Chef Carrie Schloss is adding some flavor to the culinary book world with the launch of her new cookbook! Inspired by the vast honey collection at Asheville Bee Charmer, Schloss has created a collection featuring 130 recipes, 20 honey varietals, and 8 special Bee Charmer blends. Many of the recipes accommodate dairy free, gluten free, or vegetarian dietary restrictions, making the book desirable to all who adhere to those restrictions as well as those who do not. In celebration of the cookbook's pub week, we decided to share our Q&A with the bee charmer herself. Enjoy!
A collection of 130 sweet and savory recipes inspired by the vast artisanal honey selection at Asheville Bee Charmer, a North Carolina shop located in one of the United States’ most bee-friendly towns. Twenty honey varietals and eight special Bee Charmer blends are featured in recipes and discussed in a guide to color, aroma, and flavor.
How did you become interested in cooking?
My interest in food and cooking began at a young age. Growing up with an immigrant mother, I spent a lot of time every year in Mexico visiting my family. I vividly remember going on adventures with my grandparents, eating street food with my grandfather, and learning about traditional cooking techniques. This not only sparked my interest in traveling the world, but also my interest in the many flavors and smells of foods in other cities and countries. Upon returning home, I would try to recreate some of the dishes I had eaten while traveling.
I have always loved hanging out in the kitchen and watching people create dishes and make meals—from family members to friends and professional cooks. From the age of ten or eleven, I began making dinners for my family, not out of necessity, but because of my passion for cooking. I would regularly make special meals to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries for family and friends. I can still remember the menu from the first birthday dinner I made for my sister over 30 years ago. Nothing makes me smile faster than seeing the happiness and joy on people’s face as they sit around the table enjoying a meal I have made for them.
I wanted to go to culinary school right after high school, but my father wanted me to study finance. I followed my father’s wishes and was lucky enough to travel the world during a successful investment career, ultimately visiting all seven continents. Along the way, I always made sure to ask questions about ingredients and recipes as I dined all over the world and took culinary classes. I also asked chefs about their techniques and even staged at a few restaurants. About seven years ago, I finally achieved my dream of going to culinary school. Not only do I love to cook, but I love to teach people how to create great food that they can share with their friends and family.
The recipes in the book are inspired by the honey varietals at the Asheville Bee Charmer. How did you get involved with the store?
Kim and I have been friends since our freshman year in college. We both spent our junior year abroad in Luxembourg which deepened our friendship and our love of food and travel. We were also roommates for a year after college and always enjoyed eating a great meal together. I met Jillian through Kim when they began dating. Naturally, after Kim and Jill moved to Asheville, I went to visit them and to experience the store. When you go to the store, you can sit at the honey bar and try the different varietals. Over two days, I tried about 35 to 40 of them. As I tasted the different honeys, recipe ideas began popping into my head.
Customers kept asking Kim and Jill if they were going to write a honey cookbook. After hearing my abundance of ideas, they asked if I would write the cookbook for them, utilizing techniques from my culinary and teaching career.
What has your experience cooking with honey been? What makes cooking with honey unique?
It has been great creating and testing recipes with a variety of honeys. I must have close to 40 types of honey in my cupboard. They each have a unique smell, taste, viscosity, and level of sweetness. It’s been interesting to see how different a dish can taste depending on what type of honey you use.
What people fail to realize is how many savory recipes use some level of sweetening to enhance their flavor. I prefer using honey rather than sugar whenever possible because you can use less honey than you would sugar. Honey is sweeter than sugar, but it’s still important to taste the honey you plan to use because the level of sweetness differs between different varietals. However, not every recipe can substitute honey for sugar. For recipes where sugar crystallization provides some level of structure, it can be a challenge to use only honey. For example, I tried making meringues only using honey, and although they were tasty, they were very soft and never truly set up. When you substitute honey for sugar in sauces or dressings, you don’t have to worry about heating the honey to get it to melt. You can just mix it in right away, eliminating a cooking step. Honey also provides a unique mouthfeel that differs from sugar.
Do you have a favorite recipe in the book or a favorite honey varietal?
One of my favorite recipes is the Bee Pollen Nut Brittle. It is loaded with nuts and the bee pollen on top provides a unique flavor I have never tasted in a nut brittle. I also love the Duck a l’Orange. It tastes as great as duck at a restaurant, yet you can make it from start to finish in less than 30 minutes.
My favorite honeys are the Asheville Bee Charmer blended varietals like the Cocoa-Infused Honey, Chai-Infused Honey, Firecracker Hot Honey, and Smokin’ Hot Honey (chipotle-infused honey). My favorite monovarietals are fir honey, Corsican blossom honey, and lavender honey. The fir and Corsican blossom honeys are both dark with a rich flavor—both have lots of caramel overtones. I love how they taste in baked goods, on roasted vegetables, and in the brittle. Lavender honey is delicate with a floral and stone fruit taste. It’s delicious with tea or spread on toast with butter.
Where do you find inspiration for new recipes?
I find inspiration for recipes in lots of places: from old family recipes, friends’ family favorites, the farmer’s market, traveling around the world, eating out at a great restaurant, or even from reading magazines and cookbooks.
What’s next for you?
I would love to write another cookbook and continue to focus on teaching. I will also continue to experiment with honey and create many more delicious, healthy, and easy-to-make recipes.