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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Wildflower Honey, Swan's Maine Beekeeper, Albion, Maine

I got this honey for the holidays. It is packaged (and likely harvested) in Maine by Swan's Honey, which is now owned by Lincoln and Karen Sennett. The Sennetts own a family farm in Maine that has been in their family for over 100 years, and kept bees to pollinate their crops (blueberries mostly). In 2002 the Sennetts bought Swan's Honey so that the 70-year old Maine company would continue. Since buying Swan's Honey, they've expanded their bee operation and now harvest, package and market Swan honey as well as produce and sell candles and balm. In addition, they are active in the beekeeping community, teach beekeeping, and provide pollination services to other farmers, some as far away as Florida (for the orange and other crops). Local honey production is generally blueberry and clover.

The raw and unfiltered wildflower honey that I have has a reputation of being authentic to the area. Clara wrote a brief online comment about it that says it has the same flavor as honey she remembers eating that her grandmother harvested.

It is an opaque soft, light yellow color. It is very, very creamy and looks as if it has been whipped, with the consistency of melted marshmallows.It has a very smooth flavor as it gradually melts in your mouth. It doesn't have a complicated taste, but a solid, cool, honey (slightly floral) sweetness throughout with the same after taste. Given the consistency and the robust, consistent flavor it would be perfect on buttered toast, in tea, in baking, in hot cereal or just eating right out of the jar. Yum.

I saw a few online sites that sell it, if you aren't in Maine and interested. Just search for Swan's Maine Beekeeper Raw & Unfiltered Wildflower Honey and the sites will pop up.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Radish Honey, The Bee Folks, Mount Airy, MD

Surfing one day online I found a website: where you can buy all sorts of interesting American honey and honey/bee products. I got my radish honey from them.

As per the website, the owners started out as a family of backyard beekeepers in Maryland but loved it so much they quit their day jobs and started beekeeping full time. Four or five years later, they have a great website and an impressive collection of honeys and honey products, including candles, hand creams, soap, and lip balms. A quick count of the number of varieties of honey they produce tallies to 17, with some that I've never come across before, like: butterbean, meadowfoam, snowberry and radish. I guess that a bee can make honey out of anything that it pollinates, but radishes? I guess radishes have flowers. A quick look online confirms that they do. Radish flowers are delicate, four petal flowers.

The radish honey has crystallized since I got it- it was liquid when it arrived but I stored it in a cool corner of the kitchen. It is a mellow opaque yellow color. The crystals are evenly spread throughout the jar. Sometimes crystals form in patterns, starting on the top or sides of the jar. It hasn't been the case for this honey. The crystals are also quite large. I can see their chunky outline when I dip a toothpick in. The taste is clean, clear, smooth and slightly spicy, a little like cloves. There is no discernible aftertaste, just a smooth taste of sweetness at the end. It has a very simple, clean taste but it is unusual in the subtle kick it has. It would be nice in some teas, on toast, in hot cereal and in baking.

If you want to try it, or other American honeys, you can buy it online at The Bee Folks website.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Miel de Garrigue, Le Mas des Abeilles, Col le Pointu, Bonnieux, France

This honey reminds me of a great trip we had in France one summer. We rented a gite in Malaucène in Provence, and with our compact rental car did a day trip to Senanque Abbey in the Vaucluse, near Gordes. I'm pretty sure I found this in the gift shop there. It was a clear summer day with the sun beating down. The noise of cicadas filled the air, and there was lavender in bloom in long fields leading up to the abbey. The drive to the abbey was on small, twisty roads through the mountains, and when we arrived the landscape impressed us, but more importantly, we were just happy to finally be out of the car. The lavender was a bonus.

I bought this particular honey because I didn't know what 'garrigue' was. It turns out it means 'wild hillside' honey- which isn't that descriptive. A quick search online and I found that garrigue honey often contains: thyme, rosemary, white clover, asphodel (a flowing plant of the family Asphodelaceae- google it and you'll see its pretty white flowers), or blackberry. These are wild hillsides in Provence, after all.

This particular garrigue honey comes from Le Mas des Abeilles in Col le Pointu, which is in the heart of Provence (and not far from the abbey). They have a fantastic website: complete with spectacular photos of the countryside. They describe their corner of Provence as 'paradis,' and I won't argue the point. You can also visit their operation; they have the dates/times that they are open to visitors on their website. I wish I had known and we would have made a side trip to visit them.

They produce artisan honeys that are raw, natural and unpasteurized. Apart from a variety of honeys (lavender, thyme, acacia, forest, rosemary, orange, etc.) they also produce and sell nougat, pralinos, honey candies, mustards and vinegars. And if you REALLY like one of the their honeys you can bypass buying the 250 gm jars and go straight to the 5 kg buckets. Had I known, my luggage might have been that much heavier on the way home...

The garrigue honey is a warm chestnut brown color. It has started to crystallize since I bought it (which happens naturally within a few months of being harvested). It is a rich, full-bodied honey with fragrant floral overtones, and a molasses undertone and after taste. It isn't too sweet, subtle or complicated, but very satisfying. I think it would be delicious on hot buttered toast, plain yoghurt, or in hot cereal. It may have too much flavor to use in tea, unless you'd like to change the flavor of the tea slightly.

It doesn't look like their website is set up to do online purchases, but they do have a 'contact us' email option, in case you are interested.