Friday, December 15, 2006

Light in the Winter

beeswax hannukah candlesSurprise, surprise: the bees are the lens through which I see the midwinter festivities now, and our celebrations are brightened (even literally) by the bees' presence and presents.

While rolling dozens of candles (pillars, votives, pagan trees...) to hand out to friends and family, it suddenly hit me that I could make Hannukah candles! We usually miss a night or two, so we had enough left over candles to cover about half of the nights this year. It only took about 20 minutes to roll up another coupla dozen more!

all three honiesBut we have an equal opportunity attitude to holidays around here, so I was also noodling around with bee-based gift baskets, and figured out an interesting way to present the three different colors of honey produced by the roof, monastery, and mill apiaries this year. MaryEllen gave me some special pastry plastic, and I taped together "flights" of honey: the lightest from the monastery, the medium from the roof, and the darkest from the mill. I also labeled some single-source jars for people whom might just like to have a usable amount of a single honey (rather than three somewhat impractical samples).

beeswax candles in menorahWith apologies for the blown-out quality of these pictures, here's our final result. The menorah looked homey and glorious with the beeswax candles, though they did not burn as long as expected. The gift baskets included honey, candles, soaps, and a bag of Honey Pecan "Crackerjack," a first-time thing for me that seems to have come out OK. The recipe is below (with instructions about embellishments in parentheses).

gift basketAll this craftiness was intended to simplify and refocus this special time, though it must be said that gift baskets are way more time consuming and kitchen-destroying than a trip to the mall. It's hard not to hope rather TOO hard that people will particularly like the effort, and perhaps to get too personally wrapped up in it all. After all, even when the goodies come from the girls, it is not about the stuff.

Honey Pecan "Crackerjack"

  • Stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup of honey (you can almost double this for extra sweetness)
  • batch of air-popped popcorn (about 3 quarts)
  • 1 cup of pecan pieces (or even 1 1/2 cups)
  • two cookie sheets (the ones with raised sides are best)
  • Optional: ziplock bags for packaging


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

Melt butter in a saucepan with a thick bottom (burning is the enemy here). Stir in honey until blended, and keep it warm but NOT boiling.

Spread the plain popcorn on the cookie sheets (which I lined with silicone baking sheets, a help at clean up time). Sprinkle the pecan pieces over the popcorn.

Using a ladle, dribble the hot butter and honey mixture as evenly as you can over the popcorn and nuts. Use a plastic or wooden spoon to mix the nuts, popcorn, and sauce until everything is coated.

Place cookie sheets in oven for ten to fifteen minutes, depending. You want the mix in long enough to carmelize as much as possible, but not to burn.

Take crackerjack out of oven and pour into a bowl to stop cooking. When cool enough, begin spooning into ziplock bags, squeezing out extra air and sealing. Tie a ribbon around the bag and you are done!

Makes between 20 and 24 ounces of sweet stuff, depending on how free you were with the nuts and honey.

No comments: