Beekeeper relishes sweet success

All through spring and summer, I watched my bees — fed them sugar syrup and checked inside their hive once or twice (but opted to let bees be bees)— until mid-October.

They had a grand go at the hot summer months, living near my parents’ home in Clarkston. And boy, did they have it good: moderate temperatures for summer in the South, a garden of vegetables and wildflowers to pollinate, a creek in which to bathe and five acres of land to roam.

One sunny afternoon in mid-October ago, I harvested my first honey. I had lots of help from beekeepers far greater than me: Cindy Hodges and Martha Keifer of the Metro Atlanta Beekeepers Association have guided me via e-mail; Keifer generously sent feeders to me through the mail. Cassandra Lawson, a certified beekeeper in Decatur, talked me out of using a centrifuge for my first harvest and guided me through the ropes of getting to my honey without one (you can reach Lawson at 678-431-5350 if you need help with a hive).

But it is the bees — nearly 40,000 of them — that have truly inspired me. They work steadfastly and calmly every day. They work in rain or shine. They never complain. And they are the ultimate organizers and communicators. Honey bees pollinate 80 percent of the Earth’s vegetation and ask for nothing in return. In fact, they give us honey, beeswax and so much more.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a beekeeper (or a Pooh bear) to enjoy honey. And nothing goes better with honey than warm biscuits.

Now that’s it gotten colder, the hive is much less active. To prevent my bees from starving, I’ll feed them a sugar syrup all winter long. In the spring, I’ll start the process all over again.

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Scott Peacock’s Buttermilk Biscuits

These fluffy Southern-style biscuits are from Watershed chef Scott Peacock, who shared them with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2008. Lard is easy to find in supermarkets, but shortening is a good substitute if needed.

Hands on: 10 minutes Total time: 20-22 minutes Makes: 15 (21/2-inch) biscuits

5 cups sifted White Lily flour (measured after sifting)

1 tablespoon plus 11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/2 cup packed lard, chilled

13/4 cups chilled buttermilk, plus a few tablespoons more if needed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Whisk well to thoroughly blend. Add the lard and, working quickly, coat in flour and rub between your fingertips until about half the lard is coarsely blended and the other half remains in large pieces about 1/2 inch in size.

Make a well in the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Stir quickly, just until the dough is blended and begins to form. The dough should be soft and a bit sticky and there should not be large amounts of unincorporated flour in the bowl. If dough is too dry, add a few tablespoons more buttermilk.

Turn the dough immediately onto a generously floured surface, and with floured hands, knead briskly 8 to 10 times until a cohesive dough is formed.

Gently flatten the dough with your hands so it is of an even thickness. Then, using a floured rolling pin, roll it out to a uniform thickness of 1/2 inch. (If the dough begins to stick to your rolling pin, dust the pin — not the dough — with flour. Flouring the dough at this point will result in dusty-looking biscuits.) With a fork dipped in flour, pierce the dough completely through at 1/2-inch intervals.

Lightly flour a 21/2- or 3-inch biscuit cutter and stamp out rounds. (Do not twist the cutter when stamping out biscuits.) Cut the biscuits from the dough as close together as you can for a maximum yield. Arrange cut biscuits on a heavy, ungreased or parchment-lined baking sheet so that they almost touch. Do not reroll the scraps, just bake as is and enjoy as a treat.

Bake in upper third of the oven for 8 to 12 minutes until crusty golden brown. (Check about 6 minutes into baking and rotate the pan if needed to ensure even cooking.) Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. Serve hot.

Per biscuit: 234 calories (percent of calories from fat, 38), 5 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 10 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 14 milligrams cholesterol, 553 milligrams sodium.

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