Some of you may have seen on the Instagram account in the last few weeks my teasing posts about the handmade heather honey, pollen and apple chocolate tablettes and bars.
This unique combination which is one of my favourites is getting a change this year by the addition of heather honey, instead of the spring Presteigne honey which l used in the last few years to make the same combination. Spring honey is very gentle in flavour, and didn't really come across in the dark chocolate bars. It was good in the milk and dark version.
l was going to get it all posted and offer it on the shop page a week ago, but l got distracted by the news of the Observer's coming review by Annalisa Barbieri, which had the effect of getting me to run around the house like a headless chicken for a few days. Now l have come down (the fiery southern French temper is still in my blood, but the British cooler attitude is acting on me at last) and l have regained a bit of decency, it is time to offer you a little story about those delicious chocolate bars. Heather honey is gathered on the moors by John Fletcher of Presteigne, by hives which have been living on those beautiful hills for a few months.
l have been up there with him to visit the hives and the beautiful hills, my excuse was l needed to pick some bilberries (which they call whimberries) for Christmas assortment ganaches, but l didn't end up getting many of those, as it was too overwhelmingly beautiful, and l had never picked such berries before: they don't grow in clumps and it takes a long time to gather a handful! l will have enough for a tiny ganache for the large Apostles boxes of chocolates.
Pollen from John Fletcher's hives is added to the bars, as well as local, unsprayed Herefordshire apples slices, dehydrated on the premises without chemical preservatives as we don't like those very much.
And the end product is a delicious heather honey bar! in 76% dark, or milk and dark chocolate layers.
And here is the end product, which you WILL be able to find in the shop, but not till tonight as l want to post a blog about the Rose and apple bars first! (and then offer those to you as well, before the review comes and there are none left)
Those beautiful images are shot by Richard Taylor in his photography studio - Richard is also brilliant at helping with the website! Thank you enormously Richard :)
Now for a bit of information not related to the chocolates:
There is a tradition with the Gladestry moors (and possibly other heather moors in the UK) which involves burning some of the areas, carefully monitored, each year, in order to kill the heather moths which decimates the plants, but also takes down the old spindly heather and bilberries plants, allowing them to grow back stronger and more bushy the next few years. John explained to me that this has been done for centuries, and if it isn't done, the bracken which is not beneficial for much wild life, (except adders which like bracken) invade the areas and kill the heather plants by taking up all the space greedily in the soil and shadowing/impairing the plants under them, so the burning which takes place also reduces the invasion by bracken, which proliferate very fast and intensely. John told me with great sorrow that the towny environmentalists (we are going to talk politics now, please don't get too excited at me for writing this here) who don't know anything about nature, are trying to stop the centuries old tradition of the burning of the old heathers moors, and he is pretty upset about that because he knows bracken will take over in very little time and the beautiful, scented and life-giving hills will be no more, and the habitats for many types of birds like the grouse destroyed. This is his point of view, and of course there has always been debate and conflict between traditional methods and new thinking and methods. Being from the countryside myself, l heard a lot in our community about newcomers coming from towns who try to change the traditions and who don't have a clue as to why our ancestors did certain things with nature, then get in a mess because they have ignored the old traditions.
But of course, there is also conflict with farmers using pesticides which damage the soil and living beings, disrupt the mycos (what is it called?) Mycorrhizas necessary for the plants and soil organisms, (thank you Internet!) and disrupt the natural balance of the earth. So, "traditional" farmers using modern technics because they haven't got any other options to make a living and pay for their very expensive machines to produce cheap foods for supermarkets who rip them off, are often blamed for for our ecosystem. l feel sorry for farmers, my father was one and attempted to grow organically for a few years before his retirement, as he didn't like using the chemical fertilisers and the pesticides which he believed weren't good for the earth nor for the consumers. l remember him showing us his organic wheat harvest, which was in much lesser quantity and smaller grain than the modern wheat he used to grow, and him selling it to a local organic baker who then went bankrupt and couldn't pay my father back for the grain, so we were given wheat biscuits and free bread for a few months in exchange till the baker disappeared. My father was very suspicious of modern farming when he realised the corn grain he was sold was GMO and the cows supplements, as well as containing non-organic soya chunks, also started containing crushed chicken feathers from industrial chicken farms. The manufacturers thought the feathers contained proteins which were beneficial to cows. After my father retired and my brother took over the farm, our father argued a lot with him as my brother wanted to follow the modern farming methods (he wanted new machines, new big tractors, new cow barns, more money, but price of milk kept dropping) and he went back to using pesticides, herbicides and unfortunately it didn't end well, as my brother died of general cancer in his mid-40's. Was it the contamination from the chemicals which killed my brother, a not so healthy-looking diet which contained 'too much' (in my opinion) processed food, or the emotional conflict with his father who didn't approve of his farming methods and lived in strife with? I will never know, but this family history confirmed me into believing that if we can afford to, it is best to buy organically grown foods, vegetables and fruit, particularly the ones which are heavily sprayed with chemicals, to remain healthy. It is why l prefer to work with organic chocolate, so l am not exposed to as many toxins as in conventionally grown chocolate, as well as you, the customers. If we can't afford to buy organic, using natural ways to detoxify the crops at home, like using activated zeolite clipnotilolite powder in water, which attaches to certain chemicals and heavy metals due to its electron charge. l often soak non-organic fresh grapes in this water, and they feel a lot better. Charcoal powder probably works also as it does a similar job. If you have plant problems in your garden, l cannot recommend enough to give them a handful of zeolite powder per plant - it attracts and detoxifies the ground from heavy metals and any herbicides/round-up which has killed the soil and weakened the plants. It also helps apparently with ridding ponds from hairy algae - but l have not tried it myself. It is also used in industrial chicken farming, given with the food the last few weeks or days before slaughter, to remove any intestinal toxins from the birds and reduce the amount of hormones etc. Again, this is only internet information, l have not asked an industrial chicken farmer myself. l really hope they do use it around here as we have many large chicken farms in Herefordshire. Enough of the history of the past and farming methods, l wish the best to all farmers and may they live joyful, happy lives, and may it spread to their lands and animals, and may they live in harmony with their neighbours and community! (isn't it a challenge to be a human!!) Many blessings to everyone of you reading this. Now l better get some work done! Bye bye,