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Sweetness of the bees

By Staff | Aug 17, 2012

PAT ENNIS STANDS next to the hives where his bees over winter on his home near Goodell.



GOODELL – It does not take very long to hear the passion and love Pat Ennis has for bees, beekeeping, and the honey business. He said with a smile that beekeeping is a disease for which there is no cure.

He started with bees in 1981 when he was living in Spooner, Wisc. Black bears were a continuous problem for beekeepers in that area as they destroy hives wanting to eat, not the honey as popularly thought, but the grubs.

A job offer in Mason City brought him to Iowa where he was able to set up beekeeping. Later he became employed in Belmond and moved to Goodell where he and his wife Peggy now live.

THESE ARE THE honey butterscotch crispies that can be made using the recipe furnished by Pat Ennis.

Pat and Peggy Ennis have 1,500 hives across northern Iowa in Fort Dodge, Webster City, Charles City, Stanhope, Belmond, Forest City, Charles City and Riceville.

Their honey is sold under the label of Spring Valley Honey Farm, a family-run business owned by Curt and Bronnenberg, of Perry.

Pat Ennis is serving as vice president of the Iowa Honey Producers which observes its 100th anniversary this year. Peggy Ennis is the organization’s historian.

Ennis teaches classes in beekeeping at the North Iowa Community College in Mason City. He said most classes have 25 to 30 students, some as young as 10 years old, with the average age being 64.

Sixty percent of the students are newcomers to beekeeping, Ennis said, and want the bees for pollination purposes.

IN LATE SUMMER, Pat Ennis can stand next to his hives without protection. However, in early spring or later this fall he would be wearing his suit to keep from being stung.

While black bears are not a problem with beekeeping in northern Iowa, intensive farming practices are the main problem, he said, especially when stands of trees are removed to create farmland.

Ennis said bees use pollen from flowers, trees and soybeans. Even weeds such as dandelions and thistles are a pollen source.

“To me, a dandelion is a flower,” said Ennis.

Ennis’ bees work year round as they spend their winters in California. His hives are hauled by semi there late in the year, 440 hives to a truckload, and return in April. The favorable temperatures there and crops that depend on bees for pollination keep his bee numbers up.

Ennis said a hive that over-winters in Iowa will have 30,000 to 40,000 bees per hive. While in California, the hive will have 60,000 to 80,000 bees.

THE HONEY CONTAINERS next to the honey butterscotch crispies contain honey from early spring in the light-colored container and late summer in the dark-colored container. A darker honey has a stronger flavor, Ennis said.

While honey is the main product of beekeeping, there are other items that include candles, pollen, beeswax, and bath and beauty items, all sold by Spring Valley Honey Farm.

At the Iowa State Fair, honey is judged in four classes by color – light, light amber, amber and dark amber. There are 21 categories of honey judging at the state fair.

The time of year affects the color with the lighter color from spring pollen and darker color from the pollen of fall plants. The color affects the flavor with a stronger flavor in the darker colors.

A health advantage of honey is reduced effect on blood glucose and insulin levels due to its higher content of fructose.

Spring Valley Honey Farm’s website says that honey is 25 percent sweeter than sugar and can be substituted up to one-half of the sugar for most recipes using 1/2 to 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of sugar.

Use 12 ounces of honey for a standard cup and apply a non-stick spray on the measuring cup before measuring.

When baking with honey, for every cup of honey used, reduce the liquid called for by 1/4 cup and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda. Cooking temperature should be reduced 25 degrees.

Honey offers the advantage of baked goods not becoming stale or drying out as quickly because of its higher moisture content when compared to sugar.

Caramel oven corn

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter

1/2 cup honey

6 quarts popped corn

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil sugar, butter, honey and salt for 5 minutes. Add soda and vanilla. Stir over popped corn.

Spread on greased pan. Bake at 200 degrres for 1 hour. Every 15 minutes turn over so all sides dry.

Honey butterscotch crispies

1 package butterscotch chips

1/2 cup peanut butter

5 cups rice cereal

1 package chocolate chips

In small pan, combine butterscotch chips, honey and peanut butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring until chips and peanut butter are melted.

In large bowl, combine cereal and butterscotch honey mixture, toss to coat. Press mixture evenly into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over top.

Place under broiler and heat until chips are soft enough to spread, or use a microwave to melt chips and spread on mixture.

Cool and cut into squares.

Note: If sing the broiler to melt chips, don’t leave in oven too long.

Honey oatmeal chews

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup honey

1 egg

2/3 cup sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoonsalt

1 cup quick cooking rolled oats

1 cup flaked coconut

1/2 cup chopped almonds

Cream butter and honey until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat well.

Sift together flour, soda, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture.

Stir in oatmeal, coconut and nuts. Spread in a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

When cool, cut into bars about 11/2 to 21/2 inches. Makes 30.

Honey applesauce cake

2 1/2 cups sifted flour

1/2 teaspoonsalt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 cup applesauce (or apple butter)

1 cup raisins

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup honey

1 egg, well beaten

1/2 cup shortening

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift 2 cups flour with soda, salt, and spices.

Mix remaining flour with raisins and nuts. Cream shortening with honey until light and fluffy.

Add egg and beat thoroughly. Add sifted dry ingredients, alternating with applesauce, beating well after each addition.

Blend in floured raisins and nuts. Pour into 9-by-13-inch greased pan or into a 10-inch tube pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Good with a cream cheese frosting.

Cranberry oat bread

3/4 cup honey

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Combine honey, oil, eggs, and milk in large bowl; mix well. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl; mix well.

Stir into honey mixture. Fold in cranberries and nuts. Spoon into two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch greased and floured loaf pans.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until wooden tooth pick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire rack 15 minutes. Remove from pans, cool completely on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves.

Honey-glazed snack mix

1 box Honey Teddy Graham

1 cup miniature pretzels

2/3 cup local honey

1 package Chex cereal

1 cup pecan halves

2/3 cup butter

In large bowl combine crackers, cereal, pretzels and pecans. Melt butter in the microwave.

Add honey and use a whisk to blend. Pour over mixture and stir well. Put on two large baking pans or sheets (10-by-15).

Bake at 325 degrees for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Cool for 3 minutes, any longer makes it hard to remove from pans.

Turn out onto waxed paper to cool. When completely cooled, store in an air tight container.

Honey oatmeal cookies

1 1/2 cup honey

3/4 cup shortening

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon soda

2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cups oatmeal

1/4 cup raisins

1 tablespoon hot water

Cream honey and shortening. Add beaten egg.

Sift flour, salt, soda, baking powder and cinnamon together. Add to mixture.

Add oats, raisins, water and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. Drop by teaspoons onto cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees to 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 5 dozen.

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