Up until around eight months ago, if you’d arrived at our kitchen door at 8am, you’d have been in time to have a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a slice of ‘still warm’, home baked bread smeared with gloopy marmalade or jam. But we decided to give up eating wheat for a while to see if it made a difference to our health. It was a real challenge to find a satisfactory alternative to that delicious morning breakfast ritual. Did it make a difference? Strangely enough it did. Frans no longer suffers from constant heart burn. And now when he does have bread or sneaks a fist full of biscuits, he reaches for medication!
Living without bread is not too bad, as long as you don’t think about it! But there is an occasion where all caution and abstinence is disregarded and the ceremony of measuring out bread flour, lukewarm water, salt, sugar and yeast is celebrated with joyous anticipation. It’s Honey Day! It’s a day of uncapping honey frames and spinning the liquid gold from the cells.
I’ve written about honey extraction before I know, but each time we’re able to take honey from the bees, we do so with amazement. All throughout winter, Frans feeds his bees. Jugs of sugar water are mixed up three or four times a week and once it is dark, he heads out into the cold night to fill the feeders with the ‘honey food’. Feeding them at night is a practical consideration, as he doesn’t need to ‘suit up’ in the white space invader bee outfit or light a smoker to keep the bees calm. Instead, they’re quiet and all tucked up in their hives for the night. Why do we feed the bees you might ask? Most beekeepers do so to keep the hive strong. Without the constant winter feeding, the bees would consume all the honey that the hive has stored in it, leaving a weak hive at the beginning of spring.
In a typical season, the first honey extraction may take place around November, after the bees have had a few weeks of feasting on spring blossoms, filling the frames with honey. This time round, the bees have gifted us with an early bonus harvest. A week or so ago, when we had a lovely warm day, Frans checked the hives and was amazed at the volume of honey still in the frames. He needed to remove some honey so that over the next few weeks the bees would have space to create more liquid gold.
Out came the extraction gear and along with it the bread making ingredients. There is something quite special about feeding yourself with food created within sight of your back door. A phone call was made to friend and neighbour, Paul Troughton to come and enjoy the pleasure of the first honey vintage of the season. The bread maker began its clunking and whirring. Before long, the complimentary aromas of baking bread and honey filled the kitchen. The day was warm enough to open the back door and soon bees were bumping into the screen. They are attracted to the honey!
The honey flows from the barrel through a couple of filters and into a bucket. Calculations are made and recorded with each harvest, measuring liters vs. kilograms. I never thought about it much, but honey is heavier than standard liquids. A liter of honey weighs roughly 1.4kg. This wonderful gift from nature is packed with energy dense goodness.
And so when the final frame has been spun clean, there is only one thing left to do. It’s smoko time. The bread is sliced and buttered. A spoon is dipped into the bucket to scoop up some honey. Holding the spoon up high and twirling the honey onto the bread, it really does look like liquid gold. The bread is all but gone. Frans reaches for his medication!
Till next time,