Bee-Keeping and Honey Recipes



Kindra Clineff

Backyard beekeeping yields sweet rewards. 

"The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams." —Henry David Thoreau

Phil Watson at his Amesbury home showing off honeybees.

If you can garden, you can be a beekeeper. It takes about the same amount of effort, not to mention that the honeybees will help your vegetables and flowers thrive. Even better than the honey and buttery beeswax, you’ll have the joy of a new hobby, plus the knowledge that you’re doing something to help bees in a time of crisis. There’s even a local organization to get you started: The Essex County Beekeepers’ Association (ECBA).

The ECBA, made up of 240 members and families, is a non-profit educational organization that was founded in 1923. Members meet monthly and stay in touch through a monthly newsletter, "The Essex County Beeline." The organization hosts the largest honey show in North America at the Topsfield Fair each year. Through demonstrations, winter beekeeping courses, an exhibit at the Fair, and presentations to schools and community groups, the ECBA educates the public about beekeeping and promotes its study. "The nine-week ‘bee class’ we offer in February has never been so packed," says ECBA’s current president, Phil Watson. "Taking the class is the best way to start. By spring, you’ll be ready to order your bees."

Your bee delivery is likely to come right to your door in an unusual package that houses a screened box containing a queen and thousands of worker bees. Such deliveries are typical, yet much anticipated among backyard beekeepers each spring. If you’ve taken the Association’s beekeeping class, you’ll be prepared—and excited—to get your hive of bees "busy" and to proudly consider yourself an official beekeeper. Ultimately, a new beekeeper gets to enjoy spinning out the surplus honey from the hives into jars, swapping recipes with other members of the ECBA, and tasting the sweet simplicity of a peanut butter and honey sandwich.

"I just love the girls," says ECBA’s vice president, Jane Wild. "Except for the few drones that mate with the queen, all the worker honeybees are girls. I get so attached to them because they work so hard and take such good care of the queen." In fact, it takes 12 bees their entire lifetime to make just one teaspoon of honey, with an average hive producing as much as 50 pounds. Wild and her husband, Robbie, also a beekeeper, have honey and honey products all around their circa-1740 West Newbury home. Got dry hands and elbows?  Wild has made a honey-based cream for that. Want to try some of Watson’s award-winning creamed honey? Wild has some on hand, along with a honey-processing bottling tank humming quietly in the corner, ready to dispense fresh honey for your tea.

Although there are so many positive things about backyard beekeeping, the biggest concern most people naturally have is the fear of being stung. Watson isn’t at all worried; in fact, he stings himself purposely. Pointing to his arthritic thumb knuckle, Watson tells how he places a honeybee there occasionally to get the benefits of the bee venom: "It doesn’t hurt that much and it really reduces the swelling." Watson goes on to explain how bee venom contains active components that have some pharmaceutical properties. Although the effects of the venom are not entirely known yet, scientists believe the venom modifies the way the immune system functions and contributes to an increase in cortisol production. "In general, you don’t get stung that often if you take the proper precautions," Watson says, adding, "and the sting [from a honeybee] isn’t as bad as from hornets or wasps."

When asked what attracted her and others to beekeeping years ago, Jane Wild answers with a question: "Don’t you know if you ask 12 beekeepers a question, you’ll get 13 answers?" After a contagious chuckle, Wild gets serious when she says, "Watching and listening to the bees as they come and go from the hive, collecting pollen, keeping the queen warm in the wintertime...it’s just so relaxing and peaceful." Watson says that when the bees are calm, "They lower your blood pressure with their gentle humming."

Wild and Watson also share how rewarding it is to be members of the ECBA: "We have such a sense of community. We meet at members’ homes, have ‘hive openings,’ and get to know each other’s children." Although all the products from the honey and the wax make beekeeping fun and even profitable, it’s really just the love of bees and beekeeping that motivates ECBA members.

Backyard beekeeping is challenging and rewarding, but some beekeepers go on to become "master beekeepers." A master beekeeper has to go through years of rigorous training before becoming certified. "You have to be outstanding in your field," says Watson. Recalling old friend and master beekeeper Bob Ross, there is a discussion about how he lived to the respectable age of 93, "hoping to hear the divine sound of the busy bees on a warm, sunny day one more time." Smiling, but teary eyed, Wild adds, "He’s hearing them all the time now."

 

For more information about the ECBA, visit essexcountybeekeepers.org. Visit them at the Beekeeping Building at the Topsfield Fair, October 4-14; topsfieldfair.org.

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Eric Baloy, Boston Cafe & Catering
"Eric Baloy was born and raised in France, where he attended culinary school in Paris before bringing his expertise to the North Shore at Boston Cafe & Catering. "I grew up eating crêpes with anything and everything," he says. A cup of honey makes this summer dessert naturally sweet.

Recipe provided by Eric Baloy, executive chef at Boston Cafe & Catering. 325 New Boston Street, Woburn, 781-938-9300, bostoncater.com

 

Berry Salad

  • 3 lbs. fresh strawberries
  • 2 lbs. fresh blueberries
  • 2 lbs. fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • 1 c. honey
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint
Mix eggs, sugar, and salt together in bowl.  Add flour and milk; mix all together, then blend in melted butter. Heat crêpe pan or non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Brush with melted butter to lightly grease. Pour 2 tbsp. of batter into pan. Tilt pan in circular motion, swirling batter to evenly cover base of pan. Cook until edge of crêpe begins to curl. Turn and cook until golden underneath. Crêpes should be lacy and thin enough to see through. Place prepared berry salad in a corner of each crêpe and fold over. Crêpes can be served warm or cold. Sprinkle sugar and honey on crêpes, adding mint as a garnish.

 

Crêpes

Honey-lemon berry-stuffed crepes
Honey-lemon berry-stuffed crepes

 

  • 6 eggs
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 4 oz. melted butter
  • 9 oz. flour (1 c., 2 tbsp.)
  • 2 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 pinch salt
  • Fresh mint, honey, and sugar for garnish
Mix eggs, sugar, and salt together in bowl.  Add flour and milk; mix all together, then blend in melted butter. Heat crêpe pan or non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Brush with melted butter to lightly grease. Pour 2 tbsp. of batter into pan. Tilt pan in circular motion, swirling batter to evenly cover base of pan. Cook until edge of crêpe begins to curl. Turn and cook until golden underneath. Crêpes should be lacy and thin enough to see through. Place prepared berry salad in a corner of each crêpe and fold over. Crêpes can be served warm or cold. Sprinkle sugar and honey on crêpes, adding mint as a garnish.

 

ESSEX COUNTY BEEKEEPER'S ASSOCIATION'S AWARD-WINNING HONEY BARBEQUE SAUCE

Recipe by ECBA member Tom Beaton

 

  • 1 minced onion
  • 1/2c. oil
  • 6 0z. tomato paste
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/3 c. lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 12-14 drops hot sauce
Saute onion oil until tender, but not soft. Add remaining ingredients. Blend and simmer for 1 hour. May be used immediately or refrigerated for later use.

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Suds & Such

 

Cody Brewing Company - Sean Cody makes artisan beers like "Gee Man’s Lemon Honey Hypnotic Tonic," which is brewed with one pound of honey per gallon, and "Honey Gingah Pale Ale," an extra-pale ale made with—you guessed it—ginger and honey. Both offerings are sold at select stores on the North Shore, including Pamplemousse in Salem and Leary’s in Newburyport, and served at restaurants such as Ten Center in Newburyport,  Vic’s Boat House in Salem, and the Barking Dog Ale House in Amesbury and Haverhill. Barking Dog also carries mead (honey beer) made by Michael Fairbrother of Londonderry, NH-based Moonlight Meadery. Amesbury, 978-397-4329, codybrewing.com, moonlightmeadery.com, barkingdogale.com

Cape Ann Brewing Company - Fisherman’s Honey Pilsner. A traditional Czech pilsner brewed with 20 pounds of local honey. Light and refreshing with a hint of honeycomb at the finish, this beer is great for a summer evening or a day at the beach. Gloucester, 978-282-7399, capeannbrewing.com

 

 

Tomten Beeworks candles Tomten Beeworks candles

 

Ymittos Candle Manufacturing Co. - If you’ve seen the movie Lincoln, then you’ve seen Ymittos Candles. The century-old Lowell-based  wholesale candle company fills custom candle orders for movies because they’re that historically accurate. They’re also great for large theme parties, catered events, and special occasions. Lowell, 978-453-2824

Eric Josephson - An award-winning artisan candle artist and beekeeper, Josephson has over 100 different types of candles, from tapers to more ornate, molded candles, and offers candlemaking workshops. Ipswich, 978-356-0449, beverlybees.com

Tomten Beeworks - When Mary Mansur isn’t teaching kindergarten at Cape Ann Waldorf School in Beverly, she and her family are making award-winning handcrafted beeswax candles, suncatchers, honey pots, raw liquid honey, creamed honey, and honeybeeswax soap. Her products are available via her website or at listed North Shore locations. Ipswich, 978-821-1299, tomtenbeeworks.com

 

Incredible Edibles

 

Susan Davis, bee loved honey soap
Susan Davis's "bee-loved" honey-based soap.

 

Milk & HoneyGreen Grocer - Offerings include honey and products made with local honey, such as granola, bread, and yogurt.  (Also available "fire cider," an old New England medicinal product made with honey and other ingredients.) Salem, 978-744-6639, milkandhoneysalem.com

SUZ Bath and Body- Susan Davis operates a dedicated shop out of her Boxford home, where she creates luxurious beeswax lip balms, honey lotion bars, and honey-based soaps. Order products directly from Davis’s Etsy website, or find them at Boxford’s West Village Provisions. 978-887-7214, etsy.com; 978-352-9711, westvillageprovisions.com

H Mart - Royal Jelly is sold in capsule form as a health tonic and is also a component in some skincare and natural beauty products. The substance is rare and difficult to collect from hives, and its price tag is often reflective of that. Burlington, 781-221-4570, hmart.com

Artful Eggs

Pysanky Eggs - To make these traditional Ukrainian decorative eggs (popular at Easter), their shells are coated with pure beeswax before the intricate designs are applied. Ipswich-based Eliza Goodell conducts workshops at the Newburyport library, but can be contacted directly for purchasing. 978-356-3989, ewgoodell@msn.com

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