Tag Archive | DIY

Flavorings for Homemade Cream Honey

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sure, cream honey is delicious “as is”, but if you’re already putting in the effort, why not split the batch and add some flavors?

If you’ve never heard of or made cream honey, then revert back to my recent post on Making Cream Honey, then come back here and learn how to kick it up a notch!

The following provides an overview of popular flavorings and additives for cream honey, as well as recommended amounts and online sources for purchasing these ingredients.

Freeze Dried Fruit

Photo from Nuts.com - their website offers a variety of dried, powdered organic fruits.

Nuts.com offers a variety of dried, powdered organic fruits that make great additions to cream honey. (Photo from Nuts.com)

Powdered freeze dried fruit mixes well with cream honey to add a whole new dimension of flavor.  A little goes a long way, so start with a very small amount and add as you go.  In fact, that’s good advice when adding any kind of flavor additive – you can always add more, but you can’t take it out once it’s been added.

  • Suggested Ratio: Start with 1/2 tsp per pound and go from there.  Better to add less than you think you’ll need since powdered freeze dried fruit will absorb moisture and expand, resulting in a harder product that may be difficult to spread. Use honey that has an 18% moisture content.  Higher moisture content will allow for some absorption while still producing a balanced and spreadable product.
  • Suggested Flavorings: Taste your honey and think about compatible flavors.  Darker, heavier flavored honeys might work better with darker, richer fruits, like cherries or blackberries.  Lighter, fruitier honeys might go well with brighter flavored fruits like mango, apricot, or raspberries.
  • Sources:

Flavor Oils

Lorann Oils offers a wide variety of quality flavor oils that work great in cream honey.  Shown are three of my favorites.

Flavor oils can be very strong, and some are stronger than others, so only a very small amount may be needed.  Remember, you can always add flavor, but you can’t take it out.

  • Suggested Ratio: I use about 1/4 tsp per 1 pound of honey.  However, start with 1/8 tsp, taste, and repeat until you’ve achieved a flavor level that you’re happy with.  For very strong flavors, consider using a dropper to test even smaller amounts.
  • Suggested Flavorings: All honey tastes different, so use flavors that are compatible with your honey.  Some of my favorites include:  Vanilla Nut, Blackberry, Cinnamon Roll, and Orange Cream.  Consider using food grade essential oils, like lavender, orange, geranium, or chile oil.

Stir a drop of flavoring with a tbsp. of honey to test new flavors and combinations.

  • Sources:
  • LorAnn Oils. I get all of my flavor oils from LorAnn Oils because they are top quality, food grade.  Even their essential oils are food grade.  They also have a huge selection of flavors.  Let them know you’re a beekeeper, and the folks at LorAnn Oils will provide a code to access their wholesale prices.

Ground Nuts or Nut Meal

Photo from Pecans.com - A quality online source for pecan products, including pecan meal.

Pecans.com is a quality online source for pecan products, including pecan meal.  (Photo from Pecans.com)

Nuts used for cream honey are typically ground into a meal, then mixed into the honey for even flavor and distribution.  Then some larger pieces may be mixed in for aesthetics and added crunch.  Keep in mind, this will be spread on toast or pancakes, so keep the larger pieces to a medium chop – not too fine, but not too course.

  • Suggested Ratio: Start with 1 oz. of nut meal + 1 oz nut pieces per 1 pound of honey.  Adjust as you go.
  • Suggested Nuts: Pecans are the most popular; however, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews or pistachios might also make good additions.  Again, match the nut flavor to the honey flavor.

If making your own meal, then enhance the flavor by toasting the nuts in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes (watch them closely!).

Bring toasted nuts to room temperature before grinding, and be careful not to make nut butter.

  • Sources: Most honey professionals leave the nut grinding to the nut professionals.  It might be a good idea to start with purchased nut meal.  Nut meal can be ordered online from any of the following sources:

Ground Spices

Penzey's has top quality spices and a HUGE selection. (Photo from Penzeys.com)

Penzey’s has top quality spices and a HUGE selection. (Photo from Penzeys.com)

Dried, ground spices can be delicious in cream honey.  Imagine stirring cinnamon cream honey into your morning oatmeal.  Yum!

  • Suggested Ratio: Again, start very slowly when adding dried spices – maybe a pinch per pound to start, then taste and adjust from there.
  • Suggested Spices: Again, compatibility is key.  Don’t use overpowering spices in a light floral honey.  Try a very small amount of spice in a small amount of honey and taste before plunging it into the full batch.

Use only fresh, high quality spices.  Honey is too precious to skimp!

Great additions might include ginger, dried chilies, ground cinnamon, ground powdered vanilla, mint, allspice, anise…or a carefully crafted blend.

  • Sources:
    • Penzeys – Trusted name in spices and awesome selection!  I’m a huge fan.

Some final notes:

  • Consider combining flavors, like vanilla pecan, or dried peach w/ cinnamon.
  • If you add too much of any flavor type, just add more honey to balance it out.
  • When selling cream honey products, remember to include ALL ingredients on the labels, and consider adding an allergen warning if nuts are added.
  • Properly processed cream honey can be stored at room temperature. However, it will break down at higher temperatures.  Especially on hot days, consider keeping it in a cooler location (i.e. basement or pantry).
  • If you have plain cream honey on hand, you can add flavoring by simply whipping it with a blender and adding your flavors.  Store the cream honey in a cool (ideally 58 degree) location to allow it to reset.
  • Take copious notes and write down your recipes!  Note what works, what doesn’t work, additives to honey ratios, and the processes used to make the cream honey recipes.  That way every batch will be perfect and consistent.

I hope this info gets you excited enough to experiment with making your own cream honey!  It’s delicious, a fun science project to make with kids, and a unique homemade gift for friends and family.

Thanks for visiting, and do share your recipes and pics!

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Making Cream Honey (not just for beekeepers!)

Wednesday, January 31, 2017

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What IS cream honey? 

Oh my, if you’re a beekeeper or a simply a honey lover, then you must learn how to make cream honey.  It makes a delicious and unique gift for friends, family, co-workers, teachers, mailpersons…even kids!  And if you’re looking for a good way to use up the hard, crystalized honey that’s been sitting in your basement for the past three years, then look no further – cream honey is the answer.

How it works…

Honey never goes bad, but it does crystalize.  The crystals are very granular – the size and texture of granulated sugar or fine sand.  As the crystals grow throughout the honey, they maintain this granular size, resulting in a thick, rough, clumpy consistency that’s better dissolved in hot liquids than spread on toast or pancakes.

Now, imagine if you could dramatically reduce the size of the crystals so that, as they grow throughout the honey, they create a creamy, smooth, spreadable product that’s fantastic on toast or pancakes.  That’s cream honey!  Wait, it gets better!  Imagine a smooth spreadable honey that’s flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, dried fruits, toasted pecans, or any flavorings you like.  Exciting, right?

What’s more, cream honey is simple to make once you know the process.  So now that you know what it is, let’s make some cream honey!

Plain Cream Honey

Ingredients

9 parts regular pure raw honey

1 part plain, pure raw cream honey (either purchased or homemade)

  1. Measure out the honey.

Use a food scale to measure out 9 parts of regular honey and 1 part cream (or seed) honey by weight.  You want 90% liquid honey, and 10% cream honey (no more than 10%, and no less – any more and you’re wasting good honey).

Example: 16 oz.  honey à 16 x .10 (10%) = 1.6 oz. cream/seed honey

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Seed Honey:  The 10% cream honey is called “seed” honey, which acts as a starter for creating a larger batch of cream honey.  With that said, always set aside a jar of plain cream honey from each batch to use as a starter for future batches, or if you’re just starting out, use purchased cream honey (raw, pure).

  1. Liquefy the regular honey (no crystals).  (9 parts only, do not liquefy the cream honey)

To liquefy the crystalized honey, simply place the honey in a pot over low heat and gradually warm it, stirring constantly until all crystals are eliminated.  DO NOT HEAT TO OVER 120 DEGREES, or you risk cooking out all of the honey’s beneficial properties.

I bring the honey to temperature, then pull it off the stove and stir and stir.  When it begins to cool, I put it back on the stove, bring it to temperature again, pull it off the stove and stir again.  I repeat this process until the honey is fully liquefied, or clear and liquid in appearance.  Might take about 15 or 20 minutes.

Note:  Crystalized honey works well for making cream honey because it will re-crystalize faster and better than uncrystalized honey. If your regular honey is liquid and you’re certain it does not contain crystals, then skip this step and go straight to step 4.  If you’re uncertain whether your honey contains crystals, then follow this step to be safe.  If the honey has been sitting for several months, then there’s a good chance crystals have begun to form but may not be visible yet. 

  1. Cool the liquefied honey to room temperature.

  2. Combine both the liquid and cream honeys in a mixer.

Add both honeys in a mixing bowl.  Use a mixer to whip both honeys thoroughly for 3-5 minutes.  The final mixed honey is very pourable and resembles cake batter, as shown in the photos below.

Mixing Notes: 

  • Several methods can be used to mix the honey.  I like to whip my honey in a mixer.  This method ensures that the honeys are well combined, and it adds air for a lighter colored, creamier final product.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, then simply combine manually until very well incorporated.
  • The seed honey must be thoroughly and evenly incorporated throughout the liquid honey to ensure that the crystals grow evenly throughout the honey.  Do not skimp on this step, especially if mixing by hand.
  • For larger batches (e.g. 5 gallons batch), the honey can be mixed in a dry, sanitized, food grade bucket using a drill with a clean, dry sanitized paint mixer attachment (for food only).

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  1. Optional – Add flavorings and additives.

This is the time to add flavorings, spices, nuts, dried fruit, etc.  Since there’s quite a bit of information to be shared on this topic, I’ll cover additives and flavorings in a separate, follow-up post.

  1. Pour finished cream honey into containers.

Glass, plastic – it doesn’t matter.  When selecting containers, keep in mind that this honey is not pourable once it sets, so pour into final containers.  For example, if giving as gifts, then pour the honey into the containers that will be gifted.  Transferring the finished cream honey between containers will be a ridiculous mess.

7.  Optional – Remove the bubble layer from the surface.

Whipped honey contains lots of air, so as the honey sits for 12-24 hours at room temperature, the bubbles travel up to the surface, as shown in the photo below.

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This layer can be scraped off, or overlay a piece of plastic wrap and smooth out the bubble surface.  Since the purpose of this step is purely aesthetic, feel free to skip it.  The bubbles won’t affect the taste or quality of the cream honey.

8. Set the honey in cool location at around 58 degrees for 13 days.

A temperature controlled fridge is ideal, however a regular fridge (top shelf) should work fine, or a cool location in the basement or a cool garage would also work well.  Just test the temps and keep as close to 58 degrees as possible.

13 days is the magic number!  After 13 days, voila, you should have spreadable cream honey.

Below are the jars of cream honey that I made from two pounds (32 oz) of regular honey + 3.2 oz of cream “seed” honey.

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Visit my follow-up post called “Flavorings for Homemade Cream Honey”, and learn how you can add fruit, flavor oils, spices, nuts and more to make your cream honey even more delicious!

DIY Powdered Sugar for Sugar Rolls

September 13, 2015

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Sugar rolls sound more like a sweet breakfast treat rather than a mite preventative for bees. I’ve said time and again that I will not treat for mites, at least not with chemicals. I did it once, never again. But I’m not against using natural, organic practices, like sugar rolls, or fogging with mineral oil. I don’t have a garden fogger yet (note to hubster…it’s on my Amazon holiday wishlist!), but I do have plenty of sugar, so I decided to attempt my first sugar rolls to help manage/reduce mites in the hives.

What’s a Sugar Roll?

Sugar rolls are a very common, natural, chemical free mite management method used by many, many beekeepers. I question whether there’s any real scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness, but then again, a million flies can’t be wrong. There’s a reason so many beekeepers do it.

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The process involves shaking a thick layer of powdered sugar across the top frames of each box (1 cup per deep box. 1/2 to 2/3 cup per medium box), then lightly brushing back and forth across the tops of the frames to push the sugar down between the frames (this is the “roll”), covering the bees in sugar.

This does two things…

  • The sugar creates a slippery surface on the bees that will cause the mites to lose their grip and fall down out of the hive through the screened bottom board; and
  • The bees clean themselves and each other profusely, consuming the sugar, picking off the mites and dropping them out of the hive though the screened bottom board.

Sugar rolls don’t destroy the mite populations like chemicals do, but when performed on a scheduled basis (e.g. every month or two), they help keep the mite populations manageable by the bees and the beekeeper. No harm comes to the bees…they like sugar. Just bee gentle with brush when rolling. Also use a shaker that distributes the sugar lightly and evenly. I have a Pampered Chef sugar shaker that holds about 1 cup of sugar and works bee-utifully. I had the large container of powdered sugar open and handy as I worked, and I just reloaded my shaker between boxes.

Pure Homemade Powdered Sugar, Minus the Cornstarch

The hardest part was finding powdered sugar that doesn’t contain cornstarch. Cornstarch is bad for the bees, and I quickly discovered that virtually every bag of powdered sugar sold in stores contains cornstarch…even the more expensive Dominos brand. So I decided to make my own powdered sugar.

Nothing but the best for my bees – pure, homemade powdered sugar is actually super easy to make in a really good blender. We have a Ninja blender, which includes the smaller shake containers that attach directly onto the blender. I found that the large blender container didn’t work so well at pulverizing the sugar into powder, but the small containers and processors works great!

I added about ¾ cups of granulated sugar to each shake container and blended for about 30-45 seconds, til I could see the sugar change in consistency – it becomes more condensed and powdery in the blender.

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Voila…powdered sugar, minus the cornstarch. Save leftovers in airtight containers for future sugar rolls or, dare I say it….holiday baking.   So long summer, hello fall…

Assembling Frames – Pins vs. Pins

May 24, 2015

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I cleaned all of my old frames.  I used the kind with L-bent wires at the bottom and the wooden slat that lays across those wires.  However, instead of removing the wooden slats and busting up the frames, I’ve just added wax foundation and used pins to hold it in.  The bees will do the rest.

The problem with this method is the pins.  Those small hardware pins that are sold with the frames are

  1. overpriced
  2. really, really hard to use – the opening is never wide enough for the wax and I end up mutilating the wax trying to get them in place.
  3. they’re too short and don’t do a great job of holding in the wax foundation.

There’s always a better way.  In this case, bobby pins!  The uncoated kind.  They fit perfectly through the holes, it’s easy to insert the wax so no mutilation.  They’re much faster, easy to find, and cheap!

I use two, one on each side, diagonal from one another.  And because they extend much farther, they hold the foundation in much better.  At this point, use wireless foundation since they don’t care for the wires.  The bees will glue everything in for you.

First Swarm of the Season

May 17, 2015

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It may bee the first, but it certainly won’t bee the last swarm of the season. The funny part is that I never saw it happen.  I knew it was inevitable (tis the season), so I’d been itching to get the our swarm lure up.  We found a super tall telescoping pole on clearance, perfect for raising and lowering a swarm lure.

We took it out back, placed the lure on the pole and began to raise it high into the trees.  I looked up, and I’ll bee darned if there wasn’t a healthy cluster of bees hanging stealth-like in the very top branches.  About 15 feet above the swarm lure.  Buggers!

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They always go too high, so once again, I couldn’t retrieve them.  The other bees were flying around in wild frenzy in front of their hives – their typical response when a swarm occurs.  I should’ve known something was up.

Theoretically, scout bees seek out a new residence weeks before they swarm, so I had little hope that they’d sniff the lemongrass oil and make a b-line for the lure.  But it didn’t keep me from hoping.  We kept watch through the evening.  They were in the same spot the next morning, but gone by the time we returned home from work.  Another one lost…probably in someone else’s hive by now.  I’ll admit that my response this year is much more calm and accepting than last year.  I still don’t know which hive it came from.  They all look just as busy and well populated as they did before.

I hear about people catching swarms all the time.  Now I keep watch over the swarm lure in hopes of catching someone else’s swarm…or maybe, just maybe I’ll actually catch one of my own.  At this point, I really don’t care which, I just want to catch a swarm! :o)

 

DIY Honey B Healthy Recipe

May 16, 2015

When feeding the bees sugar syrup, I always add a bit of Honey B Healthy to help boost their brood building and to help keep them healthy.  Honey B Healthy consists of essential oils that help eliminate bacteria in their little guts, and even aid them in fighting off mites.  It’s good stuff, and the bees love it!  They’ll start buzzing around outside my screened window when I add it to a fresh pot of sugar syrup.  A bottle does go a long way, but it’s over $30 a bottle!  Not cheap!

So I found a recipe for making my own Honey B Healthy.  This one is published regularly on Beesource.com.  Keep in mind also that the lemongrass oil used in this recipe can be traced outside the entrance of a swarm trap to attract swarms.  A little goes a long way.  Just store it in the fridge and use as instructed below.  I also added this recipe to my Bee Recipes link a the top of this site so you can find it here anytime you need it.

Homemade Honey B Healthy

Much less expensive and just as effective as the real thing!

5 cups water
2 ½ pounds of sugar
1/8 teaspoon lecithin granules (used as an emulsifier)
15 drops spearmint oil
15 drops lemongrass oil

Add ingredients in a blender and blend til mixture is completely emulsified and doesn’t separate (several minutes).

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Store in air tight container in the refrigerator.  The OJ container below works well cause I can give it a good shake before using it.   Just don’t confuse it with orange juice :o)

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Mix with 1:1 sugar syrup in amount listed below:

  •  1 tsp per 1 quart syrup

Note:  I get my essential oils from LorAnn oils, website:  https://wholesale.lorannoils.com/.  LorAnn oils are organic, food grade essential oils.  Email and tell them you are a beekeeper and they will provide you with login access to their wholesale site/prices.

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Soap Making Obsession

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Lavender Milk Mash (left) made with milk, lavender essential oil and crushed spent grains; Forest Glen Yogurt Soap (right) made with whole milk yogurt.

My latest craze…soap! I am learning all kinds of wonderful ways to make soap. Soaps in the crockpot, cold process soaps, soaps made with milk and yogurt, soaps made with beer and spent grains, and of course soaps made with beeswax and honey!  It’s surprisingly easy to make, and based on the number of recipes, sites and tutorials out there, everyone is doing it!

For beginners, I recommend the hot process method, for two main reasons:

1. You don’t have to be precise, and
2. It’s ready to use straightaway.

The crockpot cooks the soap, pushing it through the gel process and allowing it to soaponify within an hour’s time, so you can start using it immediately.

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Start off with a few basic recipes using inexpensive kitchen oils (like crisco, soy oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, rendered fats like beef tallow – and don’t forget beeswax), some hardware store lye (like Red Devil – I get my from Ace Hardware), and distilled, bottled or rain water.   Don’t use water from the tap since it has different chemical make-ups and can cause inconsistent results.  You can substitute other liquids for the water, like beer, tea, and milk.  These liquids need to be treated differently because they react differently with the lye.  But the options are endless.

You can use the hot process method on virtually any cold process soap recipe.  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be designing all kinds of different soaps, and family members will become your test subjects.  Ha!  No more store bought Coast soap for you dear husband!

Soap making resources are everywhere on the internet, so instead of adding yet another tutorial, I will refer  you to some of my favorite soaping resources so you can begin your own soap making obsession…

GoodEarthSpa Hot Process Soap Step-by-Step (my favorite tutorial for hot process soap)

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More of my favorite tutorials and resources…

GoodEarthSpa Channel on YouTube – Full of detailed tutorials and recipes for all types of soaps, cold, hot, solid, liquid, laundry, and more. Plus, she’s a beekeeper!

SoapQueenTV Channel on YouTube – Tons of wonderful soap making video tutorials and more!

Chickens in the Road – Hot Process Soap Tutorial

Chickens in the Road – How to Make Soap Tutorial

From Nature with Love – My favorite Soapulator (for calculating soap recipes)

The Chemistry Store – favorite supply resource

Amazon – my other favorite supply resource

Smart Soapmaking by Anne L. Watson (99 cent kindle book on Amazon.com – a great starter book and she has other books to help you advance into other areas of soap and lotion making, all 99 cents)

Pinterest – for soap recipes galore!!!

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Happy Soaping!!!