Oh Honey! All About Nature's Nectar
By Chloe Dowley
How to get the most from nature's favorite sweetener...
It's the Bees' Knees: Benefits of Honey
Honey has been used as a sweetener for thousands of years, in cultures worldwide. While its medicinal and health properties are still appreciated around the globe, modern chefs often forget that honey is also a flavor-enhancing sweetener, adding delicious texture, color, and moisture to dishes ranging from appetizers and salads to stews and (of course) desserts. It's also worth mentioning that honey, unlike processed white sugar, contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants, especially in its raw form. It is also one of the few sweeteners that can be produced in almost every part of the country.
Choosing the Right Honey for the Job
In the United States, there are over 300 types of honey, whose flavor and color vary based on the type of nectar, or blossom, used to make them. Because the right kind of honey can be the perfect addition to a sauce, glaze, or dressing, use this list of the most common varieties to select the perfect honey for your recipe.
Clover Honey: One of the most common and popular varieties, clover honey is usually white to amber in color and is a great addition to most baked goods and sauces.
Orange Blossom Honey: Light in color, this honey has a distinctively orange flavor.
Tupelo Honey: You've probably heard of this premium honey, famous for its yellow-green hue and smooth, sweet flavor. Tupelo's high fructose content means that it resists crystallization.
Avocado Honey: Dark and rich, this honey will stand out in many dishes.
Blueberry Honey: Mildly fruity in flavor, blueberry honey tastes great on toast, in dressings, or as an all-purpose sweetener.
Fireweed Honey: Pale in color and with a delicate, buttery flavor, fireweed honey lends itself to grilling meat and fish, glazes, and even baking.
Buckwheat Honey: One of the darkest and strongest tasting varieties, buckwheat honey can be almost black and is a great source of iron. It is recommended for mead production or can be used in place of molasses.
Eucalyptus Honey: The herbal and slightly menthol flavor of eucalyptus honey makes it suitable for medicinal uses or in herbal teas.
Storing and Using Honey
At room temperature, honey will keep for years. Over time it may crystallize, a natural process, which is easily remedied by heating the jar in a pan of water and stirring until it liquefies.
While honey is the star in many wonderful recipes, it is also a multi-purpose sweetener that can be used in place of sugar in a variety of baked goods. Although it may take some trial and error to adapt your favorite desserts to use honey, here are a few suggestions:
- Substitute 1/2 cup of honey for every cup of sugar in a recipe.
- For each cup of honey you use, decrease liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of honey you use.
- Decrease baking temperature by 25°F because items prepared with honey tend to brown faster than those prepared with sugar.
- Lightly coat measuring cup with oil before adding honey so it's easier to pour.
Getting Hooked on Honey: Sweeten Your Recipes
Innumerable recipes take advantage of honey's unique properties. Try some of these ideas to get started
- Combine honey with ricotta or another mild cheese on toast for a morning snack.
- Add a teaspoon of honey to tomato sauces to reduce acidity and enhance flavor.
- Use honey in marinades and glazes on poultry, meat, or fish.
- Substitute honey for sugar in any of your favorite desserts using the guidelines indicated above.
- Give stir-fried or sauteed vegetables that extra zing with a honey-lemon sauce.
If you start with high-quality honey, there's no way you can go wrong. Develop your own unique ways to use honey and you'll be hooked before you know it!
About the Author
Chloë Dowley is a freelance writer specializing in culinary topics. She lives on a farm in rural Maine where she tries to embody the principles of Slow Living, while keeping up with her 18 month-old son.