Nothing short of a marvel of nature, honey has long been used as a medicine and a food across the globe. It varies wildly in flavor, depending on where it is produced, and it has an eternal shelf life. Put it in the hands of a couple of master confectioners and you have a recipe for something special
It’s hard to know where to start when extolling the virtues of bees and honey. Honey is delicious (the flavor of which changes depending on the flora the bees are collecting nectar from) and it has miraculous medicinal properties: it’s an anti-inflammatory, an antioxidant, and it has antibacterial properties. It’s used orally to treat coughs, and topically to treat burns and promote wound healing, among other applications.
Then there is the fact it never goes off. It has to be stored correctly, but when it is, it pretty much has an eternal shelf life. It has been discovered in Ancient Egyptian tombs still edible. Then there is the fact that bees are a vital part of our ecosystem. They are highly efficient pollinators of our food crops as well as for wild plants. So important are they, in fact, that without them our ecosystem would almost certainly collapse.
Add to that the fact that bees are simple to keep, and it becomes obvious why there are so many “Honey for Sale” signs all over the Uncompahgre Valley. Black Canyon Honey is one producer in Montrose.
There are lots of small honey producers in the Uncompahgre Valley. Kyle Rice runs Black Canyon Honey, he began his apiarian adventure two years ago when he bought a Flow Hive (a specifically designed hive that allows you to harvest honey without opening the hive). He said he had been thinking about it for a few years, and then suddenly he saw the Flow Hive on Craigslist and that was that.
It started as just a hobby, but Rice quickly realized that the bees were producing more honey that he could use. He currently has three hives and last year harvested five gallons of honey. He is planning to add two more hives in the near future, but his long term plan is more ambitious. Rice currently works full time as a nurse practitioner, but he sees beekeeping as a way to help with retirement. He will likely keep adding hives over the next 10 years with a goal of having between 1,000 and 2,000.
Lin McKay and Mike Shafer, owners of Alpen Confections, were profiled in issue #2 of Wayfinder magazine. They are, for those that have not read that piece, veritable masters of their craft. Writer Nickolas Paullus described the “polished geometry of some of the chocolates [as] gem quality.” He also said they are “passionate about their craft, flavors, and technique” so it was a no-brainer to have them take up the Fat of the Land mantle. We asked them to turn delicious local honey into an edible work of art, especially because as Paullus also said about them “the chocolates are world class, international in scope and discipline, and yet much of what Mike and Lin love is deeply rooted here on the Western Slope.”
Lin and Mike are already familiar with honey as an ingredient in their confection making - they use local honey in their Montrose Honey Truffles (local honey and a 64 percent dark chocolate from Guayaquil, Ecuador). Honey can be temperamental and should be treated gently as too much heat can destroy the flavor leaving you with just sweetness. Honey has other interesting properties, too, including the fact it is an inverted sugar which essentially means it will keep things moist, as in a ganache, while adding that delicious honey flavor.
To the dish itself. Honey was suspended in a chocolate cream (along with local eggs) which was then foamed via a siphon (which injects nitrous oxide). The mixture was briefly (to preserve the flavor of the honey) microwaved to create a cake which had an almost volcanic rock-like appearance but with a soft and fluffy texture. Shards of honey caramel, which gave height and added more texture, bee pollen; honey caviar; and freeze-dried raspberry completed the apiarian-centric dish.