Samhain And The Bees

The ancient Celtic calendar follows the agricultural year more closely than our modern calendar. This is especially true for the beekeeper.

It “officially” becomes Winter on December 21st by the standard Western calendar, but in the ancient Celtic calendar, it begins a lot earlier.  On November 1st, Celtic winter begins with  the season of  Samhain (pronounced SOW-in).  The beginning of Samhain is traditionally celebrated on October 31st.

The Celtic seasons  are:

1. Samhain    (Winter) November 1st, the beginning of the new year, to January 31st.

2. Imbolc    (Spring)  February 1st to April 30th

3. Beltain    (Summer) May 1st to July 31st

4. Lughnasadh   (Fall)  August 1st to Oct. 31st

Why does the Celtic Winter start so early?

For beekeepers, it means that the queen stops laying and the bees go into their winter cluster with the queen always at the center, huddling together for warmth until Imbolc arrives in February and the queen again becomes active.

For most “believers”, Samhain,  means “End of Summer”, and is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this day.

October 31st is one of the two “spirit-nights” each year, the other being Beltain. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands.

This was the time that the cattle and other livestock were slaughtered for eating in the ensuing winter months. Any crops still in the field on Samhain were considered taboo, and left as offerings to the Nature spirits.

Bonfires were built, (originally called bone-fires, for after feasting, the bones were thrown in the fire as offerings for healthy and plentiful livestock in the New Year) and stones were marked with peoples names. Then they were thrown into the fire, to be retrieved in the morning.

The condition of the retrieved stone foretold of that person’s fortune in the coming year. Hearth fires were also lit from the village bonfire to ensure unity, and the ashes were spread over the harvested fields to protect and bless the land.

Celebrate the Lifting of the Veil with a Samhain Cocktail.

1 1/2 oz. Vodka

1/2 oz. raspberry liqueur

1/2 oz. honey

1 oz. cranberry juice

Mix together in a shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a cranberry.

Mulled Rum Punch With Honey

I recently posted a recipe for Hot Buttered Rum. With all of this wretched weather, I think another hot and spicy rum drink is in order.

While Paula Deen may beg to differ, not everyone likes butter in their cocktails. For those of you who prefer your spiced rum without the cow, here is a delicious recipe for Mulled Rum Punch.

It’s a perfect treat for the grownups on Halloween!

Ingredients

4 quarts apple juice or cider
1/2 cup honey
24 whole cloves
16 whole allspice
8 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 whole nutmegs, cracked
1 to 2 cups golden rum
Lemon peel and/or other garnish of your choosing

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine apple juice or cider, honey, whole cloves, whole allspice, cinnamon sticks, and nutmegs.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cool, then refrigerate several hours.
  3. To serve: strain and stir in 1 to 2 cups golden rum, according to taste. Reheat and serve with thin strips of lemon peel.

Makes 24 (6 ounce) glasses.

Cooking With Honey Has Been Published!

It’s official!

Cooking With Honey is available through its web site as well as Barnes & Noble and Amazon!  It’s also available on its web site as an e-book.

Now is the time to order for Christmas!!  🙂

And thanks again for all of your encouragement!!

xo Deb

I miss London!!

Mrs Apis Mellifera

The sun is playful in October. It races across the sky low and bright catching fire to vibrant colours, then hides behind mists and raindrops teasing the day with soft light and vivid tones.

Autumn is a fleeting time of year and so I have enjoyed lunch time walks in Regent’s Park, which has been the perfect canvas for the tantalising display of colour and light.

The days started with golden sunshine, leaves on fire and sparkling fountains…

Gloomy clouds arrived bringing overcast light and saturated autumn colours…

Then the mists fell upon wet leaves capturing spectacular hues, waterfalls and reflections…

Light played with raindrops in the dying rose garden and mists wreathed fading flowers…

I hope you are enjoying autumn as much as I have been!

Related links

If you would like to visit or find out more about Regent’s Park, visit the website of the royal parks.

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Honey Black Raspberry Cupcakes With Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

My favorite ice cream flavor of all time is Black Raspberry Chip by Graeter’s in Cincinnati. It may be the perfect ice cream!!

All Graeter’s ice cream flavors are divine…  And they have an online store!!

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking up new honey cupcake recipes, and for a while now, I’ve been trying to think of a cupcake that captures the essence of this heavenly frozen treat. By George, I think I’ve got it!!

The purple of the cupcakes comes from the berries alone. No food coloring needed.

If you can’t find black raspberries, blackberries or raspberries will do nicely.  🙂

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz black raspberries, frozen, and thawed
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted, softened
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 TBS raspberry liqueur
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, large

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325ºF and line one twelve cup cupcake pan with lines.
  2. In a small pot over low heat combine:
    • 3/4 cup honey
    • 8 oz black raspberries, frozen , and thawed
  3. Heat mixture until honey is softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender, purée black raspberries with the honey.
  5. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together:
    • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/8 tsp salt
  6. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk together until fluffy:
    • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted , softened
    • 2 TBS raspberry liqueur
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  7. Whip into the butter, one at a time:
    • 3 eggs, large
  8. Alternate adding in the flour mixture with the black raspberry mixture, until just combined, scraping down sides of the bowl between mixes.
  9. Divide batter evenly into prepared cupcake pan. Bake until edges of the cupcakes are lightly golden, 17-20 minutes.
  10. Cool cupcakes completely prior to frosting.
  11. Refrigerate cupcakes until ready to serve.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Yields: 3 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!)
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream
Instructions
  1. Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Turn off the mixer. Sift 3 cups powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. Turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere) until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Honey Butternut Squash Cupcakes With White Chocolate Frosting

These cupcakes may very well be the best you will ever taste! There’s no need to tell your guests that they are made with butternut squash…

Cupcakes

1 cup of uncooked butternut squash (that’s about half of a medium-size squash), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp. vegetable oil
6 tablespoons (3oz) unsalted butter
1 cup (4 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking Soda
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup honey
1/3 cup tightly packed, dark brown sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 tablespoons half & half cream (or whole milk)

Directions

Prepare the squash: Place the butternut squash pieces into a large, microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 5-6 minutes, occasionally stopping to stir, until the squash is cooked (a fork should be able to easily go through a piece). Place the now-soft pieces of squash into a food processor or blender. Add 1 tsp. of oil. Pulse/puree until smooth. [Note: If you have a small food processor or blender, just puree half at a time.]

Measure out 3/4 cup of purée. (You may have some left-over that can be covered and refrigerated for another use.) Set aside the measured out 3/4 cup, and allow it to cool to room temp.

Prepare the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Melt the butter in a medium-size heavy bottom saucepan, over low heat until just melted. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and cook, swirling occasionally, until the butter turns golden brown and develops a nutty fragrance. Keep a close eye on the butter, it can turn from brown to black in a matter of seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the butter to cool for about 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking Soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, combine the butternut squash purée (3/4 cup), honey, brown sugar, egg, and cream. Whisk vigorously until well blended. Add all of the flour mixture and, using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients until just combined. Try not to over mix.

Add the brown butter and gently whisk until smooth and well combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake liners.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top of a cupcake springs back when touched lightly.

Remove from the oven and allow the cupcakes to sit in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Cool completely before frosting.

White Chocolate Frosting

6 ounces of high quality white chocolate
8 tablespoons (that’s 1 stick) of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups of confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. pure almond extract

Directions

Make a double-boiler: Place about 1/2-inch of water into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Place the white chocolate into a large, heat proof bowl and place the bowl on top of the saucepan (be sure that it’s large enough to fit over the pan of simmering water without the bottom actually touching the water). Stirring occasionally, melt the chocolate until smooth. Remove the bowl off the saucepan and set it aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile: In the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (a hand-held will work too), beat the butter and salt until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes on medium speed).

Gradually sift in the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low speed after each addition. [Note: I added the sugar in 1/2 cup increments.]

Once all the sugar has been added, beat in the milk and almond extract until well combined.

Add the cooled, melted white chocolate and beat on low until combined. If the frosting looks too thin, add about 1/4 cup of confectioners’ sugar. If it’s too thick, add a splash of milk.

If the white chocolate was still on the warm side when it was added to the bowl, simply refrigerate the frosting until it reaches a spreadable consistency…if you plan on piping it, this may take longer.

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired. Garnish with walnuts, or cinnamon, or shaved chocolate.

yields 12 cupcakes