Blueberry pie & honey ice cream with smoked sea salt

Honey ice cream

Honey is lovely! Sweet, amber-colored, the product of all the busyness of the buzzing golden bees – it’s like the distillation of summer light. The promised land will be flowing with milk and honey; it’s a symbol of the new year and of hope; it’s one of the Hindu elixirs of immortality. It soothes a sore throat better than any medicine I know. It’s so strange to think about where it comes from, and to imagine people discovering that it was edible, and tasty, and salubrious. I find it humbling to think about the mysterious process of honey-making and pollination, the complicated, social, important life of bees, so vulnerable to our clumsily destructive way of life. There’s been a decline in honeybee populations lately. To quote wikipedia, “In early 2007, abnormally high die-offs (30-70% of hives) of European honey bee colonies occurred in North America; such a decline seems unprecedented in recent history. This has been dubbed “Colony collapse disorder” (CCD); it is unclear whether this is simply an accelerated phase of the general decline due to stochastically more adverse conditions in 2006, or a novel phenomenon. Research has so far failed to determine what causes it…” I remember reading about it at the time! I had recently finished War and Peace. Leo Tolstoy was a beekeeper (that’s totally going to be the name of my next album!), and there’s a succinct, remarkable chapter towards the end of the book in which Tolstoy compares war-torn Moscow to a decaying bee colony without a queen.

“…he sees the skillful complex structures of the combs, but no longer in their former state of purity. All is neglected and foul. Black robber bees are swiftly and stealthily prowling about the combs, and the short home bees, shriveled and listless as if they were old, creep slowly about without trying to hinder the robbers, having lost all motive and all sense of life…In place of the former close dark circles formed by thousands of bees sitting back to back and guarding the high mystery of generation, he sees hundreds of dull, listless, and sleepy shells of bees.”

It all seemed mysteriously connected, at the time, to our own country at war. We’d been in this hideously complicated conflict for years. It seemed as if it would go on forever – for as long as people would profit from it. It felt as though we were numb – we’d grown capable of tuning out the news until the news stopped being reported. A strange connection that only the honeybees might understand!

Blueberry pie

Well, I’m rambling on about Leo Tolstoy’s bees. I blame the heat, it’s really hot here! Let’s return to honey as a hopeful symbol and an endearment! And as the main ingredient in a recipe for honey refrigerator ice cream I found in my mennonite cook book. I knew I had to try it! I used one cup of vanilla-maple pastry cream and one cup of heavy cream, instead of 2 cups of cream, as the recipe suggested. And I decided to add some smoked sea salt that I’d bought at the lovely Savory Spice Shop on my birthday. I like the saltiness with the sweetness of the honey. If you can’t find smoked salt, you can use regular salt. The smoky flavor is very odd and distinctive. I love it, but it might not be for everybody!! On the way to Cape May, we drove through the blueberry capitol of the world! Rows and rows of lovely short shrubby bushes laden with beautiful blue berries. David said he had a craving for blueberry pie, so I made one. I made it as simple and traditional as I could muster. I used a sweetish shortbread-type of crust, because I like that with fruit pies, but you could use a more traditional and easier to work with butter crust. I made a lattice top! Fun!

Here’s Muddy Waters with Honey Bee.
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