Beekeeping 101.1 – Local Honey and Chocolate Chip Cookies
If you have honey you need to make these cookies
Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies
If you’ve read Clean Slate Farm at all you will no doubt recognize my love of baking…cookies in particular. Just check out the Recipe Box and you’ll see baking is a favorite past time around here.
I’ve written we will be keeping bees at Clean Slate Farm this year and while wandering around beekeeping sites I found a recipe for chocolate chip cookies made with honey. Sucker that I am for cookies, and with bee hives and honey harvests in our future I reckoned I just may have to make these seeing as we’ll have a lot of honey around here in the future.
This cookie is completely different from the Toll House Cookie we’ve made before in this one is soft, light, and chewy. The batch I just made, which is being enjoyed with a fresh latte as I write, was made with a local honey lighter in flavor. A heavier honey, buckwheat for instance, would change the taste accordingly. Why? Read on cookie lover, read on…
Back to beekeeping. Let’s discuss honey and variety of color and taste it can have. Honey can range in color from dark to light, depending on the floral source of the nectar and the mineral content of the honey. Generally speaking lighter colored honey is lighter flavored, darker honey is usually more pronounced in flavor. Buckwheat honey is a great example of this being quite dark and having a malty, deep flavor. An exception to this would be basswood honey, which is light in color but heavier in flavor, so I’m told. This would be an example of the mineral content in the honey.
Color is graded by the USDA into seven categories:
- Water white
- Extra white
- Extra light amber
- Light amber
- Dark amber
The way honey is graded is by the Pfund scale. Google it and you’ll see that the Pfund scale is a measurement of mm on a gradated scale. When the honey matches the color on the scale it is graded with the the number it matches. Therefore honey with a rating of 35-5o is considered extra light amber, 51-85 is light amber, and so on.
So how do you choose what honey you like? Simply try different honeys and see what your preference is. Honey is very subject to terroir much like wine. Many would say, and I agree, the taste of local honey changes from year to year due to the changes in blossoming plants each year. At Clean Slate Farm the apple and cherry blossoms were incredibly lush in 2010 and 2013, while not so in 2011 and 2012. This would have an effect on the color and taste of the honey in this area.
There’s another reason for different tastes. Foraging bees will travel up to five miles to gather pollen and nectar. So unless the forage area is predominantly one plant the honey will not have a single specific flavor. Honey from these apiaries should be labeled wildflower honey as the beekeeper has little control of what the bees are foraging on. Some beekeepers will label honey as “Strawberry Fields” or a similar name if the predominant forage source is strawberries for instance. Buyer beware is all I’ll say. The bees will eat what the bees have available and what humans want is of no concern to them.
Is there such a thing as organic honey? Sadly, no. Due to pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and GMO crops organic honey is impossible. Why? See the paragraph above. The beekeeper does not control what the bee forages. The best we can hope for is locally produced honey kept in a sustainable manner where the beekeeper uses natural pest control and locally adapted bees to encourage good genetics for strong colonies. You would have to be living under a rock not to have heard about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is (mysteriously?) killing tens of thousands of bee colonies worldwide. Some reliable European and well regarded North American studies have linked CCD to monoculture farming and pesticide/herbicides containing neonicotinoids, a neuro-active toxin used in monoculture pest control. Big Ag and agro-pharmaceuticals are arguing differently but the studies are becoming more persuasive. Just don’t use Round-Up on your lawn or let your neighbor use it either. It’s killing the bees.
In a future post I’ll talk about honey bee pests and problems the beekeeper must deal with. As we at Clean Slate Farm get deeper into the bee thing we’ll bring you a first hand perspective.
Now back to the recipe. Enjoy!
- ½ cup local honey
- ½ cup butter
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- 1½ cups all purpose flour
- 1½ tsp. baking soda
- ¼ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- ½ cup walnuts, ground
- Cream honey and butter together. Add egg and vanilla. In bowl, mix flour, soda, powder and salt together. Add flour mix. Add nuts and chocolate chips. Drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.