This is the sixth in a series of weekly farm reports from our own Tom Hirschfeld, complete with recipes, cooking and gardening tips, and wisdom dispensed.
Today: The conclusion to Tom's beekeeping initiation, plus Asian Fried Chicken with Ginger Honey Sauce.
A Different Sort of Education, Part II
So now it is fall and the million drops of morning dew that glistened in the grass have finally dried up, and the sun has warmed the air enough that the bees are flying. Your bee veil hangs in the laundry room with your bee bag and the leather elbow-length lamb skin gloves and hive tools.
The bees are cantankerous this time of year. The sting of their vengeance is a little more potent since they lose so much to the cold, eventually even their freedom to fly. Their hive is at its maximum bee capacity and they have population to lose, so they take on a Hell’s Angels attitude.
You light the smoker filled with crumbled corn cob, use the bellows to get it going, then put on the veil, all at a considerable distance from the hive. Really you have no worries. You are plenty protected and if you believe what most beekeepers do, a sting or two is just the cure for the arthritis you have been feeling in your hands.
Smoke in a bee hive makes the bees panic. When they panic they try to eat as much honey as they can, but the honey calms their nerves thus calming the hive. Mama’s Little Helper in a round about way. So a couple of puffs of smoke under the hive cover and you hear a discordant buzz become a large harmonious hum. You close the lid and wait a minute or two before going to work.
Bees are flying everywhere now but few try to get at you.
You remove the two honey supers that remain on the hive, then place some medicated wafers on the hive body and put the lid back on. You brush all the bees off and get them away from the honey supers and you're done for today. The medicated wafers are used to rid the bees of varroa mites, which have become one of the major problems for bees. You treat bees in the early spring and in the fall, either before or after the honey flow so the honey isn’t affected by the drugs, natural or otherwise.
Sometime in the next few weeks you will bring the supers filled with frames of honey into the kitchen. The bright sun shines through the windows, warming the honey so it can be extracted.
It is a family affair. The girls chew on honey gum, as they call it, while you use a knife to remove the wax cappings from the honeycomb. The frames then go into the extractor and the girls start spinning. With each spin of the centrifuge comes the essence of summer. Every flower that bloomed in the last six months is filling the kitchen with its scent, from chamomile in early spring to late blooming golden rod. The kitchen has come alive with the smells of summer for one last hurrah.
Tom's Tips for Honey Extraction
1. Only extract capped honey (sealed by the bees). Otherwise you risk fermentation because the water content might be too high, allowing yeast to flourish.
2. Before spending lots of money on extraction equipment, look around at bee catalogs and then look around the house. You may find you have lots of things that will do the job you need done. An example: a meat slicing knife with dimples, like a Santoku, is perfect as a capping knife.
3. Beekeepers are very generous people and many who own an extractor are ready and willing to let others come over and borrow it. Just be a good steward of another’s
equipment and space and leave it exactly or better than you found it. A drop of honey on the bottom of a shoe makes a big mess after you track it around.
For the chicken:
1 chicken, about 3 1/2 pounds, cut into 9 pieces, the whole breast should be cut across the back bone not with it into three pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
4 cups water
peanut or canola oil
For the sauce:
1 tablespoon ginger, extremely finely minced
1 tablespoon garlic, extremely finely minced
3 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup green onion sliced into thin rounds
Want more life on the farm? See Part I of Tom's initiation to beekeeping: Procuring Bees and Honey Cake.