President Washington’s Love of Honey, The Bees That Saved America a Special Event, Our Comb Honey.
With Independence Day slowly approaching, we thought to dedicate this Newsletter the honey bees during the Revolutionary War. Did you know that honey was one of the most favorite foods of President George Washington?! George Washington certainly knew that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. Our country’s first president was an early riser who enjoyed a leisurely morning meal, often eating right at the break of dawn. It was 19th-century historian Washington Irving who wrote that the American icon's "temperate repast" often included "two small cups of tea and three or four cakes of Indian meal (called hoe cakes),” often drenched in honey and butter.
So, what are hoe cakes and why did Washington love them so? Here’s the story of our founding father’s favorite food.
Author of the paper "How the Hoe Cake Got its Name" explained , hoe was a colloquial term for griddle dating back to at least the 1600s in parts of England, where baking cakes on boards or griddles was commonplace.
Quite simply, a hoe cake is, as Slate describes it, "cornbread made minimalist" .The ingredients are as basic as it gets: cornmeal, water and salt. The recipe that Washington liked it to include egg and yeast as well. With all the elements mixed together, the result looks a lot like pancake batter.
Being a Historic Foodie, Alma decided to make some “hoe cakes” using a recipe in one of her old cookbooks. (Alma loves to collect and make recipes from extremely old cookbooks. “Time travel at its yummiest!”) When she fed them to her husband Glenn, who is from New England, he yelled out in excitement, “Jonny Cakes! These are Jonny cakes! I used to have these every Sunday as kid”
Both family members and visitors made note of the fact that Washington usually ate hoecakes, a “typically American” dish of honey for breakfast. Houseguest Winthrop Sargent found breakfast with the Washingtons to be a “very substantial Repast”, but noted that “Indian hoe cake with Butter & Honey seemed the principal Component Parts.” A visitor from Poland reported that Washington had “tea and caks made from maize; because of his teeth he makes slices spread with butter and honey….” According to step-granddaughter Nelly Custis, Washington “ate three small mush cakes (Indian meal) swimming in butter and honey,” and “drank three cups of tea without cream”. Her younger brother, George Washington Parke Custis, described Washington’s discipline regarding breakfast: “…This meal was without change to him whose habits were regular, even to matters which others are so apt to indulge themselves in to endless variety. Indian cakes, honey, and tea, formed this temperate repast….” On days when he planned to go hunting, however, Washington would substitute “a bowl of milk” in place of tea.
All of those hoecakes would have required a large amount of honey. Following a serious illness during the presidency, George Washington’s sister, Betty Washington Lewis, of Kenmore in Fredericksburg, celebrated her brother’s return to health by sending a special present she knew he would enjoy:
"We have been extreamly concern’d at hearing of your late illness, but the arrival of Roberts ast letter brought us the Agreeable information that the Doctors had Pronounc’d you would shortly be Able to ride out—when I had last the Pleasure of seeing you I observ’d Your fondness for Honey.
I have got a large Pot of very fine in the Comb, which I shall send by the first Opportunity"
At the close of Washington’s presidency eight years later, among the many things the family packed to ship back to Mount Vernon from Philadelphia was “one demijohn with honey.”9 A demijohn was a very large glass bottle, covered with wickerwork.
Honey Bees and the Revolutionary War a Special Independence Day Weekend Event.
Honey bees played an important role in the Revolutionary War. Honey bees even fought and won a battle against one of the most notorious red coat regiment. The revolutionary soldiers, looked in awe as the honey bees fought and won the battle for them! On another account President Washington told a beekeeper, “Neither you nor your bees shall be forgotten when our country is at peace again. It was the cackling geese that saved Rome, but it was the bees that saved America." On July 3 we will be adding a special tour for Independence day! You will learn about honey bees, the role they played in the Revolutionary War, beekeeping in the colonial era, honey bees and their relationship with our Presidents and Whitehouse. Attendees will also get a special honey tasting and pairing with fruit. Moreover, the opportunity to try President Washington’s favorite food, “Hoecakes” with butter, honey and tea! Years after Washington’s death, Nelly Custis Lewis, a cook for President Washington, described her method for preparing a yeast-risen version of hoecakes in a letter to her close friend Elizabeth Bordley Gibson. Alma will be using a recipe that is a modern adaptation of the 18th-century original; created by culinary historian Nancy Carter Crump for the book Dining with the Washingtons. If you love history, science, and a foodie you don’t want to miss this event! Space is limited, tickets are $20 per person. Please register by clicking the tour tab via our website: sarasotahoney.com. or click on this button:
Comb Honey is Back!
There is no doubt that the 2021 honey season has been a tough one. The orange blossom honey flow started two weeks late. Additionally, the blossoms were a quick open and close. The quick spring season made it difficult for the bees to build out the honeycomb, fill it, and seal it ready for harvest. This with a April/ May drought further hindered the honey bee progress. However, with the recent rains the bees were finally able to finish and seal the honeycombs ready for harvest! Unfortunately, the bees were only able to make 15% of what we set them up for, so supply is limited. This honeycomb is unique in that the honey found in it is a combination of spring and early summer honey, creating a very unique yummy experience. Our comb chunk honey is now available at our store and Lakewood Ranch Farmers Market and the comb block honey will be coming soon due to supply chain strain that we are still experiencing.