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3.12.2 Beebread (after Dany, 1988)
Normally, the term beebread refers to the pollen stored by the bees in their combs. The beebread has already been processed by the bees for storage with the addition of various enzymes and honey, which subsequently ferments. This type of lactic acid fermentation is similar to that in yoghurts (and other fermented milk products) and renders the end product more digestible and enriched with new nutrients.
One advantage is almost unlimited storability of beebread in comparison with dried or frozen pollen in which nutritional values are rapidly lost. The natural process carried out by the bees can more or less be repeated artificially with dry or fresh bee-collected pollen. It is important however, to provide the correct conditions during the fermentation process.
Wide-mouthed bottles or jars with airtight lids are absolutely essential. Airtight stainless steel or glazed clay pots can also be used. Containers should always be large enough to leave enough airspace (20 to 25 % of the total volume) above the culture.
The temperature for the first two to three days should be between 28 and 320C; the bees maintain a temperature of approximately 34°C. After the first two or three days the temperature should be lowered to 20°C.
The high initial temperature is important to stop the growth of undesirable bacteria as quickly as possible. At this ideal temperature all bacteria grow fast so that an excess of gas and acid accumulates.
Only lactic acid producing bacteria (lactobacilli) and some yeasts continue to grow. The former soon dominate the whole culture. This final growth of lactobacilli should proceed slowly, hence the reduction in temperature after 2-3 days.
The starter culture
It is best to start the culture with an inoculation of the right bacteria such as Lactobacillus xylosus or lactobacilli contained in whey. Freeze-dried bacteria are best if they can be purchased, but otherwise, the best cultures are those that can be obtained from dairies. Whey itself can be used. If the whey is derived from unprocessed fresh milk it should be boiled before use. A culture can also be started with natural beebread.
Fermentation produces a pleasant degree of acidity (ideally pH 3.6-3.8). Some pollen species may promote excessive yeast growth but this does not spoil the beebread. If the flavour is strange or some other mildew-like or unpleasant odours arise from the beebread, discard it and try again. The final product, can be stored for years, once unsealed, it can be dried and thus is storable for many more months.
For successful fermentation, exact quantities are less important than the correct conditions:
– the pollen to be fermented needs to be maintained under pressure
– the air space above the food needs to be sufficient (20-25 % of total volume)
– the container needs to be airtight
– the temperature should not drop below 18°C
Ingredients (in parts by weight):
2.5 Clean water
0.02 Whey or very small quantity of dried lactic acid bacteria
Clean and slightly dry the fresh pollen. If dried pollen is used, an extra 0.5 parts of water is added and the final mix soaked for a couple of hours before placing it in the fermentation vessels. If the mixture is too dry, a little more honey-water solution can be added.
Heat the water, stir in the honey and boil for at least 5 minutes. Do not allow the mix to boil over. Let the mix cool. When the temperature is approximately 30-32 0C, stir in the whey or starter culture and add the pollen. Press into the fermentation container.
When preparing large quantities in large containers, the pollen mass should be weighted down with a couple of weights (clean stones) on a very clean board.
Close the container well and place in a warm place (30-32 0C).
After 2-3 days, remove to a cool area (preferably at 200C). 8 to 12 days later the fermentation will have passed its peak and the beebread should be ready. The lower the temperature, the slower is the progress of fermentation. Leave the jars sealed for storage.