Monday, 4 July 2011

Alberta Bee’s are Buzzing!

The first year I was married, my husband Marc and I received a rather heavy box from Calgary, Alberta.  I could hardly wait to open it.  Inside was a white plastic pail.   When we took the lid off of it there was a special, sweet and delightful treat, Alberta honey.  The honey was sent from Marc’s Grandparents Ruth Troyer (1905-1994) and Rev. Gordon Troyer (1904-1994).  I soon found out that the honey had been produced by Gordon who amongst many and varied pursuits was a ‘Bee Master’. The picture above is Marc (age 4) and his Grandad preparing the smokers before looking into the hives.
Years later when I worked at the University of Guelph Library, Archival and Special Collections, I catalogued the Burton Noble Gates Apiculture Collection.  Gates was the former Chairman of the Department of Apiculture at the Ontario Agricultural College. The collection was established ca 1914.    You can read more about it at .  
It was during my 15 years of working in the basement of the library that I met Professor   Gordon F. Townsend who was responsible for establishing the apiculture collection at the OAC and then its deposit at the University of Guelph Library.  I discovered that he knew my grandfather-in-law and that Gordon Troyer was an accomplished academic who had done considerable research in the field of apiculture. Gordon Troyer had written, ‘The Metabolism of Package Bees’ and a thesis on the “Socialization in a Canadian Penal Setting”, Calgary, 1972.   When he worked as a Classification Officer in the Calgary Provincial Jail, he taught bee keeping to the inmates. 
I have tasted honey from all over the world and most recently my friend brought me a jar of lavender honey from France. Although it was delicious and unique, due to the family connection, I’d say that Alberta honey ranks right up there at the top.    Cherie and Art Andrews from Okotoks, Alberta would agree with me. They are the proud owners of the Chinook Honey Company . Cherie says, “Alberta honey is well known for its light colour and distinctly rich but light flavour. Generally speaking, long summer days and wide expanses of alfalfa fields are the key ingredients. Chinook Honey Company takes it one step further by insuring that our honey is harvested without use of chemicals, and once extracted the honey is neither pasteurized nor filtered. All the goodness is still there when it is goes into the jar”. Not only do the Andrews produce honey and its other products they operate and own Alberta’s first ‘Honey Winery’ or what is better known as the ‘Chinook Arch Meadery’.   Cherie says, “We discovered Mead many years ago while visiting Ireland. Certainly good honey makes good mead, but also it’s the ability to achieve a good balance between acidity and sweetness. Although the ingredients are simple (honey, water and yeast), because honey does not ferment easily and has high acidity, it isn’t as easy as it sounds!”
Their   Bodacious Black Currant & Buckaroo Buckwheat meads were both silver medal winners at the Northwest Wine Summit 2010.
I expressed my concerns re the honey bee and its decline.  I asked Cherie what her thoughts were as a honey producer.  She said, “From our vantage point, we really see a change in the nutrition that the bees are getting and this is strongly impacting their general health and immune systems. The trend for large farms planting extensive acreages of single crops such as canola (in Alberta) and corn and soy in other areas is severely restricting the range of proteins the bees are receiving. Hence, today urban bees are often healthier than rural bees because they have a much more extensive variety of flowers to forage on.” So the message to urbanites is to get your flower beds growing or start containers on your balcony.  The following are honey tips from the Andrews:

Cooking with Honey

When substituting honey for sugar in recipes,
use up to half of the sugar called for in the recipe.

When substituting while baking:
Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 C (25 ml) for each cup (250 ml) of honey used
And add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used.
Reduce oven temperature by 25 °F (4 °C) to prevent over-browning.

500g of honey equals 11/2C or 325 ml.

When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey or heat the measuring cup with hot water. The honey will slide right out.

Honey should be stored in a closed container in a dry, warm place.

It is natural for honey in Canada to crystallize. Re liquify by placing the container of honey in hot (not boiling) water.

Honey can be frozen without affecting colour, flavour or nutrients. It will not crystallize when frozen.
When I was a kid my mom and grandmother used honey all of the time in baking and for medicinal purposes as well.  Here is an old fashioned remedy for a sore throat: 

Peel a large onion and slice it into rings and put them into a jar.  Pour in 3 tablespoons of clear organic honey, cover and leave it overnight.  Strain it and take 1 spoonful up to 4 times a day.

Bees and honey are both fascinating topics I could write pages on.  There is even research to suggest that honey bees can help solve brain disorders.

 A special thanks to Cherie Andrews for sharing her information and  a picture from the Chinook Honey Company.

“If you have no Honey in your Pot, have some in your Mouth.”
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)  Poor Richard's Almanac

No comments: