honeyed ginger

Devoted readers may remember that in the early days of spring I prepared gingered honey. Quite inadvertently, I stumbled upon something finer still.

honey-gingers.jpg

Accidental candied ginger! Ah, the honey infused the ginger just as ardently as the ginger infused the honey, and sugared it over, without syrups, completely raw. Oh, the gorgeous stuff!

honeyed ginger with chocolates

Naturally one must introduce honeyed ginger to dark chocolate. My loved ones are now wondering why I didn’t share (blushes) and so I must hurry to make another very large batch. I should think it will be ready for winter, will you try this too? A wide-mouth mason jar should be about right for extracting the ginger, and the honey left is an excellent medicinal. Now, do check back soon, as I have something else gingery and rather exciting to show you.

gingered honey

Have you escaped the springtime sore throat going around? Each of us caught it, one after the other. You might like to keep this quick traditional medicinal recipe mixed up nearby, just in case. Seeing as we were just talking about honey! Raw honey is a fine remedy for sore throats. Sometimes I mix it with lemon, or submerge elderflowers in it. This time, I gingered it.

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Extraordinarily basic, this. Chop ginger root roughly, small enough to fit into whatever sterile jar or bottle you have available. Pour raw honey to cover it. Now and then you might give it a turn. I just leave it out, securely capped, for my children to enjoy turning, they’ll accomplish the same work of infusing ginger throughout the honey.

gingeredhoney.1s.jpg

I like a dollop of gingered honey in a cupful of water hot from the kettle, perhaps with a squeeze of lemon. Woolly socks, a good book, a long rest, and I’m ready for spring days out. Do you have a favourite medicinal that you make and use each year?

beekeeping

Early in October, when autumn was convinced it was summer, we visited my dear friend Sarah and her children in the city. In her beautiful kitchen I stumbled upon the most beautiful and unexpected object.

honey frame

A frame from their beehive, thoroughly sculpted with honeycomb, heavy with honey. I had no idea Sarah kept a hive in the garden! I fell over. Such an astonishing, amazing thing. How much would I love to do this! Like keeping chickens, beekeeping takes some studying, a well-designed structure, a good spot in the garden and a bit of bravery – and learning from watching someone else helps so much. Now I have a beekeeping friend to watch, with keen interest.

honeycomb

I’ve admired the hives on Old Plawhatch Farm near our old cottage in Sussex, and listened to a fascinating talk there by the Natural Beekeeping Trust. Sarah and I talked about how she’s caring for the bees, instinctively following principles I’ve become so interested in. What if the hive isn’t opened often, so it stays warmer, the way the bees need it? What if honey is only taken when the hive is particularly heavy, so the bees have their natural food through winter?

<beehive

The hive strikes me as an unimaginable treasure. The intoxicating scent of beeswax, and so many wonderful uses for the beautiful stuff; the exquisite particularity of flavours of a local honey, and its extraordinary healing benefits; the tremendous contribution a beehive imparts to the health of the neighbourhood’s flora; the utter delight of watching the grace and beauty of bees at work. I love it, I am completely inspired. Thank you, Sarah.

hazelnuts

What elation to gather the hazelnuts before the squirrels made off with the entire harvest. We felt a bit smug, having just outsmarted bears who make off with plums, too.

hazelnuts

What a pleasure to shuck them, sitting on the back step with the children, like shucking corn both in word and in action. Albeit with enough repetition to cause a couple of blisters.

hazelnuts, hulled

What a delight to set them in a basket to dry in a warm room, and watch the pale green deepen to that hazelnut brown.

And what a disappointment to find them all empty, not a single nutmeat amongst them. All our plans for hazelnut torte, or honeynuts! Dashed. Back to buying cobnuts at the shops. The hazels were recruited for an autumn display, beautiful but slightly unfortunate, like an ornamental cherry in spring. Do you gather nuts from local trees before the creatures take them all? What do you do with them?

honey lemon

Having been hopelessly ill last winter, the worst in memory, this year I’m stocking up on traditional cold remedies. I’ve put up medicinals: rosehip cordial, elderberry cordial, elderflower cordial and elderflower honey. I’ve made a nettle tincture. I have my neti pot and my epsom salts and my skin brush. Just one more thing. A very simple remedy, the equivalent of taking your umbrella out in the hopes that just having it might mean you won’t need it.

honey-lemon © elisa rathje 2011

Honey and lemon. It’s made as you would expect, inspired yet again by my beloved copy of Sloe Gin and Beeswax.

honey-lemon © elisa rathje 2011

I used a funnel to fill a jar half full with beautiful local Sussex honey. The lemons were filtered through a jelly bag to remove seeds and pulp. Then I gave the bottle a great shake, corked it, and popped in the fridge just in case. That’s probably unnecessary. I look at that beautiful amber each time I open the fridge and appreciate it. It’s the sort of thing that’s so easy to throw together as needed, but somehow I’ve always run out of honey or forgotten the lemons when we really need them! If we develop a sore throat the honey lemon remedy is ready to pour into hot water, perhaps with a slice of ginger infusing it. One more wish for good health this winter.