I am a new apiarist (beekeeper) and a rather nervous one at that. Bees sting. I have managed to survive more than half a century without being stung by a bee and my over active imagination has me convinced that when I am stung (it’s an occupational hazard I’m told) I will go straight into anaphylactic shock and die.
Last summer I lured a few friends to lunch with the intention that they spent the afternoon helping me assemble two very beautiful traditional cedar bee hives, known as WBCs (named after its designer William Broughton Carr). These are the classic hives that you see in illustrations and paintings. They are good hives, staying cool in summer and warm in winter, and just ideal for my superior bees. The hive assembly was quite an undertaking but we were led by my ‘Bee man’ in a ‘flat-pack assembly’ team activity. Then came the bees – 10,000 of the noisy little blighters. Bee man handled the whole thing with great calm and confidence, from what I could see. I was half way down the garden dressed up like Michelin man in a specially made outfit with netted hat, two pairs of trousers, leather gloves and boots. Those little critters weren’t sending me to an early grave.
Both I and my bees survived the winter, the bees with a weekly feed of sugar syrup and a little fondant in the spring. The two queen bees were strong and worked hard laying eggs whilst their now 50,000 offspring busied themselves making my lovely honey. May is swarm season which made me extraordinarily anxious (not to mention exhausted, climbing in and out of Michelin man’s outfit and sending my heart a racing). The bees swarmed five times that we know of. Bee man came to the rescue each time and took away my welltempered gentle bees depleting the hives considerably.
We harvested the spring honey in early June and I spent a couple of hours with Bee man spinning the frames in a violent centrifugal machine that we had to hold to the floor, before returning the frames back to the hives. 40 lb of pure, clear light-coloured honey poured out of the tap. It looked and smelt nothing like any honey I have used before. I don’t like honey which is a little ironic, but I had a teaspoon of this golden nectar – it is superb, tastes like a hedgerow and smells, sweet, fruity and perfumed. It resembles nothing like the commercial honey you can buy. It seems my bees had been bringing back pollen from the local rape crops, so my honey went like concrete. This is quite normal I understand. I now need to warm it up very gently and it will return to the clear liquid gold it started as, before jarring up and labelling and running a few jars down to Ludwell Stores. If you are a honey lover, then please try the local spring honey – every jar will taste deliciously different. Let’s hope the summer crop will be even better. Thank you bees, and thank you Bee man.
Donheads Honey and Sea Salt Ice Cream (for cheats)
Approx. £6.50 when all ingredients bought at Ludwell Stores.
If you're a fan of salted caramel, I'm willing to bet you'll love this one too. It’s not your traditional ice cream with eggs and heat and anxious churning. There are only four ingredients, and no ice-cream maker needed! If you don’t like sea salt in your mix, simply remove it. You could add a tablespoon of whisky, honeycomb, nuts or crystallised fruits etc. Adjust the base recipe as you see fit.
600 ml double cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk (397 gm)
4 tbs (60 ml) local runny honey plus 1 tablespoon for topping and a little more for serving. (According to Bee man, if your honey has crystallised, warm it slowly in the jar to return it to runny, golden nectar)
½ tsp best sea salt you can get (Ludwell Stores sells Fleur de sel amongst others)
To make the ice cream
1. Pour the cream into the bowl of a stand mixer affixed with the whisk attachment. Start out mixing on low speed, then slowly increase speed to high and mix until the cream forms stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Be careful not to overwhip or you are done for! You can also use a bowl and a hand mixer, just takes a little longer.
2. Using a spatula, gently fold in the sweetened condensed milk, honey, and ½ teaspoon sea salt into the whipped cream (plus any alternative or extra ingredients you might be using).
3. Continue stirring gently until completely combined. Pour into a freezer-safe container with airtight lid. Drizzle the top with 1 tablespoon honey. Seal.
4. Freeze until solid, at least 6 hours.
5. Scoop into cups, bowls, or into cones; drizzle individual servings with a little more honey and a bonus pinch of sea salt if desired. Or serve with sun warmed raspberries and strawberries, or with pancakes, bananas and an extra drizzle of lovely runny honey.
Luxurious creaminess, honey's slightly floral nuances and flecks of briny sea salt elevate this to absolute summer perfection.
A truly, truly scrumptious treat without all the faff.
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.