He's a salmon fisherman who raises cattle on the side, and -- lucky us -- Kenny Ashbacher has now gotten into honey.
Aschbacher is a commercial salmon fisherman, interested in sustainability. He also raises grass fed beef on his family land in New Mexico. Interested in a healthy alternative to refined sugar for his family, the Fishhugger, as he's known, began to hang out with beekeepers. The Fishhugger, like Winnie the Pooh, became a sommelier of honey.
He spends a few months a year in Phoenix, and if you're lucky, you can catch him and his honey at a local farmers market. We hit the jackpot and got an invitation to a tasting.
Twelve jars of honeys lined the Aschbacher kitchen counter, ready for tasting. A whiteout board in the corner listed the honeys, their regional origins, and harvest season.
As with wine, Kenny began this day's sampling with a simple honey that had mild taste, a Saguaro cactus honey from Coolidge, Arizona. Kenny tutored the crowd of tasters from mild to more complex honeys, ending with Oak Leaf or what he referred to as "Bee Honey Dew" a complex layer of flavor that was reminiscent of molasses in color, viscosity and note.
The tasting was sprinkled with Kenny's tips on honey creation, production, bee habits and Fishhugger recipes. Our favorite was the Tribute Tea, a creamy honey harvested in New Mexico in the fall.
The crowd swooned over Kenny's chocolate honey -- created with Meadowfoam from the Northwest, combined with bee pollen and high quality cocoa powder. Nutella, move over!
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We also sampled a jar of beef jerky Kenny was dehydrating from his grass feed beef, organic kumquats cured in honey to create a simple syrup, and "Bee Bread" derived from a Roman recipe.
The The Aschbachers will be in Phoenix for two more months, and then travel to New Mexico for six months prior to their return. During the salmon season Kenny will be fishing in Alaska. Find The Fishhugger at a local farmers market before his season in Phoenix is over and stock up on Kenny's honey, salmon and beef, or sign up for the mailing list and watch for the next tasting!