Can there be any more colorful season than high summer? The flowers, the vegetables, the sunrises and sunsets. The world is golden and the Earth buzzes with busy bees as they travel from flower to flower, home to hive, and then back out to continue foraging. It is a sweet time indeed.
It is also the cycle of the Mead Moon when we are encouraged to celebrate with honey, look with both wonder and care at the magic of bees. But also with concern for their fragile but critical existence. Without them we would literally starve to death. We need bees and right now they desperately need us.
So I have a recipe to share that I hope will inspire you to do two things. First support your local honey growers at farmers markets and roadside stands. Local honey is incredibly healthy for you, healthy for the planet, steps lightly in terms of carbon footprint and tastes as amazing as the colors and fragrances of summer.
Charity Davis-Woodward has been my go-to supplier this summer for this beneficial golden sweetener. She lives in my county and owns Honeywood Hives. Her honey ranges from light, delicate and floral to dark and robust, which is great for cooking. The benefits of Charity’s honey are in its minimal processing, leaving it essentially raw and full of all the nutrients and antioxidants the bees intended. She is at the Goshen Community Market in Edwardsville every Saturday. Stop by and say hi and definitely buy some of her delicious honey!
Second, be your own bee supporter—plant a yard full of pollinator plants from a trusted local source. I have worked for several years to turn my yard into a viable corridor for bees, birds and wildlife. I’ve done this by getting lots of help and resources from my friend Tom Shirrell, who sells native plants at my Goshen Community Market. Of course, I’ll never be “finished,” with my little plot of land but that’s part of the fun!
Ah, but I did promise you a honey-inspired recipe, so let’s get cookin’.
- Two bunches smaller red beets (about two pounds), scrubbed and peeled, sliced in half and then into thin-sliced half-moons.
- One cup brown rice vinegar
- One cup filtered water (perhaps a little more if the beets in your pot are not completely covered)
- One-inch chunk of peeled fresh ginger
- One large bay leaf
- One teaspoon each: whole dark mustard seed, whole cumin seed, whole coriander seed, whole black peppercorns
- One-quarter cup of your favorite local honey (I prefer a darker more robust honey, if available.)
- Two tablespoons Dijon mustard, whole grain is especially good here
- One-quarter teaspoon fine sea salt
- Place the prepared beets, the ginger, bay leaf and all the spices except the salt into a large saucepan. Cover with the mixture of rice vinegar and water. As noted above, you can add a little water to make sure the beets are completely covered if necessary.
- Bring the beets to a boil. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer on low until the beets are fork tender, about 45 to 60 minutes, depending on how tender the beets are to begin with.
- When the beets are where you want them, turn off the heat, put a lid on the pot and allow the beets to steep in their liquid for one hour to 90 minutes. The longer they steep—up to two hours—the more intense their flavor.
- Strain the beets, reserving ALL the liquid. Set the beets aside in a storing dish and return the liquid to the pot. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is reduced to nearly a quarter cup and has slightly thickened a bit. Stir in the honey and continue stirring and cooking until the honey has melted and a syrup is forming. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard and salt.
- Pour the glaze over the cooked beets and store in the refrigerator for eight hours or overnight. Again the flavor intensifies the longer they marinate.
Note that the cook time does not include the necessary steep and store times. I prefer to make my beets ahead by one or even two days before serving for maximum flavor and easy menu planning. The beets keep well so doubling the recipe and enjoying them all week is a great way to keep summer meals hectic free.
Beets are full of antioxidants and vitamins. This method of cooking and pickling really retains a lot of their nutrition. They are certainly an excellent companion for honey. So eat up—here are a few more ways to enjoy beets: a “never skip a beet” salad and a roasted beet hummus. Both these dishes are great picnic food too! So spread the buzz about beets and bees!!