The Bees’ Needs
Read about Tod Stewart’s adventures at Kawartha Lakes Honey in the December/January issue of Tidings Magazine.
So let’s say you decide to sell your shares in the brokerage firm you work for. Then, Green Acres-like, toss the city for the country to construct an armada of hives stocked with pampered genus Apis (these being honey bees; those black and yellow, aerodynamically implausible buzzing blimps in the garden? Bumblebees. Not the same) to provide you with a range of sublimely unique honey. How does the whole process work?
You need bees, for one (duh). You can purchase a “nucleus colony” (or “nuc” in beekeep parlance) from beekeepers. Nucs are essentially “mini hives” containing a queen (usually), drones, workers and eggs. Then you need a true hive or two to expand operations. These are typically square wooden boxes that can be stacked vertically. The bottom two boxes house the brood proper while those stacked on top (called honey supers) are used by the beekeeper for the collection of honey. These boxes are fitted with frames – typically eight to ten – into which the bees build honeycombs to be filled with, among other things, honey. (Look up “Langstroth hives” on the interweb for more info.)
Once you harvest the honey-laden frames (beekeeper duds recommended for novices – or those allergic) you’ll need to shear off the wax cappings to expose the honeycomb cells. A heated electric vibrating guillotine-type knife-thingy accomplishes this easily. To recover any residual honey trapped in the wax, a trough fitted with heat lamps will help separate the liquid from the wax. You get the now exposed honey free from the honeycomb cells attached to the frame via an extractor (essentially a centrifuge). The honey is literally spun out of the frames and collected and transferred to large drums prior to packaging in jars, bottles, cans … whatever. Since bacteria won’t grow in honey and the stuff can’t spoil, you don’t have to worry about refrigeration, pasteurization or other preservation requirements.
A Taste of (Kawartha Lakes Honey) Honey
To up the aroma quotient we zapped each small sample in a microwave to warm them and better release aromas (bet ya never thought of that!).
Kawartha Lakes Honey – Basswood
Pale gold in colour, this mild yet complex honey displays slightly fruity, woodsy, cereal grain and mild yeasty notes. Very sweet, yet with a balancing acidic component, it showed candied orange peel, a touch of spice and a long, lemon-drop-tinged finish.
Kawartha Lakes Honey – Goldenrod
From the bees’ final harvest of the season comes an intense, earthy honey offering up notes of truffle, wild herbs, white flowers and malted barley. On the palate the sweetness is less pronounced than the Basswood with traces of Orange Pekoe tea and ripe melon.
Kawartha Lakes Honey – Purple Loosestrife
Not a plant we really want (it’s invasive and dangerous to native plants), but the bees have made it a decent enough reason to have it around. Aromatically complex with shades of lavendar, candied clementine, floral perfume and mild vegetal notes it sports an engaging flavour profile hinting at quince jelly, anise, wildflower and (surprisingly) bran muffin. Incredibly long, memorable finish. Our favourite.
Kawartha Lakes Honey – Buckwheat
This is not a honey for the faint of palate. Funky, barnyard, meaty aromas with notes of peat bog, undergrowth, maple syrup and molasses segue into earthy, citrus and eucalyptus flavours with traces of menthol and caramelized brown sugar. The “aged Burgundy” of honey.