Around Christmastime a box arrived in the mail from my friend Jane in California. In it were four raw honeys from the San Francisco area. Two were from the Bay Area Bee Company. One of these (the “San Francisco’s Finest”) arrived broken despite Jane’s thorough efforts to bubble-wrap it, but I managed to squeeze out a safe taste. It was wonderfully rich and cinnamon-like, as I remember it anyway. The rest was infused with shards of glass, so I had to put on a mopey face and toss it. The other honey, the subject of today’s post, is an unusual smoked honey called the “BBQ Blend”.
I couldn’t find details on this honey, so I wrote to the apiary and received a very detailed reply from Kelli Armonas:
“We do backyard & rooftop garden beekeeping, partnering with landowners/homeowners with similar attitudes as us regarding using natural methods: no chemicals, no pesticides, no antibiotics (for the bees, n/a garden), etc. We look for environments where the bees will thrive & hopefully be stress-free. We have found that if we attempt to place hives in properties where the people are really difficult or unpleasant, not only do we regret it but the bees seem to act crazy and/or not do well.
All of our honey varieties are marketed based on the area/neighborhood they come from. The flora is sometimes a bit more specific but usually just what is in the area blooming and what the property owner & neighbors are planting in their gardens & around their homes. Those you received would all be from this Fall (Oct, Nov, early Dec harvests).
The Bay Area Blend is a blend of honey from our hives all around the SF Bay Area (SF, Oakland, Berkeley, Vallejo, Benicia, Mare Island Preserve, Napa, St. Helena, Vacaville, Lake Berryessa, Marin County). Each week when we harvest and/or are extracting, we blend them to get a well balanced flavor to tone down any high notes and lift any low notes but retaining the flavors of that season. The deeper tones could be a little eucalyptus, fennel or manzanita coming in to it.
The San Francisco’s Finest is the same as above but is comprised of only honey from our SF hives. This honey is a bit larger and less toned down with some eucalyptus and citrus, also a wide variety of ornamental flowers and garden blossoms.
The BBQ Blend is smoked honey from the cappings. When we extract, we place the cappings in a large bin with a metal slotted screen. The honey drips down and what is left is fairly clean wax with a bit of honey remaining. Rokas (my husband/beekeeper) then places the wax over an outdoor wood fire, heating just until the wax melts & rises to the surface, removes the wax for candle making, watches the honey closely until it looks & tastes right to him (if you cook, you understand what I’m saying), he then blends it with the raw capping drippings. I believe the color is in part from the honey but primarily from the heating. This honey is a blend of raw & partially cooked honey, which is the reason the label does not include the same verbiage as the others.”
You can smell rich and sweet smoke from this honey as soon as you take off the cap. The honey itself is very thick and viscous, and looks like mahogany wood stain that was accidentally left out. This is very fun honey to eat. It coats your mouth with a smokey-sweet waxy richness which reminds me of the pleasant strangeness of a horehound candy. The smoke is like that of a wood fire from your neighbor’s house when you go on a walk, but it’s not cloying like that of over-smoked Lapsang Souchong tea. This stuff would be great on ribs, or used sparingly as a mystery ingredient in a mixed drink. I have to imagine that chefs would go wild for it.
Where To Buy
I have no idea. Next time you’re in the San Francisco area, keep an eye out.