Monday, 27 August 2012

Medivnyk - Honey Cake of the Gods

My Dido had an apiary on the farm.  For many years there was a place at the far end of the garden that was “out of bounds", at least when I was little.  I could freely pick peas, or pull out little carrots, but that was the extent of things for a child.  Then one day, one warm sunny fall day, it was “time”.  It was time to take the honey from the bees.
It was a delightful opportunity, and I was more than a bit terrified.  But when Baba and Dido ask for you to help, what can you do? 
First Baba insisted we had to be clean, no stinky perfumes. (too young for deodorant) But we had to wear long sleeves and long pants – it was hot.  Dido got on his overalls and pulled out the smoker.  He lit the stuff in the can, waved it over the bees and they fell asleep! Mostly they got lazy and slow, but it worked like a charm!
So now we could go to the bees, and pull out the boxes.  Moving the boxes was big people work, so we watched as they pulled out the frames, and with a knife, sliced the wax off the top of the honey, both sides of the frames!  Then they put the frames, dripping with honey already, into the spinner.  I remember standing over the spinner and loving the smell – actually the smell of bees wax, warm breeze, and sweet honey that came in little flecks over the top of the spinner onto your face. 
So we worked while the lazy bees slept. (actually they were just lethargic, but sleeping sounds better)  That is, until the wild bees from the bush got a whif of the business going on!
Dido’s bees were light in color, “tamed” he would say.  But the bees from the trees around the farm were dark in color, and they didn’t look sleepy at all! In fact they were rather aggressive and noisy, flying back into the woods to call their friends and family to join the party with us!
They got into the honey, sinking greedily until they drowned, while others buzzed menacingly around my face.  But I had to trust my elders and try to stay calm.  Why are you so concerned?  You aren’t a flower?  And when they get drunk on the honey, they will leave us alone to our work.  It will be fine.
Having dark bees crawl up my arms and onto my chest, this was not something I bargained for! So I ran off into the house. Think! What would capture the bees?!  I ran into the closet and grabbed the vacuum cleaner! Great idea!! It would suck up all the bees and leave me in peace.
Well, the aunties laughed themselves silly as I sucked up bee after bee, angry bee after angry bee.
Long story ....but the short story was that I was essentially fired from "taking the honey".
I still can hear the sound of "pop-pop", the buzzing in the vacuum canister bag and the aunties laughing.
So when my brother took over the farm, the farmer previously renting the land continued with his bee-keeping. Thanks to this, we still get a few pounds of honey each year, from the bees, which are still doing their pollinating on the family farm.   Yup!  The farm which has now been in the family for almost 110 years! 
Medivnyk- Honey Cake of the Gods
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
1 cup dark honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg each and ground cloves
½ cup butter, softened
2 tsp baking soda
1cup dark brown sugar, packed
5 egg yolks
4 cups sifted flour
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup currants
1/3 cup chopped pitted dates
3 T. chopped candied orange peel
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or blanched almonds)
5 egg whites, stiffly beaten with 1 T. sugar
Mix the honey and the spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Beat the butter, baking soda and sugar until frothy, add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.   Sift the flour, baking powder and salt mixture.  Add the flour mixture to the honey, to the butter  mixture and stir thoroughly.  Add the fruits and nuts, stirring well.  Then stir in the stiffly beaten egg whites.  Pour into two buttered, papered loaf pans and bake for 2 ½ hours.  Check with a toothpick to confirm.  Remove pans and cool gently, removing the paper.  Let the cakes mellow for two days before cutting.  Makes 2 loaves.


Post a Comment