Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beekeeping and Spring Grilled Dinner


I've been busy.

Busy as a bee you might say.

The days have been dawning with perfect spring weather (a welcome change after all the rain, then blistering heat we've had). Cool, crisp, sunny. The perfect combination for cleaning out flower beds, setting in seed, spreading compost and learning about Beekeeping.

Yes, bees. Honey bees to be exact.

My friend Anne and I took an Apiarist Class on Saturday at Alstede Farm in Chester, NJ.

Such fun! And not a single sting.

What I learned:

  • A single healthy, backyard hive can produce about 70 pounds of honey for the home beekeeper (they produce more but you have to leave them some for the winter)
  • Bees are not out to sting you. They are merely guarding their home. Stay back about 5 feet from the hive and you are okay.
  • The queen bee lives about 2 years. All the other bees, about 4 to 6 weeks.
  • The hive is really an organized community with nurses, nurseries, workers, wax makers, nectar collectors, guards, honey makers and even bees whose job it is to cool or heat the place. I guess these are the HVAC Bees.
  • Bees are house trained. They will not soil in their hive and will "hold it" up to 3 weeks if need be, until they can leave the hive and seek relief outside.
  • A bee will travel up to 4 miles from their hive to seek nectar.
  • It takes 9 pounds of nectar to make 1 pound of wax or 1 pound of honey.
  • The drone bee's only job is to mate with the queen. Then, they die.
  • It's good to be the queen.
The class covered all aspects of beginning beekeeping. I was mesmerized. I would like to be an Apiarist once we move up to "the land". Studies have shown that gardeners who keep bees (about a hive per 2 acres) will increase their yield by 100% percent.
That sounds like a deal to me, plus you get HONEY!!

I left Alstede Farms with new found respect for bees, a better understanding of the nature of beekeeping and a real craving for honey.

Fortunately, along with freshly picked asparagus, the farm stand was selling honey. Go figure.

To me, this meal spells springtime, it incorporates fresh spring lamb, honey, peaches and of course, asparagus:

Coffee-glazed lamb chops with honeyed peach chutney and fresh grilled asparagus (serves 4)

1 rack of lamb (8 ribs) cut into double chops (2 bones) remove from refrigerator 1 hour prior to grilling and season with salt and pepper

Heat grill to medium high.

For the glaze:
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon white or dark rum
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes

Combine all the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to boil the liquid until it is reduced and becomes syrupy and coats the back of a spoon. About 6 minutes. Set aside.

Peach Chutney:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup dried fruit (raisins, apricots or cherries) I like cherries, but any are delicious!
2 cups frozen peach slices
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (torn)

Sweat the onion, ginger and pepper flakes in the olive oil until onion is soft and translucent.
Add the dried fruit, water, honey and vinegar and cook for about 5 minutes until the fruit is soft and the liquid is syrupy.
Take off the heat, stir in the peaches and seasonings, except for the mint. Cover.

Grilled Asparagus:
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed by snapping off bottoms
drizzle of olive oil
drizzle of balsamic vinegar (I like white balsamic for this, but dark is good too)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper.

Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and vinegar, toss to coat.

Grill lamb chops, basting with the coffee glaze; about 6 minutes per side for medium.

Add asparagus to hot grill, grill for about a minute, roll and grill for another minute. Remove to platter and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Plate the lamb chops. Stir the mint into the chutney, serve on the side with the asparagus.

A Cook's Notes: If you feel you need a starch with this meal, make corn bread but substitute the milk in your recipe with coconut milk and throw in a hand full of flaked coconut to the batter. Bake as you normally would. This will add a Jamaican flair to your dinner. And who doesn't like the carribean?

While I was "bee"ing a bee student I caught sight of these little darlings, how cute are they?


  1. Bee keeping!? I never knew how wonderful and organized bees are! What a great class to take. Thank goodness you didn't get a little sting. :)

  2. European honey bees are used for pollinating many crops, and they are in decline or being forced out by Africanized bees or breeding with them.. Good producers, but not the gentle bee we are used to.. I glad you are taking an interest in this!

  3. You just put the asparagus on the grill? Wow! I wasn't that brave. I thought it would fall through and then I'd lose my precious greenery.

  4. I love bees! I would love to have bees and have my own honey. Maybe not a good idea with a campground, though. We have bats and they keep the mosquito population down. Some of the campers find that objectionable. One man even offered to kill them for me!

    My hog was purchased from a local farmer. My husband morphed into he who wraps meat and wrapped while the nice man cut. Nothing smoked. I was kind of bummed about that. The sausage was seasoned by my husband and is pretty bland. He was afraid he might get it too spicy. I can always kick it up a notch when I cook it and I figure I can use it pretty much as I would ground beef.And my freezer has never been so organized!!

  5. Phoebe - the hive is an amazing place of organization and cooperation among the bees. Most beekeepers encourage a sting or two every season, they say you become immune to the toxin that way. I think I'll just keep the suit on!

    Buffalo - African bees are just more aggressive than the Italian and German varieties. Actually, as they intermate, they are becoming LESS aggressive. Agricultural pesticides are doing more harm to the bee population they we know and is currently the #1 suspect in hive collapse. My wonderful neighbors are encouraging me to begin beekeeping here, right in suburbia! how wonderful is that?

    Kate - put the asparagus on like this IIIII if the grill grate is like this ==== they won't fall through - just move slowly! Delicious!

    Kathy - Can you imagine? Killing bats? Oh, if only people would become more informed of the many services bats and bees and insects play in our lives.

    Good for you for buying from a local farmer! Your taste buds will be rewarded! And yes, you can add spices to the sausage and use it just like hamburger.. mmm... good eating at your place this summer, what time did you say dinner was?

  6. I know you say bees aren't out to sting, but it's so tempting to shoo them away. I for one don't trust them!!

    Fabulous recipe as always.

    CJ xx

  7. That's fascinating stuff, about the bees. There's nothing like fresh honey! Yummy! How pissed do the bees get when you swipe their honey?

  8. Yikes, I'm allergic to bees and wasp stings! But, I do love honey! Very interesting post, and that peach chutney looks divine! Thanks for sharing, cher!

  9. Oh, a fabulous recipe for lamb!! I have not much experience fixing lamb...and so this is WONDERFUL! Fascinating facts about the bees, as well! Such a delightful post...but then, you do always write such great blog posts! ~Janine XO

  10. I will be super impressed if you become a bee keeper.


Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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