Hello, Honey Recipes

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These days, Tennessee beekeepers might be just as busy as the bees they keep. The state counts dozens of beekeeper associations. The Pick Tennessee Products website lists about 140 commercial honey producers from the Smokies to the Mississippi – not to mention the hundreds of outliers beyond those listed. The state offers Master Beekeeper courses, but many beekeepers take over what someone else began, or order supplies online and research on their own. Apiarists are cowboys, successful commercial operators and many things in between.

Of the nearly 125,000 beekeepers in the U.S., about 25 percent are strictly hobbyists. Some keep just a few hives in their backyard, collecting their liquid gold and giving it to friends on holidays.

READ MORE: Let It Bee at Hilltown Honey

Then, there are commercial farmers, who usually operate more than 300 hives. Laura Kimball runs her family’s thriving honey business. They process their TruBee brand in small batches. Each batch reflects the unique flavor of the spring or summer harvest and depends entirely on what is blossoming. Typically, pear, cherry blossom, purple nettles and black locust comprise her Middle Tennessee yield in the spring, and the harvest becomes available in early summer.

“Each batch is truly unique. Old-timers have been known to detect black locust elements in our spring honey,” Kimball says. “Like wine, honey is climate sensitive. Each vintage takes on characteristics from what is abundant in nature.” Of course, a number of factors influence what the bees find available, including heat, rain amounts, and the timing and frequency of frosts.

Most commercial honey is comprised of a combination of flavors gathered from colonies spread around the nation and world. They have signature formulas that produce unique and consistent blends. This science expands into those formulas that are filtered and unfiltered, raw and heated. When honey is heated to 140 degrees, it prevents crystallization. However, some say many of the holistic qualities are lost in this process. It’s important to discern these traits when choosing honey for health reasons.

The history of honey is as rich and sweet as honey itself. No matter how we try to control colonies and hives, it does not change the fact that one honeybee produces only one-half teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

The Bible references honey as a food fit for deities. Yet, we mere mortals grab it off the grocery shelves and put it in our tea and on our toast. It’s a divine product that we can afford for our daily use.

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Honey Bacon Goat Cheese Dip

After several attempts at making dips, I returned to basics. Tennessee produces such lovely goat cheese, bacon and honey, which I’ve combined for a decadent Honey Bacon Goat Cheese Dip. It’s so simple it can hardly be called a recipe.

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