Have you heard the happy hum of renegade bees in your town? For those of you who want to try your hand at the stickiest art form, Kitty Greenwald, cook and author, got a few tips from amateur beekeeper Cerise Mayo. This week’s Eatsy recipe features a locally sourced honey cornbread.
Beekeepers are setting up shop in the most unexpected places and cities, and many are doing so for the first time. Hives are on rooftops, community gardens, backyards — anywhere and everywhere — and the renegade honey movement is literally abuzz (sorry, but when it’s this easy…). Here to tell us a bit about what first-time beekeepers can expect is Cerise Mayo, professional foodie and successful second-year beekeeper:
Photo by Cerise Mayo
Why did you start beekeeping? How did you learn enough to set up shop?
I’d admired some friends’ hives for a while, in particular Mary Woltz’s of Bees’ Needs out in Sag Harbor. Then, my friend Ian and I took an introductory course. From there, I read as much as I could and asked beekeepers about their approaches at every stage of the season, which I still do. While it’s fairly straightforward, nature definitely keeps things interesting.
What should first timers be mindful of?
Read a lot and know that every beekeeper has a different approach. People who have kept bees for 20 years still call themselves amateurs.
What are the beekeeping basics?
It’s important to check on the hive at least once every two weeks in the first year, making sure the bees are building the hive properly and have enough space to build their brood, honey, pollen reserves, etc.
Photo by Ian Curry
Where are your hives and why did you choose this location? More importantly, where is your honey available and how does it taste?
Our first hive was established in the backyard of a generous friend’s home in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It’s perfect because there are plenty blossoms to forage nearby. I just established seven more at Added Value Farm in Red Hook and Governor’s Island.
In the first year we harvested about 3.5 gallons of honey, but we’ll have much more soon. So far our honey is rather light, we think it’s because of the linden trees down Van Brunt Street. People say it tastes cantaloupe-y, which I agree with. We’re excited because later in the season it will be sold at Added Value.
At Eatsy, the weekly locally sourced lunch I cook for Etsy staff, we recently used Cerise’s beautiful honey to sweeten a whipped cream that complemented walnut cake. In the past, I’ve made honey panna cotta, semi freddo and ice cream. For immediate fixes, pour some honey over fruit salad, yogurt or any seasonal fruit that wants a roasting. For baked goods, I like to make honey cornbread. BBQ season has officially launched, and this is a good potluck recipe to have on hand. Serve it warm with sweet butter and more, much more, honey.
Beekeeper’s Honey Cornbread
1 1/2 cups coarse ground yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons honey (for a sweeter cornbread, use 4 tablespoons honey)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 12 x 8 in. baking pan with butter.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, mix the eggs and buttermilk together. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined (the mixture will remain slightly lumpy). Stir in the butter and honey.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick, inserted in the center, comes out clean.
Allow the cornbread to cool slightly before serving. Well wrapped, this cornbread keeps for 1-2 days.
Below is a small sampling of the delicious handmade honeys available on Etsy. Like Cerise’s, they’ll provide a more nuanced and complex honey experience. Trippy.
To learn more about beekeeping, Cerise recommends you check out these sites:
About Kitty Greenwald, a cook and food writer living in Brooklyn:
Kitty has cooked in New York, California, France, Italy and Portugal, been involved in Slow Food Nation, and much more. Her first cookbook (just released!), Life’s Too Short to Chop Onions, published by Reader’s Digest, is a collection of handy-dandy easy recipes — you can find it on Amazon or through an independent bookseller. Happily, part of her week is devoted to Eatsy, a locally sourced and seasonal meal that she plans and prepares for the good people of Etsy. Here on the Blog, she shares recipes and chats with you about all things homemade and edible.
About Cerise Mayo:
Cerise is the owner of Urban Kitchen Garden, a garden consulting business based in Brooklyn and the resident beekeeper for Added Value Farm. She spent years at Slow Food USA , where she founded Slow Food in Schools — a program that offers children the opportunity to learn where their food comes from. Through the program, she recently installed a school garden at the Children’s Storefront School in East Harlem. She has also managed projects at Slow Food Nation and the New Amsterdam Market.
Have you ever tried keeping bees? What’s your local honey taste like?
Tell us about it in the comments and share links to Flickr photos.