2018 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia.


Honey extracted during June 2018.

Honey extracted during June 2018.


[by Keith Rowand]

Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts and a Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet

Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches

2017 might have been a special year for honey; our harvest was about 900 pounds for 30 colonies. In 2018, I’m hoping for 600 pounds without much of the nuance found in 2017. Clover has saved the day! Harvest currently over 700 pounds with more still ripening! The reason was rain. Just as locust flowers reached peak bloom, a week of rain. Just as the tulip poplar started to bloom, a week of rain. Brambles and berries fared well, but there was a lot of moisture in the air. Basswood and linden fared a little better, but the bloom ended with 6 inches of rain. In addition to washing out flowers (bees don’t collect nectar during rainy weather), the rain elevated humidity making it difficult for the bees to cure the honey. Nectar is about 30% water while honey is less than 20% water (unripe honey over 20% water will ferment in a bad way). Bees collect nectar, convert it to unripe honey, and then fan it until it ripens. Once ripe, the bees seal the honeycomb with wax. Here it is the first week of July and only about 1/2 of my harvest is fully capped. Total as of July 21 of 790 pounds!

Another problem of these rain interruptions is that I’m not getting complete frames of nectar from a single source – locust is adjacent to berry adjacent to clover, etc. To address this I’m processing smaller batches. Instead of 9 frame batches, I’ve collected a few 6 frame sets (my extractor works best with 9 frames, ok with 6 or even 3). July 22 and after 2 weeks of dry the rains returned. There are STILL uncapped/unripe frames in the field and I need to begin mite treatments. #stillthankful

For more about frames and the harvest, please read about the 2017 Honey Harvest.


For these notes, color is taken from the Pfund color chart, a standard honey measurement. Grade A honey must have no more than 18.6% water content (above 20% fermentation can occur)


Batch “A”
Color: White/Extra light Amber
Moisture Content and total weight: 18.3%, 37.5 pounds.
Origin: Tiger Valley, colonies 14, 15, & 16 harvested June 19.

Batch “B”
Color: White/Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content and total weight: 18.0%, 34.4 pounds.
Origin: Jericho Rd, colonies 5, 17 & 18 harvested June 30.

Batch “C”
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content and total weight: 18.6%, 39.2 pounds.
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, colonies 14, 15, & 16 harvested June 24.

Batch “D”
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content and total weight: 18.3%, 20.9 pounds.
Origin: Capping tank, blended from multiple batches harvested in mid June.
Sweet and floral with a good black locust presence.

Batch “E”
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content and total weight: 18.5%, 17.8 pounds.
Origin: Harris Hollow, colony #1 harvested June 28.
Darker than early honey mostly from berries.

Batch “F”
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content and total weight: 18.6%, 19.4 pounds.
Origin: Harris Hollow, colony #3 harvested June 28.
Similar to Batch E, Darker than early honey mostly from berries.

Batch “X”
Batch “X” is something new – it is not raw honey, but is honey that is heat extracted from the wax cappings left at the end of the process.  5 pounds  of cappings yield one pound of  wax  and 4 pounds of dark honey.  I don’t consider it a premium honey, but  some people really like it. The wax from this process is very clean and can be used in cooking.
Color: Amber
Moisture Content: 19.2%

(This post will be updated as more batches make it to market.)


Honeybee Colony Record Keeping

Hive notes on a split colony

Hive notes on a split colony

The one tool I carry whenever I go to the bee yard is a Sharpie permanent marker.

As a “sideliner” beekeeper, I’m responsible for about 25 colonies.

A simple method for keeping track of colony health using a sharpie and spiral notebook.

A simple method for keeping track of colony health using a sharpie and spiral notebook.

There is no way I can remember all the details and needs of each colony, so recordkeeping and a system for reminders is essential. The basic tool for my system is a sharpie and the back side of each colonies bottom hive body.


Logged notes for 26 colonies, their health, and special needs.

Logged notes for 26 colonies, their health, and special needs.


A spiral notebook and highlighters complete the supplies.







On the back of each colony I make note of the age and source of the queen, a dated ‘score’ for Bees-Honey-Queen, varroa counts, and any other bit of information I think useful. As soon as I complete an inspection or chore on a colony, I pull out the sharpie and write down anything relevant. As part of post-work cleanup in any beeyard, I copy my notes into the spiral notebook.

Here’s my system.

#1 Queen heritage/character
Top right corner gets the date the queen was installed and the origin. If I purchased the queen the origin is a “$”, if she was hygienic “Hy”, package “Pkg”, “split” or “cells” cover most of the options. [Picture one Queen came from Queen-cells in May of 2016.]

Under the queen heritage, I might include a simple description of the character of the colony, which is often tied to the queen. An example is the word “Hot” for mean girls. I tolerate a certain attitude if it comes with production. [No special status for character.]

#2 Status Bees-Honey-Queen
Starting in the bottom left corner, I record the date and a three number code describing the state of the bees, the amount of honey available, and the condition of the queen. For example 10-10-10! indicates a colony with an excellent number of bees, excellent honey stores, and the presence of eggs, larvae and capped brood. If I have actually seen the queen, I’ll add an exclamation point or checkmark next to the last number. A colony that is 8-5-7! has a fair number of bees, poor honey stores, and though I saw the queen, I did not see adequate eggs or larva. If I do not see a queen nor eggs, the last number gets a zero or “X.” [The last B-H-Q status for this colony was done on 3/27 with a 10-10-10 score, followed by being Split.]

While I very rarely use numbers less than 4 (in which case an intervention is overdue), and never less than 7 for queens, I can dial it up to “11” in the case of bees that need to be split, or excess honey to be harvested or redistributed.

Other shorthand notes include “Qc” for “queen cells”, “HB” for “hive beetles”.  If I add or remove a frame of brood, that is marked with “Br+” or “Br-“, while “QX” indicates no queen [5/20] but “QR!” means Queen Right!

#3 Varroa

I obsess over varroa.  Generally colonies are sampled in July, immediately after honey harvest, and again in September.  Varroa is sampled by an alcohol wash of about 300 bees (1/2 cup).  My varroa score is simply how many dead mites I counted.  This score is simply a “V#” [on 9/5 this colony scored 14 dead mites – a high count.]

My varroa treatements include oxalic acid dribble (OX), oxalic acid vaporization (OXV), formic acid / Mite Away Quickstrips (MQ # of strips), or thymol/Apiguard (APG). [This colony got 1g of OXV followed one week later by 2g OXV and then 2g again.]


Varroa treatment tells a story.

Varroa treatment tells a story.

Last week I sat down with my records looking for patterns from last year, and maybe hints to why some colonies were so much  stronger than others. I first listed all the colonies, then created columns for (selected) inspections going back to last July. My big take away was that being aggressive against varroa paid off and stick to proven treatments.





*A sideliner beekeeper is trying to make a buck – come out ahead moneywise at the end of the year, but still needs a real job. For us this is an extension of egg and garden money for the homestead.

** Using the bottom hive body for notes can make season frame swapping a bit more work, but using my empty-deep-on-top method makes it no big deal.

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Wrapping in Northern Virginia

Wrapping colonies for winter is a THING. Some beekeepers wrap, some don’t. Catalogs and magazines have advertisements for wrapping products and even heaters. Before wrapping, the number one question a beekeeper has to address ‘WHAT IS WINTER LIKE HERE?’ Winter in Georgia is different from winter in North Dakota. I’m writing for Northern Virginia, USDA zones 6 & 7.

To start, my hives are elevated for ease of work and ventilation.  During fall when raking leaves, I partially fill strong black plastic trashbags with leaves and wedge them underneath my colonies.  (Bottom boards should have been placed in late September, entrance reducers in November.)  The trash bags wedged under the colonies reduce wind and provide bottom insulation. An added benefit is that on sunny days, the black plastic captures solar radiation and provides a little warmth.  Moving solar radiation to heat to the the colony is my theme for wrapping.

Bottom insulation from bagged leaves

Stuffing black plastic bags of leaves happens during October, or whenever I’m raking leaves. This colony has a plastic bottom board where the landing area has broken off – maintenance item but the bees make do.


Stuffing black plastic bags of leaves happens during October, or whenever I’m raking leaves.  Actual wrapping comes later in December when the weather has definitely turned to cold.  This area is prone to warm spells well into December, and with no forage available, I don’t want to stimulate into wasteful flight activity.

The wrap I use is very simple – heavy black plastic with maybe some bubblewrap on the north face of the colony.   Other than the bubble wrap on the north face there is no insulating material.  What I’ve found with styrofoam or full bubble wrap is that come spring I’m keeping the cold IN.  I don’t want to turn the hive into an insulated cooler.  The black plastic provides 2 main benefits.  The first is to block wind which can get into the cracks the bees haven’t filled with propolis.  The second is to catch the heat of the sun.

The wrap is heavy black plastic with enough bubble wrap to protect the north face of the colony.

The wrap is heavy black plastic with enough bubble wrap to protect the north face of the colony.

The top edge of the black plastic is folded down about 2 inches, which provides a better grip for stapling.  Bottom corners are folded up such that the south face is not fully covered.  Folds are held in place with either tape or office staples.

Black plastic is 6 mil, cut to 32 inches by 6 feet 8 inches.

Black plastic is 6 mil, cut to 32 inches by 6 feet 8 inches.

I cut, fold, and tape the wraps in my workshop before heading out to wrap.  At the end of winter I remove and store the wraps.  Some of the wraps I have in use are seeing their 4th winter.

This is a weak colony I wrapped in November.  As it is light on bees and stores (only 2 mediums), it got early protection and prolonged access to 2:1 feed.

This is a weak colony I wrapped in November. As it is light on bees and stores (only 2 mediums), it got early protection and prolonged access to 2:1 feed.

You can see how the folded up bottoms of the plastic leave the south face relatively exposed. I don’t want to overheat the colony and I also want to allow the bees to cue in on the color of their home when returning from forage or cleansing flights.

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Feeding

During early spring, beekeepers feed 1:1 sugar-water solution to stimulate reproduction. In late summer 1:1 again is fed to stimulate reproduction to increase winter populations. In autumn, 2:1 can be fed if honey stores are light as winter approaches. Keeping with simple ratios, I provide 12:1 sugar blocks “just-in-case” and to give the girls something to do.

These instructions are for use with an empty hive set above a 3/4″ plywood inner cover.  The inner cover has screened holes for ventilation and a hole to accomodate a standard-sized mason jar feeder.  The sugar block created will be fed thru the feeding hole.

Mix sugar and water at a 12 parts sugar to one part water by weight ratio.  This will form a somewhat wet granular paste. Spoon the mixture into insulated drinking cups (16 liquid ounces an ideal size). Add a couple drops of either lemon-grass oil or Honey-B-Healthy to attract the bees. Invert the cup over the feed hole.  Check and replace as necessary.

Sugar-water mix

12 parts sugar mixed with 1 part water.

Sugar blocks ready to feed.

Sugar-water mix packed into hot beverage cups. A couple drops of either lemon grass oil or Honey B Healthy added to attract the bees.

Inner cover feed hole.

Peering through the shredded newspaper insulation, through the inner cover feed hole and down to bees on the colony frames.


Sugar block cup in place over the feed hole, ready for the insulation to be repacked. Replacing the feed can be done without compromising colony heat or bee cluster.

Not so hard?

If 12:1 is hard to calculate, use 5 pounds sugar to 1 cup water.  If you don’t have a simple kitchen scale that measures grams, ask for one for Christmas.

Feeding in winter is something that hopefully isn’t necessary.  In Virginia, where I live and where this advice is most relavant, if a colony has a full medium hive body of honey – 50+ pounds net weight – the colony ought to be in good shape for winter.  But things happen.  Winter 2016 had 70 degree days leading up to Christmas, such that bees were burning calories (and stored food) on foraging flights.

Then there is the question of whether a colony will eat provided food (some won’t), or treat sugar as debris and remove it from the colony (some do). Sometimes bees will store sugar granules in food cells. Another good thing about block sugar feeding, is that come spring, when it is time to start 1:1, the unused portions of sugar blocks can be recycled and won’t go to waste.


Honeybee Colony Winterization: Ventilation and Insulation

Two things kill honeybees in winter – moisture and starvation, not cold. Cold compounds the effects of moisture and starvation, but by itself, cold doesn’t kill honeybees.

For example, coming out of winter this past year, I had one colony lagging behind the others. The queen laid too few eggs and many of those were unfertilized (drones). I was willing to maintain the colony until I could requeen, but then deformed wing virus (DWV) appeared. Because of DWV, the colony had to be destroyed. I put the surviving bees – less than 4 frames – into a 0 degree freezer. After a week in the freezer, the drones and larva were dead, but the queen and the workers were mostly alive. (At that point I killed the queen and scattered the remaining workers.)

My winterization process includes covering screened bottom boards, adding entrance reducers, and arranging insulation WITH ventilation.

My inner top covers are ¾” plywood with holes for a feed jar and ventilation. I cover ventilation holes with “bee screen” on the bottom (bee-side), and window screen on the top (to keep out wax moths).

Inner Cover Bottom/Bee Screen

My basic top cover is 3/4″ plywood with a hole for a feed jar and holes front and back for ventilation. “Bee screen” can be gotten from your equipment supplier, or salvaged from empty package boxes.*

I then place an empty deep hive body above the inner cover, with a normal telescoping cover over-all. My deep hive bodies have a 1-inch hole in each side, screened with window screen. This arrangement provides ventilation as well as secured feeding. The deep will handle 2-quart mason jars and even 1 gallon commercial mayonnaise jars for feed.  I use this arrangement year round (except for during certain varroa treatments).

Empty Deep with Good Ventilation

The inside of a top-set deep hive body. Note the 1″ screened holes in each side. I store the empty feed jar inside hive body. The top cover ventilation holes are oriented perpendicular to the frames.*


Over the course of the summer, the bees will coat the bee screen with propolis, blocking ventilation. Come autumn I harvest the propolis while re-establishing the ventilation. Ventilation in winter is critical; breathing bees give off moisture. If the moisture accumulates inside the colony, water can drip back on the bees at the same time mold grows. On the other hand, too much ventilation results in the bees consuming more of their stored honey, leading to starvation.

Propolis blocking ventilation

The bees have almost completely blocked the bee screen. This pictured arrangement, where the ventilation holes are parallel to the frames, is not a good one. The best arrangement have the holes perpendicular to the frames.*

Mold inside a top cover

The gray-green fuzz by my thumb is mold due to poor ventilation.

I control the ventilation and moisture by adding loose shredded newspaper to the top hive body. The paper might absorb the moisture, but the inside of the colony is drier. During mid-winter checks I carry extra shredded newspaper to replace any that seems wet.

Newspaper filled top Deep

* Three different configurations of 3/4″ plywood inner covers are displayed.  The top most I inherited, the middle is my preferred format (slots perpendicular frames), the bottom was an experiment I won’t do again (slots parallel frames). The feedhole is off-center such that the cover can be rotated where the hole is oriented to the cluster.

Next: Winter Feeding.

2017 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia.


Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

Honey extracted during June 2017, batches A-D.

[by Keith Rowand]

Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts

Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches

Inside a hive, bees store honey in frames that contain about 4 pounds of honey each.  When I remove the frames from the hives, I store the frames separated by hive location and date.  Once I remove enough full frames, I start extracting the honey into buckets and jars, all the while keeping the batches as separate as possible.

Flowering plants blossom at different times throughout the year, tempting bees and other pollinators with nectar of different characteristics (color, smell, taste, viscosity).  Those floral nectar differences are reflected in the resulting honey; as flowers change the honey changes. In the past couple of years the honey has been dark in the early spring (autumn olive and tulip poplar in April/May),  then became lighter in color as the bees moved  to wild berries and brambles (May/June),  and lighter yet as they finish with basswood, linden, and clover in June/early July.   2017 has been different – for the first time in several years black locust has bloomed in glorious quantity.

Black locust honey is among the sweetest of honeys and very light in color.  I won’t say that I sell black locust honey, because so many other things blossom at the same time and the bees gather whatever they can. What I can say is that the early 2017 honey is lighter and sweeter for which I credit black locust.  Early autumn olive did not make it into honey frames, while tulip poplar was stretched out over several weeks.  Linden, basswood, berries, and clover will be in later honey batches.

For these notes, color is taken from the Pfund color chart, a standard honey measurement.  Grade A honey must have no more than 18.6% water content (above 20% fermentation can occur)


Batch “A”
Black locust, tulip poplar, early wildflowers.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.6%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, Washington, near Goat Hill Farm, harvested June 24.

Batch “B”
High black locust content, with tulip poplar and wildflowers.  Thicker with beeswax scent.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Tiger Valley Rd (June 24) and Jericho Rd (June 8).

Batch “C”
Predominately black locust; very sweet with butterscotch and vanilla tastes.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.2%
Origin: Tiger Valley Rd, June 24 of selected frames.

Batch “D”
Some autumn olive, with black locust and some tulip polar; creamy with caramel.
Color: Extra light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.5%
Origin: Jericho Rd, Huntly, June 8.

Batch “E”
Color: Light Amber
Although I manage over 25 colonies, not all colonies produce equally.  Jericho #2 was one of my top 3 producers contributing over 80 pounds.
Moisture Content: 17.2%
Origin: Jericho Rd, near Flint Hill, June 24

Batch “F”
One of the first batches harvested from the rock star Jericho #2.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.9%
Origin: Jericho Rd, near Flint Hill, May 27

Batch “G”
This Laughing Duck home colony was a surprise and promises good production in the future!  A captured swarm, such colonies get a late start and a harvest is not expected.  The girls of LD #L4 didn’t get the memo and contributed a full harvest of about 35 pounds.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.0%
Origin: Harris Hollow Rd, Colony #LL4 August 1

Batch “H”
This was the last batch of the second extraction run, each batch has 9 frames and these were the leftover frames at the end of the day!  Its like a capping tank batch, but more cohesive as I tried to identify frames of a like color.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 17.8%
Origin: Blend from Jericho, Tiger Valley, and Harris Hollow areas, August 7.

Batch “I”
This is another batch of 21.9 pounds from Jericho #2.  The nectar was collected over 4 weeks with contributions from many different plants including tulip poplar, basswood, and clover.
Color: Light Amber
Moisture Content: 18.0%
Origin: Colony Jericho #2 Honey Super, July 16, Jericho Road, near Flint Hill

Batch “J”
This is was the last batch of the year, taken from colonies at our home. The light color reflects clover with basswood (American linden), the basswood providing a fruity, leitchi-like aroma.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow.
Moisture Content: 18.4%

Batch “K”
Capping tank batches represent a mix of all the individual colonies and flowers collected during June and early July. The color is a little darker with pollen from many different sources.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: July capping tank
Moisture Content: 18.2%

Batch “L”
Tiger Valley Colony #1 was a captured swarm that wasn’t expected to produce a harvest. My eye will be on this colony to propagation the strong work they did in a short time. I expect the colony found a stand of basswood (American linden) and harvest a large amount of honey is a short time.
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Tiger Valley Colony #1, July 8.
Moisture Content: 18.4%

Batch “M”
Tiger Valley #4 was an established colony which swarmed at an inopportune moment. The harvest took a long time building, as a result having a darker color with a wide variety of pollen.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Tiger Valley Colony #4, July 8.
Moisture Content: 17.9%

Batch “N”
The final batch from the rock-star colony #2 at Jericho Road. The timing and very light color suggest a strong clover component with basswood (American linden).
Color: Extra Light Amber
Origin: Jericho Road Colony #2, July 16.
Moisture Content: 17.6%

Batch “O”
Batches are built of up to 9 frames of honey taken from a colony. In the case of this batch from my home beeyard, I had several isolated frames and not enough to build a batch from one or two colonies. Given the frames on hand, I selected those of lighter color to make up this batch. Its companion batch of darker frames will make up Batch P. This batch has a higher clover and basswood component.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, selected light frames, July 17
Moisture Content: 18.2%

Batch “P”
This is the companion to Batch O. This batch has a higher tulip poplar and bramble component.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, selected dark frames, July 17
Moisture Content: 18.3%

Batch “Q”
This was the last batch of the year, taken on August 26.  Very light and sweet. White clover with thistle and basswood.
Color: Light Amber
Origin: Laughing Duck Apiary, Harris Hollow, various colonies.
Moisture Content: 18.6%

Batch “R”
This is a blend of the August batches as taking from the capping tank.
Color: Amber
Origin: Harris Hollow, Jericho Road, and Tiger Valley beeyards.
Moisture Content: 17.9%

(This post will be updated as more batches make it to market.)

Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet


Locust Blossoms: Bottle Spring!

locust IMG_2745

The black locusts enchanting blossoms are melting away in the rain as I write.  As everything else this year, they were 10 days to 2 weeks earlier than usual – I generally count on the 2nd week of May to be peak time for the pearly bunches of fragrant flowers. My nose noticed the first ones on April 28, this year, as I was walking out of the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire & Rescue Hall where I was cooking for a wedding. But unlike many other years, this year was a good season, with showy, abundant and long lasting blossoms – well over 10 days. Despite almost 6 inches of rain last week, they kept blooming. But all things end, and now they are just drooping, brown and limp, rain water pulling them down closer to the ground… Read more

Just Right Bread-and-Butter Pickles

As it turns out, when pickles are good, we eat lots of them. If they are too acid or too sweet, they languish in the pantry. I’ve tried many vegetables and many styles over the years and have concluded that we really only eat a few: “cornichons”, tiny tart cucumber pickles that are a staple of French picnic along with saucisson, baguette, butter, and a pot of “moutarde extra forte”; and bread-and-butter pickles… but only if they aren’t too sweet.

The pickling cucumber plantings are doing fairly well this year. Not well enough to make a lot of cornichons, but well enough to make bread and butters. So bread-and-butters we’ve been making, not too sweet, just right. We eat them with or piled in sandwiches, potato salad, sandwich between fried eggplants, with cold chicken or cold meat … you name it!

Happy to share my recipe below.

bread & butter 3

Read more

Beet & Chocolate

beet chocolate cake IMG_1699

I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot  tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it is loved. As much for taste as for its uncanny ability to color everything sanguine.

But that perceived flaw is also a strength. One can turn beets into a natural food coloring. Years ago, I made preserved cherries from a Greek recipe that called for dropping a chunk of beet-root in the jar of preserve to enhance its color. The cherries tastes faintly of beet – fine with me since I like beets.

Then, a few days ago, at breakfast, leaving through an older issue of Saveur magazine, I stopped turning the page at the gorgeous photo of icing in the most lovely shades of pink. Colored by beet powder! According to the article, beetroot powder has some earthy sweetness but  does not have a strong taste. I was intrigued.

I made beet root powder. Because right now we have beets. The recipe for DIY beetroot powder is here. A mandoline is helpful to slice the beet paper-thin. After drying the beet slices in my yard-sale food dehydrator (they looked like rose petals!), I pulverized the dehydrated slices in my Vitamix. Worked like a charm!

beet powder IMG_1679 beet powder IMG_1684

Then I wanted to make icing. And use it. Read more

A Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad

smoked duck & blackberrry salad

Blackberry time is here. The canes in the garden have started to produce, and should all go well, continue to produce for another 4 weeks. Which is good, because blackberries (and eggplants) are one of the consolations of a typical Virginia summer, especially the kinds we’ve been seeing the last few years: hot, hotter, no rain, and yet muggy. Ouch.

But at least we have blackberries. That means blackberry sorbet, blackberry sourcream sherbet, creme de blackberry, blackberry shrub. But not blackberry gastrique nor blackberry jam, of which we still have plenty. We eat them. We freeze them. Me make juice. We sell them. It’s blackberry time, I tell you.

It’s also hot. So, preparations with minimum applications of heat are ideal. And blackberries, with their sweet-tart flavor, lend themselves well to savory dishes.

Recently, I prepared a smoked duck salad as an appetizer for a 32-guest lunch  (inspired by this recipe from the James Beard Foundation). I simplified the James Beard Foundation recipe by using smoked duck breasts prepared by The Whole Ox Butcher Shop in Marshall, VA (which sliced paper-thin with their meat slicer); changed the sauce a little bit… and reduced the plate to appetizer size.

An easy dish and attractive that’s great for a crowd, as all the components can be prepared ahead and assembled up to 30 minutes before serving (because we are using robust greens that can stand to the sauce).

So there, Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad – Appetizer for 12 Read more