Thursday, 19 November 2015

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The Honey Doctor

It’s important to stay healthy, avoid winter illnesses and not to get down in the dumps on dark days during winter. So it’s a good time to talk about honey and health. Luckily we’ve always got honey on hand for our ailments, but don’t sue us for claims about our products if your cold persists, it’s just what our granny always recommended. 

Honey has been used as a healing substance since ancient times and modern analysis shows it contains naturally occurring hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a colourless liquid just slightly more viscous than water. The fact that every honey jar contains this liquid is good news, as many claim it has several health benefits which add qualities to our honey beyond taste. Our body produces hydrogen peroxide in our white blood cells to fight disease and defend against pathogens. However, in honey it is produced from glucose with the aid of a specialist enzyme from the bees. The hydrogen peroxide in honey can help to fight infections or heal wounds and the medical world is cottoning on to this and developing treatments using honey*. Although it does not help with pain relief as hydrogen peroxide is not a pain-killer, it can however act as an anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-fungal agent, which could help to make it effective at treating the pathogen that is causing the infection. We are not saying rub honey on your teeth when you have toothache, but honey is special stuff so maybe think beyond putting it on your toast next time?

Steve’s favourite ritual when he lived in Shropshire to celebrate the end to a good year of beekeeping was to drink hot toddies with the local landowners, farmers and the gamekeeper on the land where he still keeps the bees. David King, the gamekeeper who lives near Steve’s beloved Butler’s Cottage where he used to live up in Shropshire, is responsible for getting Steve into this simple drink. He has been a helping friend of Steve’s for may years and still to this day checks on the bees whilst we are busy back in London.

So if you are struck down with a cold this season we’ve got a comforting hot toddy recipe for you as a cough syrup alternative! We find it works well even if you don’t have a cold!!! But this is not the answer for your 8 year old no matter how much they are complaining. And if it doesn’t cure you of your symptoms it will most probably help send you to sleep forgetting that they exist! Enjoy!

Kingy’s Hot Toddy:

Bushmill’s whiskey (a healthy dash)
1 lemon
Cloves and a cinnamon stick

Turn to page 267 in Steve’s book to see how this warming winter drink is made. 

Another drink to help keep you in good health this winter, this creation belongs to Steve’s friend Lara, it was her grandfather’s recipe and we feel that it is a delicious restorative that everyone could do with every once in a while. Lara’s grandfather was a doctor in Chichester and swore by this recipe for a cure of all ills both for him and his patients. We hope it will help to restore your health, strength and well-being.

Dr Bernay’s Honey Gar recipe

Runny honey
Cider Vinegar
Carbonated water

A glassful to be drunk once a day to aid good health and longevity.

Mr Bernay’s doctors orders can be found on page 57 of Steve’s book ‘The Urban Beekeeper- a year of bees in the city.’ 

*Please consult your doctor for professional advice on using honey medicinally.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Bonfire night : spiced London honey dressing

Winter is drawing in fast and today it’s bonfire night! Broken hive parts are superb at getting a fire going. We like to put baked potatoes in foil to cook in the fire over the course of the evening, ready to be broken open, accompanied with slow cooked pork shredded and a winter salad of grated carrot, oriental leaves and a warming spiced London Honey Dressing. This dressing goes well with a roast pork, pigeon or chicken.

The recipe comes from the chef Mickael Weiss who Steve met on a cookery programme around 4 years ago. His restaurant, Coq d’Argent, is based in the heart of the financial city where he serves our honeycomb. Here is the perfect bonfire night spiced dressing recipe: 

you will need:
1/2 tsp turmeric 
1/2 tsp cumin    
1/2 tsp ground ginger 
1/2 tsp star anise powder (or a whole star anise)
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 lime
1 lemon
50g sugar
150g of London honey
100g of soft butter

For more detail, cooking instructions, and a story about Steve’s nephew getting lost, flick to page 248 in ‘The Urban Beekeeper, a year of bees in the city.’ 

The London Honey Company in Korea


In mid-September The London Honey Company (LHC) were invited to a very special beekeeping event which happens every 3 years, this was the 44th Apimondia International Apicultural Congress in Daejeon, South Korea. The theme was “Bee, Connecting the World!”. We felt like this was an opportunity not to be missed. Steve sent his right hand man, London Honey Company beekeeper Nic Bishop who was keen to learn about Korean beekeeping and how people have been inspired by Steve’s work across the globe!
The LHC was invited to the congress by Nicola Bradbear of Apimondia and Professor Seungwang Lee of Seoul National University.  Nicola is one of the upmost personalities in the world of beekeeping and rural development, she introduced a section on Urban Beekeeping to Apimondia for the very first time this year and deserves a big thank you for inviting us to such an incredible event. Nic’s presentation included a brief history of the company and how it developed, offering amazing pictures of bees around the London rooftops, as well as technical insights on how to be an urban beekeeper!
Back in 2013 Steve's Book ‘The Urban Beekeeper, A year of Bees in the City’ was translated into Korean. Professor Seungwang, who invited the LHC to visit the bees at the university, and other beekeepers Nic met, such as Jin Park, had all read the Korean copy of the book several times. Jin was actually inspired by Steve's book in setting up this operation with the rest of the Urbees Seoul team. 
There were many interesting organisations at the conference, such COLOSS ,Prevention of honey bee COlony LOSSes, to more extravagant projects like Denis Anderson's work on reintroducing sustainable beekeeping in the UAE. The Rural Development Series offered presentations ranging from the role of women beekeepers in Zambian villages to the introduction of new technologies for the transportation of hives in Ghana.  

In Seoul, South Korea’s capital, Nic had the opportunity to meet up with Jin Park of Urbees Seoul and his gentle bees on the UNESCO House in the heart of the city. His bees forage on acacia and chestnut trees from the hills around the N Seoul Tower and access early pollen from the numerous willow trees in the various ecological parks. They exchanged jars of honey and had a two hour bee chat at the UNESCO house bar after which Jin left to check on hives at one of the western embassy's in the city.

On his second day in Seoul Nic visited the Seoul National University where Professor Seungwang Lee showed him around his department including the University's huge insectary which was about the size of our warehouse in Bermondsey! He then visited the rooftop bees of Seoul National University which has vast foraging sources offered by the wild mountains and hills that spread out from the south border of the city. The professor was very interested in the foraging sources that London offers our city bees. He told Nic he was in the process of making a recommendation to the Korean Government regarding which trees should be planted around the city and on roads. 

In the bee farmer business there is no time for rest and it was a good job that Nic never quite adjusted to the local time zone. Within a few hours of his arrival back in the UK he was off to the Long Mynd heather moors for the Ling harvest and the migration of bees back to the warmer temperatures of the south!

We hope to be given the opportunity to attend the next Apimondia conference again in 2018 when it will be held in Turkey and to help to develop urban beekeeping further into the future.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Heather Harvest

The vibrant purple ling heather found on the Long Mynd in Shropshire is very important to us and not only because it’s used to make our London Honey Company Mead. The heather doesn’t blossom until the late summer months when it marks the end of the season for the London Honey Company bees. This makes Shropshire a very important final stop before it’s all down to bottling and orders for Christmas back in Bermondsey! December is already creeping up on us far too fast. 

A thick gelatinous honey with toffee flavours and bitter notes, it's special stuff. So rich it even defies the Newtonian laws of how liquids normally behave! According to the boffins it's thixotropic, which means it gets less viscous as it is stirred - drop that into conversation over the breakfast table, that'll impress!

What does this aromatic honey go down well with? Some enjoy it with a large slab of pecorino. Others with yoghurt and fruit, or a home made granola! But I think my personal favourite is just in its most simplistic form, straight off the spoon in a time of weakness!

But why not try this recipe to treat the other half on a Sunday afternoon, we should thank Theo Fraser from ‘The deli downstairs’ in the East End for it, he is an old friend of the company and kindly contributed the recipe to Steve’s book,  ‘The Urban Beekeeper- A year of bees in the city’, p 205 for more detail and cooking instructions. 

Baklava French Toast Recipe

5 tbsp honey
1 tbsp water
zest of half an orange
a handful of pistachios and walnuts, chopped
a pinch of ground cinnamon
2 slices of good bread
1 egg
1 tbsp of milk
2 drops of good vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
butter, for frying

To serve:
a small square of honey on the comb (preferably ours)
orange zest 

The heather harvest this year has brought in about 500kg of honey, which may seem a lot but is down on our previous crop from last year. The honey cropping up in Shropshire was a full team operation with Steve, Nick, Hannah, David the game keeper, and even Steve's nephew was called upon to lift honey boxes as back up. However, no hard work is finished in Shropshire without a trip to Steve’s sisters house where he and the team were rewarded with a big pot of homemade chilli and a damson crumble! 

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Urban Food Fortnight

It’s Urban Food Fortnight until the 27th of September, so we thought we ought to get the new design of our London honey jar up on the website! We rather like the gold bee. As the honey harvest comes in to the warehouse in Bermondsey we have a wider range available on the website, including Buckinghamshire, Field Bean, Shropshire and Wood Sage.

Steve started keeping bees in London over twenty years ago now, when the urban food scene was still in the early days. Many of the friends he made during the younger years of trading at Borough Market are now neighbours at Spa Terminus – such as Monmouth Coffee and the Ham and Cheese Company. Beekeeping has been a key into some amazing London places, such as peering into the Globe Theatre from the roof of the Tate Modern or climbing into an old water storage tank to see the bees at one of the apiaries in Wapping.

But it’s the friends we’ve made along the way which really make it worthwhile, the people we’ve supplied for years and the fresh faces coming into the food scene that we continue to meet.  We’re flattered the lovely Melrose and Morgan, who are old allies, have included us in their pick of London Artisans for the Urban Food Fortnight. 


Mead and Cheese Matching

Another bastion of the London food scene is the fabulous La Fromagerie. If you need some help deciding what to eat with our Long Mynd Mead then La Fromagerie did an excellent job of matching cheeses to it for our recent launch party. They suggest the following:

Lot, Midi Pyrénées
Unpasteurised Goat’s Milk
Traditional Rennet
This is a wild and beautiful arid area with scrubby grassland of wild thyme and gorse & dense woodland of Chestnut trees.  The goats are allowed to roam and therefore eat lots of herbs and chestnuts which then give the milk its definitive herbal bosky flavours.  The early Spring cheeses are fresh and tangy and as the season progresses the flavours become more full. 
(Approx weight 90g 45%fat)

Unpasteurised Cow’s Milk
Traditional Rennet
In a heart shape the rind has a soft, downy, velvety bloom and the cheese is close textured and crumbly with a gentle salty tang.  Best eaten quite young as the fresh mushroom aroma and light nutty flavours can become rather sharp and aggressive if allowed to ripen too far.  The gentle rolling countryside around Forges-les-Eaux is the best area to find these cheeses.  (Approx weight 200gr.  45% fat)

Pasteurised Cow’s Milk
Traditional Rennet
Soft Camembert size cheese lightly washed with Annatto (orange coloured vegetable extract) and with scatterings of white bloomy moulds.  The taste is rich, mellow and fruity like clotted crème fraiche.  We washed the cheeses in the Mead wine before finishing the maturing process in our cellars.  (Approx weight 250g.  45% fat)

Bedale, North Yorkshire
Pasteurised Cow’s Milk
Vegetarian Rennet
A semi-hard crumbly textured pasteurised cow’s milk cheese using vegetable rennet, with a smooth thin natural dry crust bound in muslin.  A moist, hazelnut creamy taste with fresh salty tang, and perfect for partnering dried fruits or even fruit cake.  (Approx weight 2.5kg  45% fat)

Cropwell Bishop Creamery, Nottingham
Pasteurised cow’s milk
Traditional rennet
A rich and creamy cheese with a mellow nutty blue veining running through which is not too overpowering or bitter but has a salty hit which would be a good match for beer.  The cheeses are matured for 7 weeks, and the traditional rennet brings out the milk style of the Peak district grazing pastures which are rich in iron minerals.  A perfect cheese to enjoy on its own or as part of a cheeseboard with softer style cheeses.

You can now buy our mead, a traditional alcoholic drink made from honey, at Fortnum’s Piccadilly store, at Melrose and Morgan, in store and online, as well as through Haringey Local Stores and the Quality Chop House.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

South Coast Secrets

July 2015

One of Steve’s most wonderful and picturesque bee sites is down on the South Coast about 2 hours from London, near Hastings. This beautiful place feels like another world with nothing for miles but beach huts. There’s something about the place that just gives you a calm and peaceful feeling, I think Steve enjoys escaping to this wild west like land away from the stresses of London life. 

However, Steve’s not just there for the views, there’s a more important reason for the drive down to the South Coast, the harvesting of the honey from the wild wood sage - an unusual and complex honey with woody forest notes! The hives are located by a series of fishing ponds which are great for cooling off in after a hard days work of beekeeping in the sun. This year the wood sage crop hasn’t been as good due to strong winds, resulting in less honey being harvested. 

Whatever the results of the day’s beekeeping Steve, Nic and Hannah are always cheered by the local snack bar, one of Steve’s all time favourites. The menu changes daily depending on what the fisherman have caught that day, so Steve always allows time for a fish sarnie before his drive back to London.