LAKE CITY, SC —
With the buzz around hives quieting down for the winter, bees and their keepers have harvested the last of the honey for the year. Now, it’s time to settle in for the winter with some of that golden honey the bees have been working on this summer and fall.
What may have been harvested as wildflower or clover honey in the spring and summer is now cotton honey for some beekeepers like Brian Fenters and his wife, Debra Moody-Fenters, of Stolen Honey in Lake City. Because bees pollinate blossoming flowers, their nectar — and the honey’s subsequent taste and color — is affected by the blossoms they pollinate.
“It’s delicious,” Fenters said as he chewed on part of a thin layer of honeycomb he’s melted off a pane taken from one of his hives. “I could eat it all.”
Fenters and his wife, son Craig McKnight and his daughter Zoe spent an afternoon in October learning about honey and extracting, or slinging, it from nine panes of honeycomb with a machine that rapidly spins the fixed panes quickly to get as much honey out of them as possible. The honey then pools in the bottom of the giant pot and flows from a spigot into a large, clean bucket with a mesh filter over it to prevent any unwanted particles from passing through.
With 21 hives and about 40,000 bees per hive, the Stolen Honey family produces enough honey to support demand from Lake City restaurant Foodscapes, which is also where they sell their honey exclusively.
“I just love the honey,” Foodscapes chef and owner Kathy Fridl said.
The signature dish in which Fridl uses the honey is vinaigrette in the Stolen Honey salad. “that salad is now becoming one of my best-selling salads,” she said.
Fridl uses the cotton honey in her vinaigrette because cotton honey has a much milder taste than the honey many people are used to. “Cotton honey doesn’t give you that zing,” she said. that helps it work well with the sliced Granny Smith apples and the local pecan encrusted goat cheese medallion that’s in the mixed green salad.
At Alchemy Tapas Bar & Lounge in Florence, executive chef Adam Silverman also is incorporating honey into several menu choices such as a light drizzle in the Thai pizza the and on the tupelo honey cheese plate.
“we use tupelo honey for its distinct flavor,” Silverman said. Tupelo is a premium variety with a delicate flavor grown primarily in northwest Florida and in Georgia, which is where the Savannah Bee Co., Silverman’s supplier, has its hives. “I use honey in about three to four of our dishes for its flavor.”
With a variety of honeys, all with distinct differences, on the market, there are a range of possibilities available to the cook who wants to experiment with one of nature’s best sweeteners and superfoods.
“Customers swear by the cotton honey. They put it on their skin to help with arthritis,” Fridl said. Honey is a powerful natural substance with healing powers for some people. Local honey can help relieve allergies, help with minor burns, soothe sore throats and help prevent scarring. The antibiotic properties of honey help make a great ointment for stings and bug bites and will even let you double dip your spoon into the jar with no worry of spreading bacteria, though others may not be too pleased.
“People are getting away from processed sugar,” beekeeper Mike Radcliff said. “And it doesn’t come more natural than honey.” Radcliffe was selling South Carolina Honey from Craig Bell, which can be found at farmers’ markets throughout the Pee Dee, at Ovis Hill Farm in Timmonsville a week ago.
Switching from sugar to honey can be a beneficial for several reasons. Honey contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals compared with none in refined sugars (the darker the honey, the more antioxidants), and honey has a lower glycemic index rating, allowing the body to absorb it slower than typical table sugar.
Honey makes for great glazes on breads or meats as well as adding more flavor to a marinade than, say, a tablespoon of sugar would provide. Fridl even drizzles some on butternut squash soup and whips honey with locally produced butter to make a honey butter.
Until the bees head out of the hive in late February to enjoy the red maples as their first meal, try some honey in your next dish or drink.
The following recipes are from the National Honey Board at Honey.com where hundreds more can be found:
Tapas of Short Ribs with Honey Chimichurri Sauce
1 bay leaf, finely chopped
1 pint extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped white onion
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 bunch Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons red bell pepper, minced
1 lemon, for juice and zest
1 Tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1-1/2 Tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
fresh cilantro, for garnish
In a mixing bowl, combine the dark honey, cilantro, Italian parsley, bell pepper, lemon, oregano, vinegar, smoked paprika, sea salt and black pepper to make the marinade. Refrigerate. Preheat oven to 350°F. Season the ribs with salt and black pepper and cut the ribs into serving portions. in a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, slowly sear the ribs until they are cooked and slightly browned. Pour off the excess olive oil and add ½ of the marinade over the ribs. Cover the pot with foil and place the pot in the oven for 90 minutes. Remove the pot from the oven and carefully place the ribs on a large platter. Serve the ribs with bowls of the chimichurri dipping sauce and garnish with large sprigs of cilantro.
Honey and Nut Glazed Brie
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 oz. (about 5-inch diameter) Brie cheese
In a small bowl, combine honey, pecans and brandy. place cheese on a large ovenproof platter or 9-inch pie plate. Bake in preheated 500°F oven 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese softens. Drizzle honey mixture over top of cheese. Bake 2 to 3 minutes longer or until topping is thoroughly heated. Do not melt cheese.
4 cups apple cider or apple juice
2 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cinnamon stick, 3 inches long
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 to 3/4 cup light rum, optional
Juice of 1 orange
Combine all ingredients except rum in medium saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer 5 minutes. Stir in rum just before serving, if desired.