Every year a swarm of local aspiring beekeepers head to the NC Cooperative Extension for the Guilford County Beekeepers Association Beginner Beekeeping Course. My friend, Tim, was a student in this yearʼs colony (allow me to stick with bee-lingo) and has since set up his own honey-making production at home. Several weeks ago, Tim walked proudly into my office to share some of his home-harvested honey and the scoop on his class, handcrafted beehive and newfound hobby. I graciously accepted the jar of “Happy Bee Honey” and placed it in my kitchen windowsill with plans for a creative culinary experiment to compliment Timʼs ventures.
The Guilford County Beekeepers are an affiliate of the North Carolina Beekeepers Association, which happens to be the largest of itʼs kind in the country. From the coast to mountains, beekeepers have been working to organize, educate and share beekeeping and honey-making skills. Since 1975, the Guilford Beekeepers have been meeting monthly and growing their network. No North Carolinian would doubt the incredible variety and plentifulness of honey in our state. Just in the Piedmont alone, honeyʼs color and taste can be determined by anything in bloom -from dandelions to sumac, sweet clover to sourwood.
Outside of honeyʼs remarkable flexibility as a food source, I find its use as a term of endearment both irresistible and infinite. Is there anything sweeter? I certainly canʼt imagine calling my “honey-buns” – “stevia-buns!”
I spent this past Labor Day in the North Carolina Mountains with friends. A hint of fall was in the air and produce stands with apples and honey lined the winding roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We picked up a sampling and enjoyed homemade grilled flatbreads on the deck that evening. Iʼve never had much of a sweet tooth but I happily and sinfully make up for it with savory carbohydrates. I combined the two to create a sweet and savory creation that highlighted our roadside loot. My recipe for Grilled BlueCheese, Apple, Country Ham and Honey Flatbread is a unique treat for end-of-summer outdoor dining.
My neighborhood sommelier, Mark, recommends an acidic and sweet French Vouvray to compliment this sweet and salty flatbread. If you prefer to drink red wine, he suggests a light Pinot Noir or a Gamay grape (like a Beaujolais) – something light enough that youʼll want to chill slightly before serving.
While that cute honey bear at the store can be tempting, there is a growing amount of honey that is being “adulterated” meaning that a variety of products could be added to dilute your honey bearʼs contents. So, stick with the local stuff. According to the Guilford Beekeepers, September is the time to harvest the last batches of honey for the year. Luckily for us, honey is the only food that doesn’t spoil -so stock up now and save it through the winter for your hot tea, baking and salty & sweet cooking experiments.
Grilled Blue Cheese, Apple, Country Ham and Honey Flatbread
- 1 packet dry active yeast
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for flatbread brushing
- 3 ounces blue cheese
- 1 apple, sliced thin
- 1/4 pound country ham
- 1 tablespoon honey (to taste)
- rosemary, chopped (optional garnish)
Mix together yeast, honey and warm water. Allow to sit until the yeast is activated (it will begin to bubble slightly). Meanwhile, mix together flour and salt in a stand- up mixer with a dough hook. With the mixer on low, gradually add the yeast liquid to the flour. Allow the dough to form and add the olive oil. At this point you may need to add more water if the dough is to dry. Feel free to knead the dough with your hands if you arenʼt getting the right feel (think elastic).
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and drape a warm damp towel over top. Allow the dough to rise in a warm spot for an hour or until doubled in size. Meanwhile, fry strips of country ham until crispy in a dry skillet on medium heat. Slice apple into thin slices.
Heat your grill to medium low. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch and brush with olive oil on both sides. Place dough on the grill grate and close the grill (watch the heat – all grills heat differently!) Your grill will act as an oven when closed. Allow the dough to brown on the bottom and then flip. Sprinkle the dough with blue cheese and close the oven to melt. Once melted – and the other side of the dough is beginning to crisp – top with apple and crisp country ham. Close to heat through and then remove the pizza from the grill. Drizzle with honey and garnish with rosemary. Enjoy!