Honey, elderberries, hummingbirds and jalapenos. What do all these have in common? They can make an incredibly sticky mess when you try and make things with them. Oh no, I am not really making anything with the hummingbirds, I promise. Just making their food!! Sorry, that did sound a bit bad up there in that prior sentence.
First off, the honey. Last weekend my darling DH comes in with 2 supers of honeycomb and plops them down and tells me I need to harvest the honey.......No time to Google and find out how best to do this for the first time.. So I grab my biggest sheet cake pan and start the task of getting honey out of the comb. I don't have an uncapping knife to help open up the cells but I find a regular sharp knife, carefully used, can open up the honey comb just fine. I throw the caps into a sieve cause I can see there is tons of honey dripping off them. Probably mistake #1. But I don't find that out for some t ime to come. I keep trying to position the supers in the pan in a way that let the most honey drain the fastest. I think the kitchen is too cool. The only day below 80 in months and that's the day we decide, well, he decides, this has to be done. So I decide to very slightly heat up the oven and put the whole shebang in there to help the honey flow faster. It works thru several brief heatings. But then, somehow, I let it heat up just a degree or two more than I should have. I hear a thud and look to see that the beeswax has now softened and the whole architecture has slumped out into the pan, on the oven floor, over the racks, ect. Lots and lots of honey to clean up. But you know, honey cleans up pretty well with lots of water and a bit of soap and patience.
I take the pan out of the oven and see this big huge conglomeration of honey with bits of comb all thru it. I for one, do not like honey comb with my honey. There are those who do, I think that is just wrong. So I dump it all into my very large mesh colander. Big mistake again. I think I am up to 3 wrongs at this point. The first sieve, the oven and the colander. But I drain over 1/2 gallon of very nice honey off the mess and I am pretty proud of myself.
Meanwhile, I Google and find that they used to just squeeze the honey out of the comb. Not a bad idea. Well, in retrospect, this becomes mistake #4 and the first dawning of where I had gone wrong. No one told me how sticky beeswax can actually be when it is liquid. When I squeezed out the honey I got about another 2 cups but when I went to wash my hands I realized that nothing wanted to take off that darned sticky goo. And it was not just on my hands but on all the equiptment used up to that point. The sieve, the colander, the oven, ect. It has taken me days to get all the stuff cleaned up and useable again. But the honey has sure been good. This year's harvest was small but they are very young hives, the supers got put on late and it has been a brutally hot and dry summer. So hopefully next year, I will learn to carefully uncap the combs, be more patient allowing the honey to drain on its own and putting whatever comb I want to drain off into a clean section of pantyhose. The combs themselves when drained of honey, can go right back into the hive which is actually a big time and energy saver for the bees. And I have no need of beeswax for candles. The light switch on the wall works fine for me!
Then the hummingbird story. Really quite simple. I mix nectar and fill 2 glass hummingbird feeders. I head out the door and drop one sending nectar all over the laundry room floor and walls. I think I have now mopped 3 times and still I find sticky places I must be missing.
On to the elderberries. Elderberries make wonderful wine. It takes a great deal of effort to find enough along side the roads and ditches to make all I would love to make each year. Stripping the berries off the stems is even more of a time suck. But I do it, cause the outcome is so worth it. But in making elderberry wine, you get this scummy stuff in your primary fermenter that should be investigated as a industrial glue!! There are lots of speculation on what the goo actually is from. My thought is that it has to be a reaction between something in the elderberries and the yeast. You don't get this scum if you just make elderberry juice. But if you then take the juice and make wine, you get the goo. But after the first step, you don't get it anymore so at least there is only one big clean up involved per batch.
Last year, I had a dicken's of a time getting the goo off. I tried everything I could think off to mechanically get it off. Really, really hot water. Soaking with dishsoap multiple times. Scrubbing til my arms ached. A Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. But to minimal avail. The primary fermenting bucket got clean enough to be used again but the stain was permanent.
Meanwhile, I discover this year that some really sticky things can be cleaned up well by applying olive oil, then after letting it sit, coat well with liquid dish detergent and rinse. Actually any vegetable oil will do. Obviously, these gluey things are fat soluble chemicals and melt into the oil which is then washed away by the dishsoap. BTW-Dawn is still the best. So when I had elderberry goo on my hands I thought, let me give the oil trick a try. It worked like magic!! So I thought I would share this great discovery with the rest of the wine making world. Well, if you Google the right words you find out all kinds of things. Like, most, but not all of the world already knew this. I am always a day late and a dollar short. But now I will still be that, but with a clean fermenting bucket!
The last but not least fiasco involves me trying to use up some surplus jalapeno's I had brought in from the garden. Jalapeno jelly was just the most sensible thing to make. I looked up a recipe and got going. I was in the process of bringing my mixture to a boil when I turned for just a second to put my jar lids into a pan of boiling water to have them ready when I needed them. Oh yeah, that's right. In just a matter of a few seconds, the mixture came to a full rolling boil and went all over my glass cooktop and quickly became carmelized jalapeno jelly cement. No amount of scrubbing has cleaned it all off. And you gotta trust me on this, I gave it all one could give. I have decided my next option is to carefully take a razor blade to the last bit of remaining spots. This is, BTW, recommended by the users manual. But the jelly did turn out very well. Ken almost licked the bowl clean that I brought to the table last night to serve on crackers with cream cheese.
This batch was made with all green peppers but I want to go ahead and push my luck this coming week and work with the red ones I still have out in the garden. I found a recipe that uses cranberry juice with red hot peppers. I think if it turns out it will be great at Christmas as gifts. But Lord, I sure need all the help I can get to not turn this into any more sticky messes!!
So yes, watch out for these sweet, innocent appearing food products. Behind each one of them lurks a heart of pure sticky evilness that may never be permanently removed from my well used kitchen.