Book Review: The Asheville Bee Charmer Cookbook

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, Herb Society of America

20180107_082557I’m chasing sunshine for the next few months in a 40-foot Tiffin Phaeton motorhome. We left Northeast Ohio when it was -3 F and drove South. We’ll soon veer West and continue until we hit San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. I hope the travel adventure will make my blog richer. I plan to visit garden and herb-related sites and will share as I might.

Another goal of this trip is to catch up on reading. And, the second book I read – if The Whole Seed Catalog can count as the first – is The Asheville Bee Charmer Cookbook by Carrie Schloss. The elegant, 200-page book celebrates honey with both savory and sweet recipes. You might expect something like Mexican chocolate cookies or candied walnuts, but what about chipotle-honey marinated skirt steak or eggplant parmesan stacks?

20180111_133737I’d visited the Bee Charmer retail outlet in Asheville, N.C., in 2016 and was excited when owners Jillian Kelly and Kim Allen introduced their cookbook late in 2017. The first recipe I tried was honey-roasted Brussels sprouts. Score.

This honey cookbook is relevant to herb lovers for two reasons. First, honey characteristics are shaped by flower of origin. Thus wildflower honey tastes different from lavender honey from sage honey. In the cookbook author Schloss describes the characteristics of different honeys then builds recipes around various varietals and infusions.

Lavender, for example, tastes “light, delicate, floral, lavender, peach and slightly acidic.” Meanwhile, sage is more like toasty, smoky, oak. And, dandelion offers flavors of vanilla and chamomile.

Varietals include acacia, basswood, blackberry, blueberry, buckwheat, carrot, clover, corsican blossom, cranberry, dandelion, fir, ginger, lavender, meadowfoam, orange blossom, raspberry, sage, sourwood, Tasmanian leatherwood, tupelo and wildflower.

The second reason for herbal interest is honey infusions created by Jill and Kim. The duo sells seven infusions that inspired Schloss’s recipes.

Infusions include chai, chipotle, cocoa, firecracker hot, ghost pepper, mint and rosemary.

20180111_133800.jpgTo make all the recipes in this book you’d have to stock 28 varietals and blends. You can purchase them at the Bee Charmer retail or online. I don’t have that much space in the RV, so I may cheat and get by with a few substitutions in the recipes I choose. My next project will be the rosemary polenta cake. This will have to wait until we slow down and stay at one campground for two weeks. Then, I can pull out the toaster oven, stir up the corn meal and make friends to help eat it.

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