A sweet journey: How honey gets from the hive to your pantry | Ontario Culinary
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A sweet journey: How honey gets from the hive to your pantry

From Ontario farms to your kitchen table, meet the people who make enjoying homegrown honey possible.

The supplier: Dancing Bee Equipment

Dancing Bee Equipment founder Todd Kalisz knows bees. His father kept bees and by 22, Kalisz had two hives of his own. It was this early experience that inspired him to get into the business of beekeeping. “It was therapeutic,” he says. “It took my mind off everything.”

He started building his own woodenware and a small business was born.

Dancing Bee Equipment is now one of the top beekeeping equipment suppliers in Canada. Since opening its doors in 2009 in Port Hope, Ont., its customer base has steadily grown. Kalisz now ships beekeeping equipment to commercial beekeepers, stores and hobbyists across Canada and internationally. His team also runs about 1,000 colonies for local apple pollination, to produce honey and nucleus colonies—smaller hives consisting of food and bees in all stages of development—to sell across the province.

“The hobbyist thing is huge,” says Kalisz, referring to the demand from individuals who want to keep bees in their backyards and farms. (If you’re interested in trying your hand at beekeeping, plan to start a new hive in spring 2021, so your new bees have the entire summer season to collect nectar and pollen.)

As interest grows, so does the company, which is expanding to a new warehouse and gift shop beside Highway 401 in Port Hope, slated to open in spring 2021. The warehouse will serve their beekeeping customers as well as feature a 20-foot-long area for suppliers to display their products, creating a one-stop-shop for visitors to discover different honey producers from all around Ontario.

The producer: Ontario Honey Creations

White-collar workers who moonlight as bee rescuers seems like the premise for a heartwarming movie, but for Peter Chorabik and Sarah Allinson-Chorabik, founders of Toronto Bee Rescue, it was their real life for years.

The husband and wife team had a couple of hives of their own—a hobby picked up from his family, going back a few generations—and often received calls from people who needed help re-homing honeybee swarms and removing hives that had invaded walls and ceilings of their homes.

Their work as apiarists naturally progressed and in 2015, they left their corporate jobs to open Ontario Honey Creations, which sells seasonal terroir honey, artisan honey vinegars and honey wine, or mead, which they launched in July. The business now has apiaries in Rouge Valley, Headwaters and throughout the GTA.

“Depending on those areas, you get totally different flora and fauna in bloom and definitely impacts the overall taste of the honey; it’s really interesting. Typically, milder in the spring and you get more flavour as the year goes on,” says Allinson-Chorabik.

Their biggest challenges have been learning to differentiate their business from others, and the test all beekeepers face: keeping the bees alive.

“Winter losses are astronomical and the ‘normal’ is like 40 percent,” she says. “That was probably the most difficult thing to learn and we’ve had some more success—it’s a huge relief to see.”

The vendor: Special Effects Lifestyle Boutique

In the quiet town of Brighton, Ont., there’s an 1850s century house-turned lifestyle boutique with eclectic offerings of interior design services, fashion apparel, home decor items and a gourmet food market. There’s nothing quite like the Special Effects Lifestyle Boutique, an expression of owner and designer Sheryl Delorme’s different passions and love for well-made, local products.

Delorme takes a conscientious approach to her business—the food sourced for the gourmet market is local and Canadian-made, and she tries to get to know all the producers. “Knowing where the product is coming from, the integrity of the source, is very important to me,” she says. Amongst the artisanal items like soups and sauces, she also sells pure raw honey—a label-less product produced by Brighton beekeeper, Eric Galberaith, who makes his honey one batch at a time.

At Special Effects, you’ll typically find food tastings every other weekend with the opportunity to meet a local producer, including Galberaith, who is scheduled to do a honey tasting later in the year. “It’s really important as a community to support each other,” says Delborne, who also the founder and chair of Art on Main, an event that helps promote local arts, visual performing and culinary arts.

A self-proclaimed foodie, Delborne cooks with the very products she sells in-store. One of her favourite recipes is a casserole she makes for Thanksgiving that incorporates the local honey. “It’s literally a casserole of sweet potato, apple, cinnamon, and honey—and that’s it!”

as part of the Great Taste of Ontario Special Report