Keeping beehives behind their College of Charleston apartment launched Liam Becker and John Berdux’s career in the honey industry. What started as a hobby soon evolved into a passion for creating top-quality, from-the-source products. The Holy City-based Apis Mercantile takes a very different approach to honey production from others in the industry: The business supplements their own supply with honey sourced directly from small, sustainable apiaries, as opposed to commercial honey conglomerates. By working with similar producers in the Lowcountry, New Hampshire, Florida, and out West, Apis Mercantile creates close relationships with their partners and develops an informed appreciation for the influences that regionalized flora have on various honey sources.
This approach sparked admiration from professionals within Charleston’s iconic restaurant industry. “I love that they’re working with more than one producer,” says Charlie Layton, the executive chef at Basic Kitchen in downtown Charleston. The restaurant designs their menu around thoughtfully sourced ingredients from a carefully chosen group of farmers, fishermen, and other purveyors.
Apis Mercantile is Layton's liquid sweetener of choice. “[Apis Mercantile] connects the dots between the producer and the customer—that’s a big part of our mission at Basic Kitchen," he says. He uses flavors, from the bourbon-barrel aged honey to the garlic-fermented honey, to add natural sweetness to the restaurant’s dishes. One recipe particularly close to Layton’s heart is the honey pie made with Apis' wildflower honey. It's his Lowcountry riff on the English treacle tart that he grew up loving in Cornwall.
Treacle, a thick, dark syrup made from refined sugar, is the British cousin to molasses. However, treacle is thinner in texture and lighter in color. The bright, floral honey presented the perfect consistency.
But it’s not just for the customers—the honey plays a key part in Layton’s diet outside of work. He adds Apis Mercantile’s honey to his daily smoothies, which fuel his training for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, an ultra-endurance rowing event across the Atlantic Ocean. His go-to flavors are the orange blossom honey and the bourbon-barrel aged honey.
Layton’s not alone. From Charleston to Los Angeles, markets, specialty foods stores, bakeries, gourmet delis, and boutique hotels carry Apis Mercantile’s products “It sounds ridiculous, but it’s really hard to find anything that’s pure local at that price point,” Layton says. It all ties back to Becker and Berdux’s mission to make quality, natural products accessible to all.
Bringing Apis Mercantile Home
For unmatched floral-infused sweetness, recreate Basic Kitchen’s honey pie recipe. As one of the primary ingredients, be sure to use a good-quality honey. You can order Apis Mercantile honey online or use their store locator to find it near you.
Honey Pie Recipe
For the crust:
- 1¾ cups flour
- ¼ cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ⅓ cup whole milk
For the filling:
- ½ cup butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ¼ cup, minus 1 tablespoon, yellow cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon of flaky sea salt, plus more to finish
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs, beaten
- ½ cup Apis Mercantile wildflower honey
- ⅔ cup double/heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Make the crust: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, oil, and milk and mix on low speed until a rough ball forms. Using your hands, bring the dough together, it should be soft and malleable.
- Spray a push bottom tart pan with cooking spray. Push the dough into the pan, ensuring there are no holes or tears. Place on a sheet tray and cover. Freeze for at least 1 hour.
- Make the filling: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place sheet tray in the oven.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine butter with sugar, cornmeal, sea salt, and vanilla extract on medium-low speed until well incorporated.
- Turn the speed to low and stir in the honey. Once combined, beat in the eggs on medium-high speed until the batter turns slightly lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Return speed to low and add in the cream and vinegar, and mix until incorporated.
- Pour filling into frozen pie shell and place on sheet in the oven. Bake for 50 minute, rotating halfway through, until the top is bronze and slightly jiggly.
- Enjoy: Allow to cool, then sprinkle with sea salt flakes and dive in.