Harvesting Honey

Harvesting Greenway Gold Honey

At the college where I work, we got permission to raise honey bees and this week was our first opportunity in harvesting honey.

The Hives for Greenway Gold

The Hives for Greenway Gold

Bees are in danger and need all the care and help they can get. So to see one of the two hives we have thrived is quite a source of glee and happiness.

I am not a bee keeper but I am a local honey devotee.

Local honey helps with all kinds of pollen related allergies. As someone who was highly allergic to just about anything that grew, once I started consuming local honey and local bee pollen, the allergies for the most part, disappeared!

Let’s hear it for local honey!

On to the harvest!

The box that had the frames which held the honey had been removed from the hive stack the day before.

Honeycomb frames filled with honey!

Honeycomb frames filled with honey!

It really pissed some bees off, Jim got stung a couple of times. Why not? The bees were only protecting their winter survival source.

The “Extraction Room” had to be readied: plastic on the floor, tables, warm honey extracting knife,

The warm wax cutting knife

The warm wax cutting knife

centrifuge assembled, screen filters, buckets,

The filter bucket

The filter bucket

jars and damp paper towels all in place. Don’t forget the tasting spoons!

Assembling the centrifuge

Assembling the centrifuge

Each of the frames weighed around 7.5 pounds before removing the honey and 1.5 pounds after. The process is sticky but amazingly rewarding.

Once you have everything ready to go, one of the frames is placed so the wax caps can be removed from both sides of the frame using a warm knife made for doing just these kinds of things. Catching the wax caps in a bucket below is a great idea as this is “virgin” beeswax, perfect for making lip balms and body lotions; just wash the honey out gently in cool water.

This is some of the wax cut off the honeycombs; virgin beeswax is perfect for lip balms!

This is some of the wax cut off the honeycombs; virgin beeswax is perfect for lip balms!

Cutting the wax caps with a warm knife

Cutting the wax caps with a warm knife

Place the frames in the centrifuge, there’s a certain angle they have to be placed because the bees create the honey combs on a particular angle to prevent the honey leaking out. Clever things!

Inside the centrifuge, see all the honey at the bottom?

Inside the centrifuge, see all the honey at the bottom?

Once the honey is spun out of the combs, it needs to be filtered.

It gets filtered through a larger screen mesh then into a fine mesh into a clean bucket below.

Then it is ready to bottle. When the honey is first bottled, there are a lot of air bubbles in it.

Due to the viscosity of the honey, it takes some time for them to rise and leave behind the clear, lovely color of the honey.

From our first harvest, we extracted 3.81 gallons!

Filling the jars

Filling the jars

We are naming it “Greenway Gold” since the hives are near the Greenway here in Charlotte.

Look at our stash!

Our honey is pale yellow and has a very floral flavor, similar to an orange blossom. It is delicate and sweet and couldn’t get any more local. Heck, it’s made just outside my office door!

Here’s an amazing part: the bees will refill the empty combs and will “clean up” any honey left on any of the buckets and other things. It’s good for them. Our main concern is the equipment getting stolen so Jim takes the things home for his home bees.

Did you know a honey bee will only produce about 1 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime? These are amazing critters.

There is a “Bee School” around here that is working hard to encourage people to keep bees. I don’t think I’d ever actually keep my own, but I will certainly continue to help with the honey extraction!

Now I can have some honey flavor in my lip balm formulas, won’t that be nice?

Part of the first Honey Harvest!

Part of the first Honey Harvest!

 

 

More honey

More honey

Greenway Gold with Breakfast

Greenway Gold with Breakfast

Gaining Control of Our Food – How to stand up to Big Corporate Food

The state of our food supply is in crisis and WE are the ones to do something about it.

This is the beginning of a mission. There is a way we can fight back against big food corporations.

Cassie Parsons is a local chef and farmer who has an on-fire passion about local and honest food. This past February she did a TEDx talk about her big idea. In her speech she declares

“Our food supply is broken.”

And she’s right. She’s spot on.

Cassie’s TEDx Talk is linked below, give it a listen, Please.

This is what I have to say about the state of our food.

“America has the worst food in the world.”

We have the most and the worst. Quantity does not make quality food. Quantity has never made quality in any industry. Still there are so many that go hungry;  that is another discussion for another day.

We are in a state of change and increasing awareness. There is no reason to feel helpless about our food supply unless you decide not to do anything or you think someone else will do it instead.

That’s what Big Food is counting on, good old American apathy.

We’re world champions in apathy, we’re apathetic champions off the freaking chart.

You know what?

I hate to be the one to break the news, but the time for change is here; it’s NOW and it’s up to us.

We can’t let this go.

I want to talk about what we can do to stop Big Corporate Food from developing, planting and growing GMO‘s and other food atrocities they have developed and forced on us. They think we don’t need to know; they think we don’t care.

Worst of all is they think they can get away with it.

Here is the biggest thing, We DO have a choice. We have to demand the truth as to what is in our food, how it is processed and how the animals are treated and what’s in it; we have to get involved with our food.

Two news reporters were fired for not watering down a report about Monsanto and recombinant bovine growth hormone  causing cancer in humans who drink milk from cows treated with rBGH. rBGH is injected into dairy cows every two weeks to increase milk production which increases profits at the expense of human health. Click the link above to read the article.

Have you heard of rBGH? Big Food feels you don’t need to know if the milk you drink and give to your children is from cows treated with rBGH. You only find it mentioned on milk without it.

You don’t need to know that commercially grown strawberries can have residue of up to 13 different pesticides on them.

You don’t need to know that in order to “water” the plants, workers need to wear hazardous  material suits “to protect them”.

From what?! Aren’t they supposed to be “watering”?

The bees are dying due to the use of GMO seeds for growing crops.

Monarch butterflies are affected by GMO corn crops. You can hardly find non-gmo corn  anymore, even then, I’d question it. Same with soy and soy products.

If you read food labels, you may have noticed high fructose corn syrup products appears in nearly all processed foods.

What about additives, preservatives, FD&C color dyes for food, drugs and cosmetics (FD&C means that it has been approved for use in food, drugs and cosmetics) and who knows what else they put into products. How many of us read a label, see a list of 40 or so ingredients, glaze over it and buy the product anyway?

Those aren’t “cherries” on your cherry danish from that favorite fast food place, but a “cherry-like” substance with full cherry flavor. Read it.

Leave the products on the shelves! Drive by fast food, you and your family devserve better.

How can we make a change?

With our purchasing power and the decisions we make. Learn to make some of the “processed” food we buy at home; pickles, condiments, sauces, salad dressings, mayonnaise there are so many easy things to learn.

Photo: Let’s change the way we grocery shop

When we buy food that has come from a long distance from where we stand, we pay for that in more than money. When we buy those products, we no longer support our local economies. That money goes back to where the product came from or was produced.

Cassie explains this in her TEDx talk. I suggest when you are finished reading this post, go get a cup of coffee, glass of tea or whatever refreshing beverage you want, come back and watch Cassie Parsons talk. There’s a link at the end of this post and only about 18 minutes long. It will make you think.

It will empower you and implore you to do something too. When you process your own condiments and other food, you know your ingredients, you know what you are serving; you know ALL the ingredients and the quality used.

Yo wont find pink slime in your burgers if you grind your own meat, you won’t find bone scrapings and other left over bits if you learn to make your own fresh sausage.

If you do this right, you also know who raised the pig and get the casings from the same farmer.

If you make your own pickles, know the farmer who grew the cucumbers. There are farmers markets in nearly every city on nearly every day of the week. There is no reason not to find one and use them.

Beyond benefits of local foods, you gain the benefit of a stronger local economy, a stronger social community, which leads to great places to live and raise families. Why? Because you know who is growing your food, what they are growing and how. You share things, trade things, eat healthier, you build a better community.

Your health will be infinitely better. My grandfather used to tell me you can grow it yourself, pay the farmer, or pay the big grocery stores and then pay the hospital bills. He grew all his vegetables and raised a large family with fresh bread, fresh fish and good food.

If we decide to make our own processed foods (yes, there is a learning curve) we can have an impact on big food profit. If products sit on the shelves, if people stop buying them, it will have an impact on profits, which would get BCF attention.

Maybe then, Monsanto and other companies would listen to “Please No GMO!”

Watch this, out of the mouths of babes, the young people get it and it scares them.

If everyone learned just one thing they could make, make enough to share with neighbors, swap, make things together and share. This is not only about building our health, but community and quality of life.

We don’t have to feel helpless or voiceless in this food crisis. We have a choice. WE can do something, each and every one of us.

Buy local.

Ask questions about the food you buy.

Support local farmers.

Learn to make basic condiments, with a group and share.

Start a pickling group or whatever. Make food about people, health and community again; take the profit away from Big Corporate Food.

Stop the apathy and get involved, your health depends on it.

Here’s Cassie’s talk below

Onion Scapes

This post is about the beautiful onion scapes growing in my garden.

Enjoy the photos.

IMG_5639 IMG_5638

Eating Local

This is my interpretation of “eating local“:

Local Fare

Local Fare

The multi-grain bread was made by me and cooked on the grill. The sourdough culture I use is nearly 2 years old and came to me from a friend.

I grew the lettuce.

I made the goat cheese from milk from local goats. I could find out the names of the goats if I wanted. I buy the milk from our organic farmers market who bring it in fresh. Low-temp pasteurized, yeah buddy!

The tomato is from a farm just down the road whose family has been growing vegetables and operating a working farm on the land since 1775. These tomatoes are the first to ripen with any flavor, just perfect for the goat cheese!

So there you have it. Local food for lunch.

A Basic Fresh Goat Cheese: Chevre

I made Fresh Goat Cheese!

Fresh Goat Cheese!

Fresh Goat Cheese!

Actually I was surprised at how quick and easy it actually was to make. Having the right equipment and getting good milk are key.

I get most of my supplies from The New England Cheese Making Supply which is a great resource for everything cheese.

Ever since I returned from the cheese making workshop a few weeks ago, my hands have been looking forward to getting into some milk.

First I had to find a source for good, clean, fresh goat milk for goat cheese and I still need to source Jersey cows for their milk for other cheese. For now, I have goat!

I LOVE the “barnyard” flavor of a strong goat cheese. While in France, I fell in love with Pouligny St. Pierre goat cheese which is a creamy smooth aged amazing bit of heaven to put into your mouth. It is my goal and intention to make some of that here, but obviously with the “terroir” of North Carolina.

OK, so here’s how I made this batch of Fresh Chevre:

I started with one gallon of fresh Goat Milk from Round Mountain Creamery in Black Mountain, NC. The milk comes in glass bottles, which I love!

Order a batch of CHEVRE culture from New England Cheese Making Supply. One packet will culture one gallon of milk, so plan what you want to make. I never seem to order enough.

Additionally if your milk is pasteurized (PLEASE find milk that is low temp processed as Ultra-Pasteurized milk does not work for making cheese) you will need 1/4 teaspoon of calcium chloride per gallon of pasteurized, cold-stored milk.

In my next batch, I want to ripen it for a few weeks so I will be adding other cultures for different effects.

Equipment needed:

2 large pots; the small one holds 1 gallon easily. I can use the larger pot for larger batches. Just need to find a pot to nest it inside of for a reasonable price.

2 large pots; the small one holds 1 gallon easily. I can use the larger pot for larger batches. Just need to find a pot to nest it inside of for a reasonable price.

2 large stock pots: the one the milk goes into needs to be stainless steel (Non-reactive)

The second one needs to be large enough to make a double boiler or bain marie, the first needs to nestle into the large one so you can heat the milk easily and slowly.

A good thermometer: You NEED to be in control of temperatures, not too high or too low.

Cheese Muslin, butter muslin, closely woven cheese cloth- the normal loose woven is way too loosely woven. Invest in a yard or two, wash it and use it over and over.

Use cold water to remove any cheese particles, then hand wash. Rinse and boil it in a pot with some baking soda for 5-10 minutes, rinse and hang to dry. It will be fresh and good to go for the next round of cheese!

Here is how to make the cheese:

Wash and sanitize everything!! Have a pot of boiling/simmering water to drop cheesecloth, molds, tools into to sanitize them before they come into contact with cheese.

Pour the milk into the pot, place it over the water (about 80°F). Warm the milk to 72-78°F.

Please be aware that this will feel cold to the touch, this is not warm milk, just milk warmed from refrigeration to 72-78 degrees.

Open 1 packet of the Chevre culture and sprinkle it over the top of the milk. Allow it to hydrate for 2-5 minutes before stirring it into the milk.

Goat milkAdd 1/4 teaspoon calcium chloride is using cold-stored pasteurized milk.

Allow this to sit undisturbed for 6-12 hours. This is the hardest part as you want to go see what is happening and you want it to hurry up and do its thing. But be patient, it takes time.

This batch sat for 8 1/4 hours before testing the cleave of the curd. When it is ready to test, you should see a thin layer of whey over the curd and a slight separation from the sides of the pot.

Testing the cleavage break

Testing the cleavage break

Insert a knife or a spoon, slightly on the surface, the curd should cleave clean and the whey that floats into the separation should be clear.

Carefully lift the curds with a strainer into a colander lined with cheese muslin. Be sure to place the colander over a large bowl to catch the whey.

Gently fold the cheesecloth over the curds and allow them to drain for 6-12 hours again, depending upon your desired finished texture. Less time for sweeter cheese, more for tangy cheese. The longer the whey stays in contact with the curd, the more tangy it gets.

You must be very careful NOT TO PRESS the curds. Allow them to drain gently at this point. The whey should be clear dripping, if it is cloudy, you are losing milk fat and your cheese will be dry.

You can also put it into molds at this point if you are using a mold. It will result in a smoother sided end product.

Control the room temperature and the curd temperature to maintain as close to 72-78°F as possible. I let the curds form while still in the bain marie as the water in the host pot will maintain the temperature of the curd mass.

I usually let this happen overnight while sleeping. The next day is such a surprise!

Unfold the cheesecloth and reveal your fresh cheese! Now it is time to salt. For this batch, 1.5-2 teaspoons of non-iodized cheese salt.

You can consider the cheese finished at this point but this is also where you can be a bit creative.IMG_6161

As you fold in the salt, also consider adding other flavors like herbs, minced garlic or shallots or onions, crushed peppercorns, ash, use your imagination.

IMG_6171Store your fresh goat cheese in a bowl or tub and consume within 10 days. Refrigerate the cheese, but allow it to come to room temperature before serving to allow all the wonderful flavors to come through.

A Word About Seasonings:

Please use dried seasonings and herbs due to the risk of bacterial contamination that may be introduced by using fresh herbs and seasonings. If you use fresh, be sure to eat the cheese soon. It can’t hang out for a while like plain cheese.

A Word About Food Safety:

The temperature the milk gets processed is in a temperature range that is smack dab in the extreme temperature danger zone. Everything you use needs to be “sterilized” in the boiling water bath before it comes in contact with the curds or milk. I cover my curd formation and the curd draining with a glass lid (so I can see what is going on!) to prevent anything falling or flying into the curd mass.

Since my kitchen is FULL of wild yeast from all the bread I make, the introduction of wild yeast is totally possible. This could have a spoiling effect on the curd. This is another reason I boil things before they touch the milk/curds.

The hardest part is WAITING! I strongly suggest you get to a farmers market and buy some goat milk and try this. It is easy, very tasty and you will feel so good about making a tasty goat cheese you’ll make more.

If you do make any cheese, take notes on the temperatures, conditions, milk etc so you can repeat successful processes. Most of all remember DO NOT USE Ultra-Pasteurized milk!

So that’s Fresh Chevre in a nut shell. There is a lot of information out there on making cheese. I’m really just starting and am looking forward to making more!

Please let me know how you do if you make some fresh Goat Cheese!

A Cheese Making Workshop

This past weekend two of my colleagues and I got to travel to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts to take a Cheese Making Workshop conducted by cheese master Jim Wallace.

Master Cheese Maker, Jim Wallace

Master Cheese Maker, Jim Wallace

We learned about the processes of making Cheddar, Camembert and Vacha Toscana, about a lot of the science, theory and instinct involved in cheese making as well as an evaluation of the cheese each of us brought for him to trouble shoot.

We had a great group: Seth from Vermont/New York, Martin from St. Augustine, Michael and Belinda from Pennsylvania who want to buy a boat soon and sail the eternal summer; two of my colleagues and myself.

Our Group

Our Group

Each of us have tinkered with cheese for a few years and this workshop allowed us to take our skills to another level. I hope we can stay in touch somehow, I want to hear about the cheese making adventures at sea!

Jim’s cheeses are not only beautiful but very tasty.

Cheese in the cave

Cheese in the cave

His “Cave” and drying rooms are places I could spend hours.

Cave door

Cave door

The drying room

The drying room

In addition to making cheese, Mr. Wallace also makes some lovely wine and impressive beer.

Wine making

Wine making

The workshop began at 9AM with the introduction of milk, cultures, rennet, stirring, curd cutting,

PH lab

PH lab

draining, molding and finally pressing.

I was amazed how easy it seems to be to make Camembert. Can’t wait to try it!

Jim’s lovely wife Robin made lunch for us both days. The table was full of lively conversations, great food, cheese, wine and beer. (Jim told us we must have been a special group as he doesn’t usually share his beer and wine with classes. So if you go, don’t expect it!)

Sunday morning, Robin and Jim were making fresh butter from the butterfat that floated to the top of the whey from Saturdays cheese making.

Really fresh butter! Boy did that butter taste good!

Really fresh butter and you know how much I love butter!

Really fresh butter and you know how much I love butter!

Both Jim and Robin were professional photographers who traveled and sold their work at shows. This resulted in an amazing collection of original art work from photographs of their own and others, sculpted art pottery, bead work, and dinner/serve ware style pottery. It was great to be in the presence of so much creative energy.

Jim works with Ricki Carroll of The New England Cheese Making Supply on development, workshops, recipes and website.

If you have any interest in cheese making, I highly suggest you get in contact with Jim to see what he has coming up. He has limited space so make you plans early.

You can contact him at jim@cheesemaking.com.

He can give you the cost, dates and availability of up coming workshops. I would say these aren’t for someone who has never made cheese before because he gets quite technical. If you never made cheese before, find a local class that teaches mozzarella, marscapone, lemon cheese, cream cheese and other quick, easy fresh cheese.

If you like the process, play with making a couple aged cheese, THEN go take a workshop from Jim.

These are the cheeses that everyone brought for the evaluation session

These are the cheeses that everyone brought for the evaluation session

Bring your cheese with you and he will tell you what you did right, what went wrong and give great advice about your cheese. Everyone got a lot out of this session.

I will create posts on the cheese we made and the cheese we make now that we are back from the workshop.

It will be quite fun and interesting to get to make these. The challenge will be in allowing them to ripen and age enough before cutting into them.

Some age for a couple of weeks, and others several months, We think once we get the process started, we can have a perpetual flow of amazing artisan and farmstead cheese.

Watch for these posts over the summer!

If you take a workshop from Jim, let me know what you get to make as his workshops are all different. We guess it depends upon what his cave needs and his social schedule as he always brings cheese.

You’ve got to pace yourself though, it is easy to get cheesed out if you don’t normally have a lot of cheese in your diet.

Let’s make some cheese!

Aged Cheddar

Aged Cheddar

Almost ripe Camembert

Almost ripe Camembert

Aging Vacha Toscana

Aging Vacha Toscana

Jim's cheese we tasted at lunch. The Bavarian Feta (rectangle cheese top left) is my favorite!

Jim’s cheese we tasted at lunch. The Bavarian Feta (rectangle cheese top left) is my favorite!

 

Time for a Change

I got a letter in the mail yesterday that let me know that it is time for a change. Two weeks ago I had a physical which also included doing a blood profile.

I have always taken great pride in knowing I followed my fathers genes for height, weight and cholesterol until yesterday. My mother has very high cholesterol which she is managing well; she and Dad are in their 80′s and are doing well.

For many years all of my lab reports were great. Now, this report comes back with a spike in my LDL cholesterol (the bad one) into a danger zone of 160 (it should be below 100). “Let’s talk about some medications” my Dr. suggests.

i take drugs

I suggest drugs! (Photo credit: the|G|™)

Guess the butter has caught up to me. And the lamb, fried chicken, bacon and pastries. If you realistically look at it and ask

“Just how many Bacon Topped, Maple Glazed yeast doughnuts can one eat before you have to pay the price?” you would know the answer.

Darn, because that sure does sound amazing,  is it the bacon part? Or the maple glaze part? Or the raised glazed part? Can’t we just forget about health this one time?

Well the real question that has come home to roost is how many times can you say “yes, just this time.”

How many times can you rationalize in your mind that it is “OK” to slather bread with butter, or load up that baked potato with sour cream and cheese on top of that butter or dip that fried chicken finger into ranch dressing.

a baked potato with butter

a baked potato with butter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How many times can we continue to look away?

No more, according to that letter.

Now, either I get to show and do what I know is right nutritionally or I can get on that AMA medicated bandwagon for the rest of my life. At 57 years old, I hope to have a lot of life ahead and have no desire to do so medicated or dependent on some doctors opinion.

I talked myself out of walking today because it was “cold”. 53°F “cold”.

Ha.

I scolded myself for not going. I didn’t go because I was lazy. Although I can come up with several excuses that all sound so much better than lazy, lazy is the truth. Lazy is a choice and lazy is something I can do something about.

Avoiding cardiovascular disease needs exercise, so I’d better get over this lazy spell.

While I don’t have a cardiovascular diagnosis, its numbers like these that lead to it unless something is done. Here lies my choice.

The amazing thing is that I really truly do know better! I am better educated about diet, health and food than most and yet I still find myself eating bacon, sugar and butter as if I were immune to the effects.

Today, I made some multi-grain bread and crackers with organic flour and whole grains, made hummus without oil, thanks to the vita-mix. Gosh, it had such a bright flavor! These are some of our go to snacks and lunch stuff for the next week.

I looked in the fridge and noticed some things that need to go.

Cholesterol is Good for You!

Cholesterol is Good for You! (Photo credit: Mr Jaded)[This is NOT really in my fridge! But wouldn’t it be nice if it were just this easy to eliminate cholesterol?]

The determination to do this myself, by ‘eating better’ is going to trump the medication possibility.

I asked myself today, “what do I want to accomplish by eating this?” and threw some junky food away rather than down my throat.

So some changes are in order.

While I’m not going to say I’ll never eat butter again or bacon or brie cheese, I can’t make them part of a normal diet. Maybe once a year or never for that doughnut.

My immediate goals are to change the amount of fat, increase vegetables and fiber, balance lean meats and breads.

I make all of our bread, I know what is in it, I’m not real keen on giving that up any time soon. Not being gluten intolerant or sensitive to it gives me a choice to eat my lovely breads or not.

I like meat, I really like the flavor. I was a vegan vegetarian for about 3 years when I was in my early 20′s. I determined then I really liked the flavor of meat. Being aware of how much meat and what kind of meat we eat is a key to control.

We don’t eat processed foods or fast foods and limit sugar and salt intake. We eat a variety of grains because we actually like them so some of the diet modifications should be rather simple to accomplish.

It’s the butter and pastries that need to go away. I know that and I don’t need a doctor to put me on meds in order to get the LDL under control.

I have been teaching bakeshop classes since January, I am 100% positive that change in schedule is a definite contributor to the spike in LDL. Next week when my new classes begin, I’m out of bakeshop and into Global Cuisine and so all those pastries and temptations will be well out of reach.

Additionally I need to get moving. Go walking. Anywhere.

Hopefully I can work up to a light run and learn to enjoy the process and shake these lazy bones.