup honey
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup warm coffee or strong tea
1/2 cup fresh orange juice, along with a few peel shavings
1/4 cup rye or whiskey

Preheat over to 350 and grease either a bundt-type pan or at least a 9 x 13 sheet pan.

Mix dry ingredients together first, making a well and putting in the wet ingredients.  Mix well and spoon into pan.  Bundt pan will take from 60 - 75 minutes, sheet cakes around 45 minutes. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ladies in the Apiary and a Cool Honey Drink

1937 magazine picture of some gals in the apiary
American Bee Journal

What a little bit of summer nostalgia! It was fun recently to come across this old magazine picture from the 30's of some women in the bee yard at a place called the National Farm School in Pennsylvania.  The women here appeared nameless in the article however, only being referred to as the 'beekeeper's wife', a 'a clerk at the school', and the 'school librarian'.  I wasn't for sure if they were actual beekeepers themselves or not, or just sitting pretty by the beehives.

The apiary was situated in the orchard, and the records indicate that the average production was around 50 lbs of honey per hive (it's typically higher than that now, ranging from 50 - 100 lbs per hive).  Cost in 1937 for a pound of honey: .25 cents.  (It's anywhere from $2 - $8 per lb now.)

Speaking of prices, we stopped at a local fast food place recently for a strawberry-lemonade.  Not only was I shocked at the price, but also the calories in it.  A quick scouring of the internet showed me, once again, that it's hard to find good recipes--especially drinks-- with honey, so here is my adaptation:

Honey Strawberry Lemonade
5 or 6 fresh or frozen strawberries (clean and hull fresh strawberries)
1/4 to 1/2 c honey (more or less to your own liking)
1 small can frozen lemonade concentrate, made according to directions (you will only use about 1/2 of this in the recipe)
Ice cubes 

In blender, process strawberries with honey until pureed. If using frozen, no need to thaw first. Add lemonade and blend.  Use a few ice cubes if using fresh strawberries and it's not "slushy" enough for you or you can add the frozen lemonade straight into the blender without making according to directions first.   Substitute limeade concentrate for lemonade for a twist. Can use maple syrup or stevia in place of honey (but why would you want to do that?) 

Honey Strawberry Tea Cooler (Adapted from the National Honey Board)
1 pint strawberries
1/2 c honey
1 can frozen orange juice
2 cups brewed green tea

Process strawberries and honey in blender.  Add juice and stir into tea.  Serve over ice.