Today’s Recipes: Honey Noodle Kugel and Greek Yogurt Vinaigrette
A couple of months ago my husband and I visited friends in Grass Valley, California. In the heart of Gold Country, it is a delightful little community, full of history. While there our hosts took us to a local farm to pick fresh fruits and vegetables. What we didn’t know was that the owner also raises his own bees and gathers the honey. What an amazing experience. We had never been that close to hives and my husband, being allergic to bee stings, was especially conservative. But despite our concerns, we were soon drawn close by the fascination at watching all the activity of the bees.
Beekeeping, or apiculture, is often an offshoot of farming. The bees are necessary for pollination of crops, in particular fruit trees. As they move from blossom to blossom collecting nectar, which they turn into honey, they carry pollen with them, unintentionally pollinating as they go. Did you know that beekeepers rent out their hives to other farmers, moving them around fields and orchards? How do the bees know where their hives are? It is another of nature’s miracles. Gatherers used to break into natural hives, smashing the honeycombs and destroying the hive. This was impractical and therefore new techniques were designed. Today’s hives are made of individual frames called skeps to which the bees affix their combs. They are movable and assist the beekeeper in managing the hives.
Beekeeping and honey collecting is one of the most ancient of human activities still practiced today. Sealed jars of honey were found in the pyramids of Pharaohs such as Tutankhamen. Some wild honey gathering is being done in aboriginal societies in parts of Africa, Asia, Australia and South America, but the predominant collection these days is from domesticated beehives.
Using a mixture of dried material including pine needles, Mr. Dennison smoked the bees, lulling them into a slight stupor, allowing him to work with the hives. The smoke signals to the bees that the hive is on fire and they may have to abandon it. This starts a feeding response and also masks alarm pheromones, allowing the beekeeper to open the hive and work without fear of being stung.
To get to the honey you take the top layer of beeswax off the comb structure, this is called uncapping. The frames are then put into a machine that uses centrifugal force to remove the liquid honey. The honey is filtered prior to being bottled. When you buy honey at the store it is typically defined by the type of pollen the bees have fed on, such as orange blossom, honeysuckle, or clover.
The honey we got that day from the farm was the most unique I’d ever tasted. Because of the wide variety of flowers, fruits, and vegetables being grown, there is no single dominant flavor, but a beautiful blend that is indescribable. When we got home, used a little in the dressing on that night’s salad and we drizzled some over the fresh figs we had gathered and then roasted them for dessert. How wonderful to be able to enjoy the honey we had just seen the bees making. I hope you all have an opportunity to see a real hive in action. It was absolutely fascinating!
In addition to the honey, fruits, vegetables, and flowers we got that day, we also bought some blackberry balsamic vinegar from PastaMoré. A small producer, they make marinades, barbecue sauces, flavored olive oils, vinegars, and pastas. We used their Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar in our salad dressing that night. Having different flavors of oils and vinegars on hand makes it easy to create unique and tasty meals! They are on Facebook and have a website where you can order their products. There are lots of great recipes to whet your appetite!
Being with good friends (Becki and I went to college together), drinking fine wines and eating delicious homemade foods made for a really fun trip, and experiencing the wonder of beekeeping made it memorable. This is one trip that we can’t wait to make again!
- Crispy Topping
- 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup honey
- 8 oz medium egg noodles
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 4 apples, coarsely grated
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish; set aside.
- Crisp Topping: Combine breadcrumbs and cinnamon; mix well. Drizzle honey over mixture and stir until crumbs are coated.
- Kugel: Cook noodles according to package directions until al dente. Drain and place in a large bowl. Add melted butter and mix well. Cool 10 minutes. Add eggs, honey, raisins, apples, salt and cinnamon; mix well.
- Place noodle mixture in prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with topping mixture and cover with foil. Bake for 50 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes more or until browned on top. Serve hot or at room temperature.
- 3 tbsp unflavored Greek Yogurt
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, I like the Blackberry Balsamic Vinegar from PastaMoré
- Large pinch of salt
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp very finely minced garlic, smashed into a paste with the side of your knife
- Combine the yogurt, vinegar, and salt in a small bowl, whisking until smooth. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Add the garlic and whisk again until smooth. Pour over a mixed green salad, boiled potatoes, or steamed vegetables.
- Yield: about 1/2 cup
I just learned that Mrs Denniston passed away suddenly last week. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to meet such a remarkable woman. She was so full of life with a sparkling laugh that was delightful and contagious. It was a joy watching her in her garden, showing us around and cutting a bouquet of flowers to give to my friend, making sure that she picked only the best and arranged them perfectly. What a wonderful time we had. It will stay with us forever. Our hearts are sad at the loss, but thankful for having known her. Blessings to the Denniston family at this difficult time. Thank you for sharing your wonderful wife/mother with the rest of us. Heaven is richer today…