Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Mummified with Mummy

In republican Catalan, the queen bee is "la mare", the mother. And when mother is missing, everything in the hive goes wrong. There are not enough workers to defend the hive and the dreaded wax moth gets in.

But when mother is home, enter at your peril:

A bit stuck up
Here is what happened to a dragon fly that entered one of my hives; it was mummified in propolis. This is the sticky compound produced by bees from tree sap, buds and other places. The defender bees - these, just in case of any doubt are all female - surrounded and attacked the dragonfly, removed its tail and coated it in gluey, sticky, propolis. Not a nice way to die, but probably a warning to anything else that might want to get in there.

When mummy is at home even dragons are mummified.

Bottling it

I adapted a recipe from my favourite bottling book*, and bottled little Catalan pears in Priorat wine:

  • 4 tall jars
  • about 1.5kg pears
  • 1kg sugar
  • 500ml wine
  • 500ml water
  • Spices (I used cloves, cinnamon and juniper)
  • Juice of one lemon

A nice pear
Pour water and wine into a large pan. Add the sugar and stir while cold until as much of the sugar as possible has dissolved. Heat gently, stirring, to ensure that the sugar fully dissolves, then boil gently with the lid off for 15 minutes. You should have a rich syrup. Cool, for about 30 minutes.

Juice the lemon into a bowl. Peel each pear, cutting out stalk and core, and dip in the lemon juice.

Pack the pears into clean, sterile jars. Pour over the syrup and shoogle the jar about a bit to get rid of bubbles. The jar should be filled to 1cm of the rim. Place tops on jars but not screwed tight.

Place jars into pan filled with water to at least two thirds of the height of the jars. I put a dishcloth in the pan to prevent the jars from banging together. Boil with the lid on the pan for 40 minutes. Open the pan lid quickly and screw down the jar lids fully. Put back the lid and leave to stand overnight while the whole lot cools down.

Label and store in a dark cupboard until you can resist them no longer...

*Lasnet de Lanty, Henriette, and Michèle Parfonry. Confits, confitures et conserves. Sens pratique. Neuilly-sur-Seine: Dargaud, 1978.