Recently, Czenzi K Reva opened the lids of her three backyard bee hives and made a disappointing discovery.
“It was a bad year for honey,” she said.
Cold, wet weather and a lack of wild sweet clover attributed to less honey in her hives. Since establishing her hives seven years ago, this year is one of the few times that honey production has fallen.
“What little honey they have, they worked really hard to make,” she said of her bees.
But the small amount she harvested was worth the wait, she said.
Bees will be busy from now until fall filling their hives for the winter months. This seasonal cycle is called honey flow, according to the Black Hawk beekeeper, known as Z to her friends.
Earlier this month, she pulled the boxes (called supers) from her hives, emptying them of their artificial combs (called frames). These supers can weigh as much as 45 pounds when filled. She brought them into her honey room, a converted basement bedroom in her home.
Since April, the tens of thousands of bees living in the hives had built wax combs onto the frames and filled them with honey. After filling the combs, the worker bees capped the cells with wax.
“You want to give your bees plenty of time to cap the honey. If it doesn’t get capped, the honey will turn to sugar faster,” she said.
She stores her supers in the honey room, where her extractor and sink are set up for harvesting the honey. The room is heated to 90 degrees, which warms the honey into a liquid and softens the wax.
She removes the frames from the supers, breaking the comb caps with a wire brush. Then she loads three large frames or six small frames into the barrel of her small extractor. The mechanized extractor uses centrifugal force to empty the honey from the combs.
The frames are spun for four minutes, rotated and then spun an additional four minutes to capture all of the honey.
“From there the magic begins,” she said.
The drum is then emptied, new frames added and the process repeated. The honey is drained from the bottom of the extractor. She then pours the warmed honey through a strainer and wire mesh, to separate it from the wax. It flows into a bucket with a spigot. The honey is then packaged in honey-bear bottles and pint and quart jars.
“That is raw honey,” she said of the golden liquid pouring from the spigot.
In past years, it would take her several days to extract the honey from her hives.
“This year, it took me three hours,” she said.
After it is bottled, it is ready for sale at farmers markets or to be eaten at home.
She says the raw honey contains medicinal properties and antigens that are destroyed in high heat.
“When you use honey to cook, you might as well buy store-bought. I believe you need to eat it raw,” she said.
Here is a recipe for her grandmother’s cinnamon rolls, using fresh honey.
“That recipe is to die for,” she said.
Z’s Grandma’s Cinnamon Rolls
Makes 2 dozen cinnamon rolls
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 envelopes rapid rise yeast
7-1/2 to 8 cups flour
2-1/4 cups very warm water (120 to 130 degrees)
9 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 cups (8 ounces) chopped pecans
2 cups (1 pound) butter
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup raw honey
1-1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups (12 ounces) whole pecans
Heat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix butter, sugar and salt. Add eggs and mix. In a separate bowl, combine yeast and 4 cups flour; mix thoroughly. Add flour mixture to butter-sugar mixture, then add water. Mix well and add 3-1/2 to 4 cups flour, 1 cup at a time, to the mix, making soft, smooth dough. Turn out onto lightly floured surface.
Knead the dough until smooth. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. Divide dough into three equal portions.
Roll each portion out to 14-by-8-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Brush each with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Combine 1 cup sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle 1/3 cup cinnamon sugar and 2/3 cup chopped pecans on each rectangle. Roll up from long side.
Cut each roll into 8 slices.
For caramel topping: Melt butter in saucepan. Add brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Stir until blended. Place 1 cup caramel syrup and 1 cup pecans in each of the three 13-by-9-inch baking pans. Place 8 rolls per pan, cut side down. Cover.
Let rise until double, about 45 to 50 minutes.
Bake in 325-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly before turning out of pan.
Contact Jomay Steen at 394-8418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.