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Jammin’

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Although I have been quiet with my blogging I have been staying busy with the garden, the bees, the beer sampling and trying to make sense of the crazy politics. I promise that I will not bring politics into the mix…

I started picking my first strawberries in late December…not really enough to call a harvest but those that survived the trip from garden to kitchen were cleaned up and placed in a freezer bag. I tend to snack on the goodies when out in the garden, berries, snap peas and now the asparagus spears that are poking through. Thanks to a Valentines gift from my wife several years ago I have a little sink with running water in my garden. A quick rinse and I have a garden fresh snack.

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I don’t believe this one survived the trip into the kitchen. March has been a better month for strawberries and based on blossom count April should be awesome. I celebrated the first day of spring yesterday by whipping up a batch of strawberry jam. Results, 6 –  1/2 pint jars, 2 – 1/4 pint jars, 1 – 12 oz. jar and a miscellaneous sized cute jar found in amongst my canning supplies. FYI, I use the “SureJell” low sugar pectin and recipe as it allows, in my opinion, more of the fruit flavor to come through.

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Yum! I decided to label my jars with the label being used for my honey. The design for “Bishop’s Bees and Honey” is under revision….I hope to have a new logo and label design before first honey harvest around May 1st! By the end of April I should be managing 12-13 hives. I still have swarm traps out so that number could grow. I am more excited about those numbers than my wife is, but, she does do an amazing job selling my honey. My “honey” really knows how to move my honey!

Another brief note on berries…….the trails around our area are covered up with Dewberry blossoms. Dewberries are a small but tasty blackberry that grows wild here. This is the most amazing display of blossoms in the 12 years we have lived in Kingwood. I am looking forward to the harvest time….should be a good one.

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Just a sampling of what is to come.

TTFN

Bishop

Backyard Blackberry Honey Pepper Sauce

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This is a sauce that has four ingredients and  75% can be sourced from your backyard. 1. Blackberries, yes I do have blackberry vines in my backyard. 2. L Honey, well I had a hive in my backyard but a neighbor complained and I moved it to a yard nearby. 3. Peppers, I used a poblano pepper from my yard. 4. The tablespoon of sugar – well, it is store bought.

Simple, 16 ounces of blackberries but raspberries would work too. If frozen thaw before cooking.

1/4 to 1/3 cup of local raw honey. I used a 1/4 cup.

Pepper. I used a medium poblano that was from my garden. You can used black pepper, 1 tbsp, or any other peppers depending on your taste and desire for heat.

1 tbsp of sugar

Medium heat and stir often. To speed up the fruit breakdown I use a potato masher.

Run through a strainer once the consistency you want is reached. I am using mine for a pork loin glaze so I will let it thicken. Should also  be good on Blue Bell Vanilla ice cream!

Recipe lifted from;

https://thewisercook.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/blackberry-honey-pepper-sauce/

Simmering on the stove

Simmering on the stove

Added a bit of the pulp and seed back into the sauce for texture. I put it back onto the stove to simmer until it thickened to my liking. The taste and aroma are amazing. I think the pork loin will be a real treat.

TTFN

Bishop

Country Honey

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If you have been following along you will remember that my sweet neighbor filed  a complaint with the HOA about my bees. Some BS about the bees posing a threat. After 18 months in my backyard they suddenly posed a threat. Under protest and a deadline I moved the hive too far away but the location is very nice. The woman hosting the hive is a sweetheart, wants bees and takes good care of them. 

A couple of days ago my wife and I drove north to knock off two tasks. One, meet out son who attends Texas A&M University and two, me running over to the ranch and checking on the bees. My wife did some grocery shopping for Joe while I borrowed his truck to head over to the ranch. 

The hive seems to like it’s new home.  It is in a small fenced area to keep the cattle out and has enough sun under the big oak tree. There is a stock tank for water very close by. Looks like bee heaven. 

   
 
I think the site will look better next spring if I can add a few more hives. Two or three here and maybe another two or three across the road on a friends ranch.  I am hoping 6 hives in the area will help make the trips a little more profitable. I pulled the top super from the hive in preparation for winter, shuffled some frames and refreshed the hive beetle traps. The observed numbers of beetles was significantly lower on this trip – I like that! 

Yesterday I extracted honey pulling about 12 pounds or so from the frames. The honey is dark and rich tasting. I will send a couple of jars up to Johnnie at the ranch as payment for hosting and keeping the feeder full. The hive looks well set to make it through the winter. 

Next trip up I will add a resrictor to keep the mice out and slip a thin board under the hive to cut down on the cold air that can enter through the screened bottom board. 

TTFN

Bishop

More Honey, Honey

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” What are you making now?” she asked.

I have been enjoying my beekeeping and honey harvest activities over the last month or so if you have been following along. As a young lad….many, many, many years ago I fell in love with creamed, churned or whipped honey……It is know by several names. I decided to use some the odds and ends of small jars of my honey occupying shelves and whip some up. (Pun intended)

The creamed, whipped or churned honey is not really what the name  implies.  Anyone who has enjoyed raw honey knows that it will crystalize over time. This type of honey is also crystalized but there is a method to create very fine crystals that make the honey smooth and creamy.

So, to answer my wife’s question, “I am making creamed honey, honey!”

The process….”my Raw Honey”….- Raw honey has not been heated to temperatures that alter the health properties of honey, i.e., above 118 degrees F.  Much  of the commercial honey has been heated to 170 degrees F, destroying the health benefits….but it will stay liquid on the shelf for a very long time. Raw honey has also not been filtered, I run mine through a fine sieve to remove wax and other non honey particulates.

I poured about 3 pint jars of honey into a bowl. To that I added about a half pint of creamed honey purchased from the store.  The creamed honey is the catalyst, if you will, for the raw honey in the bowl.  After thoroughly blending the microcrystals are distributed and now become the template for the rest of the honey.

The  honey after it has  been thoroughly blended. Air bubble form at the top and I skimmed those off before  bottling.

The honey after it has been thoroughly blended. Air bubble form at the top and I skimmed those off before bottling.

 

Filled to the brim. I weighed the jars to ensure truth in labeling. These 4 ounce by volume jars hold 6 ounces by weight of honey. Don't you just love the English system? Otherwise it would be, 4 ounce [US, liquid] = 118.294 118 25 milliliter and 6 oz= 170.0971grams

Filled to the brim. I weighed the jars to ensure truth in labeling. These 4 ounce by volume jars hold 6 ounces by weight of honey. Don’t you just love the English system? Otherwise it would be, 118.294 milliliters and 170.097 grams – Just love that precision!

After filling four jars with pure honey I added some cinnamon to the remainder. I think it should be wonderful!

After filling four jars with pure honey I added some cinnamon to the remainder. I think it should be wonderful!

The jars posing before resting in a cool place for a week or so.

The jars posing before resting in a cool place for a week or so.

Can’t hardly wait!!!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

Last Harvest from My Top Bar Hive

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Sad story….Possibly, immediately after this last harvest the whole hive left….sometimes the old queen leaves and the hive has produced a new queen –  but I wasn’t so lucky. When I got back into it a few days later the robber bees were having  a field day. I salvaged some more honey but haven’t squeezed it yet….more on squeezing later.

A nice capped section of honeycomb ready to be cut off the bar.

A nice capped section of honeycomb ready to be cut off the bar.

My XXL gloved hand should give some perspective. I am still looking for XXXL gloves……fat hand, fat fingers and many, many auto-correct errors on my iPhone….that is a subject for another blog.

I am always amazed at how the bees draw comb....almost artistic in form and construction.

I am always amazed at how the bees draw comb….almost artistic in form and construction.

The comb above was not finished so it was shuffled around with the ones that I cut and replaced.

A nice pan full of lovely honey comb. It was a heavy haul.

A nice pan full of lovely honey comb. It was a heavy haul.

The squeezing process over a wire rack to catch the big chunks of wax as it drip through into a roasting pan.

The squeezing process over a wire rack to catch the big chunks of wax as it drips through into a roasting pan.

Pouring off  the honey and wax bits into the pail. There is a fine sieve screen that sits on the top of the pail to catch the small stuff.

Pouring off the honey and wax bits into the pail. There is a fine sieve screen that sits on the top of the pail to catch the small stuff.

Temptation....I was behaving but my wife and photographer snatched a few chunks of the delectable honeycomb for her snack.  One of our customers refers to the cut honeycomb as addictive.....It really is better than candy!

Temptation….I was behaving but my wife and photographer snatched a few chunks of the delectable honeycomb for her snack. One of our customers refers to the cut honeycomb as addictive…..It really is better than candy!

A hitchhiker from the hive area into the kitchen....This was one of 5 or 6 that we gathered up and escorted out to the backyard.

A hitchhiker from the hive area into the kitchen….This was one of 5 or 6 that we gathered up and escorted out to the backyard.

The second load from the roasting pan off  into the pail for straining. The wax is very evident on this shot.

The second load from the roasting pan off into the pail for straining. The wax is very evident on this shot.

Here is a shot of me squeezing the honey from the wax. I would squeeze and  compact the was as tight as I could. I then place it out near the hive and  the next several days it is wild watching the bees from the neighborhood clean the wax.

Here is a shot of me squeezing the honey from the wax. I would squeeze and compact the was as tight as I could. I then place it out near the hive and the next several days it is wild watching the bees from the neighborhood cleaning the wax.

12  pint jars - 18 pounds of honey and a little over 3 pounds in the white bucket. So danged good.

12 pint jars – 18 pounds of honey and a little over 3 pounds in the white bucket. So danged good.

I think my other empty top bar hive may become  a home for some swarming bees….I put some lemon grass oil in the hive and lots of bees are coming and going. it would be too funny if I recapture my bees!

TTFN

Bishop

Blogging Again

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A brief one to get the ball rolling…

The garden is still producing but not like in years past. The saving grace have been the cucumbers….Can’t give them away fast enough! The tomatoes are just pitiful looking specimens…..Oh, I pick a stray cherry tomato now and then but that is about it. The other success story is one of the banana varieties. I cut the stalk just below the female flowers after the plant switched to producing only male flowers. Those female flowers are developing nicely….time will tell.

I have a bee problem now…..a neighbor that has not been easy to get along with discovered my bee hive during a recent fence repair and filed a complaint. Almost 18 months with no issue but…….The HOA does not forbid bees but apparently there is a provision that if a resident “needs” protection from harm, i.e., bees, then I am the bad guy. They bees need a new home, far away from my yard.

The neighbor directly behind me is fully supportive of my bee keeping efforts. My neighbor to the east is a friend and fully supportive. The wicked witch to the West is the problem. Well, no honey for her! I have harvested about 8 gallons (about 90 pounds) from one hive and should have another good harvest just before fall.

My top bar hive is getting full. Tomorrow I am drafting my wife to give me a hand pulling some honeycomb and honey for my first harvest from this hive. It is a very healthy and strong hive. I am anxious to have it open tomorrow and show my wife how they build the comb and organize the activities inside the hive.

Nearly full width comb and deep into the box. We should see many, many more tomorrow.

Nearly full width comb and deep into the box. We should see many, many more tomorrow.

In two days I will move two of my hives to a farm, a little further than I wanted, but, I have a very interested woman that has been wanting bees. So off they go, both the large Langstroth hive and my top bar hive. I  retain ownership but, will have to travel to manage the hives. The second top bar hive was not to the bees liking when I installed them in May. They swarmed and moved off. Over the last few days there has been a small football sized mass of bees under some boards in the corner of my garden….they are now in my second top bar hive……I will see if I can keep it from scrutiny until it grows to the point that I can move it.

Took the cappings’ from today’s extraction of 6 medium frames. About two gallons of honey, 22 pounds was the result. I am using my solar “melter” to separate the wax and residual honey….nice, simple and easy way to do it. The solar box has a glass lid that helps hold the heat!

I mash the wax up on the top side of the SS pan. Still a bit of honey oozing out. Tomorrow the wax will be sitting on top of the water.

I mash the wax up on the top side of the SS pan. Still a bit of honey oozing out. Tomorrow the wax will be sitting on top of the water.

The melting process under the sun's heat melts the wax, drops out the trash as it drifts down to the water as relatively clean wax. I will later melt and filter it again through cheese cloth.

The melting process under the sun’s heat melts the wax, drops out the trash as it drifts down to the water as relatively clean wax. I will later melt and filter it again through cheese cloth.

Busy day today….I also transferred my Session India Pale Ale into the secondary fermenter. I added an ounce of Amarillo and an ounce of Simcoe hops……”dry hopping”. Should be amazing once finished. In a few days I will drop the temperature down to 34 degrees to get all the goodies to settle and bottle it. Can’t wait, but I will. Next up a beer using my honey as a component.

TTFN

Bishop

Something New in the Garden

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This find was unexpected up to a point. In the spring of 2014 I planted two varieties of banana tree in my garden. I was at the point of digging them out this year if they did not produce. The other drawback is the sheer size of the plants. They dominate their portion of the garden. 

This morning I went out to visit the garden after 10 days away. Daughter Lisa and son Ben kept things green while I was gone. I picked 4 nice cucumbers and have many more developing. The peppers are not doing well and the heat/humidity have done major harm to my tomatoes.  Looks like the potatoes in the cage will be good. There is always next year! 

  
My bees, two out of three hives look healthy. One of the top bar hives is in trouble. I will check it out later today. I have 4 gallons of honey to harvest this week! Yee Haw! 

Now, the surprise! I have bananas! Yessss! Now, I need to determine when to harvest. It is interesting to see how they develop and arrange themselves! I am looking forward to sampling the fruits soon! 

   
   
Now the wait!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

Where Have The Bees Gone?

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In the past my Meyer Lemon tree and the lime tree have been mobbed by bees when those blossoms burst out. The amazing citrus blossom scent can be detected by my puny olfactory senses from many yards away. Intoxicating! Spring of 2015 is very different. I have not observed a single honey bee visiting the blossoms. Not a single bee. What is odd about their absence? I have a huge bee hive in my backyard, 30 yards at the most from the two citrus trees. I see the bees returning to the hive loaded with pollen and the top two supers are packed with honey.

My Lemon Tree blossom being visited.....LAST YEAR!

My Lemon Tree blossom being visited…..LAST YEAR! Thee blossoms in 2015  have been lonely.

My Lemon tree just burst out into a second round of blossoms and they are lonely! For this second round of blossom I now have an additional two top bar hives, very active top bar hives! For whatever reason, my three hives are foraging somewhere else! The set of fruit has been very light this year but, this has been a very wet and stormy spring……not sure if that is a factor but I assumed that my bees would visit my citrus trees in large numbers….Wrong…..

This is what should be happening...again this is from 2014!

This is what should be happening…again this is from 2014!

Someone …. Probably many people in the neighborhood are benefitting from my bees, and yes, I do get a major benefits. The honey they are producing is mine to share as I see fit but, I may need to coach them a little better. Anybody speak bee? I could use a translator!!!!!

Maybe I need smarter  bees!

Maybe I need smarter bees!

TTFN

Bishop

Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam – A Sensuous Kitchen Experience

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The title….The title is an apt description of the jam making experience but I will keep the blog descriptors “G” rated. What was actually going through my mind – is open for interpretation. I found this recipe in the same place I found the Meyer Lemon Curd recipe in the “Food in Jars” blog I mentioned in the post published on December 27th…..wait, wasn’t that yesterday? Life has given me lemons, more correctly, Meyer Lemons, and lemonade is not high on my list. Three alternatives made to date; 1. Limoncello – still a few weeks from completion, 2. Meyer Lemon Curd – a double batch, and now 3. Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam. Three decadent treats and the decadence is not restricted to flavors.

I will attempt to recreate the “cooking” experience as safely as I can. It has been a nasty, drizzly and cool day here in the Houston area. I stepped outside into the drizzle and hand selected 5, plump Meyer Lemons for the primary ingredient! Don’t try to read my mind, I will tell you that Led Zeppelin lyrics did not pop into my head until just a moment ago, so lets put that one to rest. I also used local honey…not mine but very similar in flavor.

The first non-cooking thought that hit me while stirring the batch was triggered by the aromas caressing my nose…. it was the mix of honey and, what must have been the volatile oils from the Meyer Lemon peels. The aromas were like the spring blossom time for citrus, most notably, from a midnight ride many years ago on my motorcycle down Sunset Blvd. The trip started on the UCLA campus and ended at Will Rogers Beach in Santa Monica. I have written in the past about the intoxicating scent of those Sunset Boulevard citrus blossoms on that cool and clear night. Just an amazing memory of the scents burned into my memories. My passenger that night I’m sure has similar memories of that scent filled ride, along the sweeping turns, cool and scent filled night leading down to the beach. Mmmmm – great memories triggered by the aromas buried in my gray matter.

As I was day dreaming and replaying that ride down the windy Boulevard the aromas coming off the batch of jam began to change. My first impression was that of a citrusy – Jasmine perfume scent. I had some, uh hum…. interesting thoughts….if a women was wearing a scent like this, the temptation to nibble and nuzzle her neck would have been overpowering. Plucked from somewhere deep in my memory banks was a connecting thought….pair this perfume aroma with the fresh scent of Herbal Essence shampoo and the beast within would have been testing the chains! – Careful Bishop…. I wondered if it was just my maleness fueling the thoughts when my wife popped into the kitchen and noted the perfume like aroma coming off the pot on the stove. She provided confirmation that my olfactory sensors were correct. Her comment pulled me back to the task at hand…..Jam!

The boiling process went on longer than the recipe called for. In hindsight, based on how thickly the jam set up, 15 minutes of boiling is probably correct time. I went well beyond that based on my sense of the thickening. During that time the aroma changed from arousing….(can I use that word?) to something very pleasant. The new aroma made me think more about hot, buttered and toasted sourdough bread lathered with this jam…I am very basic in my desires! I went from carnal to primal over the course of about 25 minutes.

I wound up with almost two pints of jam, probably a little darker in color than expected. If I had cut off the boiling time at 15 minute’s it may have been several shades lighter. I am assuming some “carmelization” took place. The jam is very well set and very tasty. I have many more lemons to pick so my next batch may be a little different….in results, but I hope that some same memories are triggered, memories that still make me smile. My lemons could not have been any fresher, once picked they were washed and in the boiling/simmering pot in less than 8 minutes….that may help explain the abundance of volatile lemon oils in the kitchen. Note to self……lets go ultra fresh again.

Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam

Yield: 3 to 4 half pints, plus a little for your morning yogurt

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds meyer lemons
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups honey

Instructions

  1. Wash the lemons and place them in a saucepan that can hold them in a single layer. Cover them with the water and bring to a boil.
  2. Once the water is bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the lemons for 25 minutes, until the skins are tender but still hold together.
  3. Remove the pot from the heat and let the lemons cool completely.
  4. Place the lemons in a blender carafe and add two cups of the cooking water.
  5. Blend at low speed to break up the lemons. Take care not to puree them entirely smooth.
  6. Pour the lemon mix into a low, wide pan and add two cups of honey (choose something mild in flavor so that it doesn’t overpower the lemons).
  7. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to medium-high.
  8. Cook, stirring regularly, until the jam thickens and sheets off the back of your spoon or spatula. You can tell it’s nearly completion when it hisses and spits when you stir. My batch took all of 15 minutes of vigorous boiling to achieve set, but times will vary.
  9. When jam is finished cooking, remove pot from heat.
  10. Funnel jam into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes.
  11. When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a folded kitchen towel.

By on February 19, 2014 in jams, jellies, marmalades

 

My little dwarf Meyer Lemon tree on an earlier day.

My little dwarf Meyer Lemon tree on an earlier day.

In a few more weeks I should see my bees working the Lemon blossoms....Mmmmm so good!

In a few more weeks I should see my bees working the Lemon blossoms….Mmmmm so good!

TTFN

Bishop

Bee Tragedy Averted

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Houston had some huge downpours at the end of this week. I had noticed that my hive had a slightly forward leaning stance but wasn’t too concerned. I should have been! The ground softened and the weight in the upper portion of the hive caused the soft ground to give way and it apparently toppled.

Today is Saturday and based on input from my wife the hive was upright on Wednesday. Because of the rains she had not checked on my little guys. I arrived home Friday night and decided to spend time with my bride rather than in my garden and with the bees! That was a good choice and it paid dividends, but……….

So up and out to see my bees fairly early on Saturday morning and oops, the hive was upside down in the mud! The bees acted lethargic and many dead ones scattered about in the area! I scrambled to get some of my gear on, the smoker was just barely lit but I needed to help my little buddies out! I moved slowly and calmly as I added more support to the pedestal that the hive had previously sat upon.

I slowly restacked the hive, shimmed the hive so it was level and left them alone for a couple of hours. In the meantime I poured a portion of my quart jar of honey into a small a jar for a friend. Rather than rinse, or lick the excess honey from the funnel I decided to give my bees a treat and let them lick it clean. It doesn’t take long for the word to get out. A waggle dance here and a waggle dance there and the feeding frenzy is on! Those dang littl sugar ants find the treat pretty quickly too!

Once one bee has a sip of the good stuff the response is amazing!

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TTFN
Bishop

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