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Beekeeper’s busy sharing honey recipes

Charlie Linnell keeps an eye his active colonies bees backyard his Naperville home. |  Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

Charlie Linnell keeps an eye on his active colonies of bees in the backyard of his Naperville home. | Judy Buchenot~For Sun-Times Media

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Honey Cream Cheese and Almond Dip

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup finely chopped toasted almonds

1 teaspoon Amaretto or other almond-flavored liqueur

Combine ingredients in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until well blended. If desired, sprinkle a few finely chopped toasted almonds on top when serving dip. Serve with sliced apples, pears, strawberries or grapes.

Honey Butter

1/4 cup softened butter

1/3 cup honey

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine butter and honey until blended. Add cinnamon and mix. Store covered up to a week, if it lasts that long. Spread on toast, English muffins and other breads.

Charlie’s Strawberry Marinade for Ice Cream

1-1/2 quarts fresh strawberries

1 ounce honey

1 ounce Cointreau or other orange liqueur

1 ounce orange juice

Cut strawberries into bite-sized pieces. Combine with honey, liqueur and orange juice. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for two or more hours. Serve on ice cream, shortcake, pound cake or other dessert cake. Top with whipped cream if desired.

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About four years ago, 62-year-old Charlie Linnell’s first 3 pounds of bees were delivered to his Naperville home. Those about 15,000 bees now number about 60,000.

They provide him with a steady supply of golden honey. During one prosperous year, his two colonies provided him with 120 pounds of honey.

“All I have to do is strain it and put it in jars,” Linnell says. He uses the honey in place of sweeteners in many different dishes.

Keeping the hives “is a lot less work than having a dog,” says Linnell who grew up in Naperville. He now lives in the home his parents once owned. “I usually only have to go into the hives about eight times a year. I monitor for pests and disease, and only have to feed the bees on an emergency basis if their honey supply is too low.”

Linnell finds the bees to be very interesting.

“It takes a lot of work for those bees to make honey,” he says. “The bees fly about 55,000 miles and visit between 1 (million) to 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.

“They keep working on the honey fanning it with their wings until the water content is 18 percent or less. They can tell when the water content is at that level because they are smart.”

Over the years, Linnell has found many uses for honey.

“If a person has allergies to local pollen, he should start eating local honey to become desensitized to the local pollen over time,” he says. “The bees only travel about 2 to 3 miles to get pollen, so local honey really is local.”

He says there are many medical uses for it, too.

“Since honey absorbs water, it can be used as an emergency wound dressing,” Linnell says. “Honey also is supposed to help prevent heart disease.”

He notes that bees are not native to this continent and were brought in from Europe. They are an important part of food production in the United States and recent declines in bee populations have caused concern.

“One in three bites of food requires pollination,” he notes.

Linnell also explains that most of the honey consumed in the United States comes from other countries.

“Less than 35 percent of the honey used is produced here in the United States,” he says.

Linnell says that the color of honey varies from a light to a dark golden color.

“Honey produced early in the year is often lighter in color, while honey produced later is darker in color,” he says. “The color is determined by the flower nectars that are collected.”

The flavor of honey is also determined by the floral nectars collected by the bees.

Linnell especially likes that honey does not spoil.

“There are stories about crystallized honey found in the pyramids in Egypt that was still good.”

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