It wasn’t until 22 years ago when we moved to Oregon that I had my first taste of honey and immediately fell in love with this sweet, flavorful and easily digestible food. My first purchase was blackberry honey, and its rich and fruity flavor fast became my “go-to” ingredient for muffins and other baked goods.
Since that day I’ve tasted many different honey types, each with its own distinctive flavor. And those flavors can range from delicately mild or fragrantly fruity, to rich and full-flavored, to distinctively bold. Lighter colored honeys are generally milder in taste, whereas darker colored honeys are stronger and more intensely flavored.
Unlike most fresh foods, honey should never be stored in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures can turn liquefied honey into a solid mass, a process known as crystallization. (Some honey contains more dextrose than fructose and therefore crystallizes more rapidly.) If your honey has crystallized, try placing the jar in a pan of hot water over the lowest heat setting and stir until the crystals dissolve.
Looking for tasty ways to enjoy honey? Drizzle honey over fresh fruit, and then brown under the broiler for two minutes for a warm breakfast treat or snack. Mix honey with low-fat cream cheese or ricotta cheese for a nutritious and tasty spread on bagels, corn bread, English muffins, or toasted whole-grain bread. Try a honey glaze over baked squash or carrots. From breakfast to dinner, honey is a natural for flavoring foods. So don’t let that honey bear sit in the cupboard unused.
Store honey in an airtight container in the pantry or other dry location. And never add water to honey in the container, as this may cause it to spoil.
Always use a dry spoon or utensil to scoop honey from jars.
When substituting honey for sugar in baked goods, always reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees. And for every cup of honey used, reduce the amount of liquid by 1/4 cup and add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda.
Keep honey from sticking to your measuring cup or spoon by coating the utensil with a non-stick cooking spray beforehand.
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons juice, such as apple or orange
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add walnuts, mixing until combined.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the egg, honey, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir to combine, mixing the center in with the flour mixture to form a soft dough. With floured hands, pat the dough into a round about one-inch thick and cut into smaller rounds using a large cookie cutter.
Place the scones on a non-stick cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. To make apricot glaze, combine apricot preserves with juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and spread warm glaze over warm scones before serving. Makes 12 scones.
Any light-colored honey works well with this sauce, or try a full-bodied honey like buckwheat. Fruit honeys—such as blackberry or blueberry—are especially tasty.
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons stone-ground mustard
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 pounds chicken, cut into serving pieces*
Salt and pepper, to taste
* Also great with other poultry and with rabbit.
Make sauce by combining the honey, pineapple juice, mustard, olive oil, butter and curry powder in a small bowl. Set aside.
Place chicken in a 13×9-inch ovenproof pan. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken and bake, uncovered, in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until meat is no longer pink. Baste occasionally with sauce as the chicken bakes.
Remove chicken pieces from pan and arrange on a serving dish. Pour remaining sauce from pan over chicken. Serve immediately. Makes four to six servings.
Honey Fudge Brownies
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped roasted cashews
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and honey in the microwave or on the stove until combined, then stir in chocolate chips until melted. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add eggs and sugar; beat until light and fluffy, then mix in vanilla. Stir in flour, cocoa, and salt, blending well. Mix in chopped nuts.
Spread batter into a greased and floured 3-quart baking pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the brownies pull away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan before cutting into squares and dust tops with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.
Oregon-based Kris Wetherbee is an internationally published author, food writer and recipe developer. (kriswetherbee.com)
SEVEN TASTY HONEYS
Alfalfa: White to a very light amber in color, with good body and a multi-functional flavor. Great as a table honey or for use in baking or cooking.
Blackberry: Usually a light to golden amber in color. Fruity, rich and full-flavored honey is slightly reminiscent of blackberries. It’s an excellent all-around honey, especially great for baking.
Buckwheat: Dark brown color and very full-bodied type with a strong, distinct flavor best enjoyed in dressings, sauces and marinades, or as a topping over hot cereals or pancakes. Typically contains more antioxidant compounds than lighter honeys.
Clover: Varies in color from water white (which is nearly clear with a hint of yellow) to a very light amber, with a mild, delicate flavor that has become the standard for comparison. Widely accessible and good choice for any recipe.
Fireweed: Pleasantly light in color and flavor. Ideal all-purpose honey for cooking, baking, and table use.
Mint: A dark, rich and full-flavored honey often referred to as “the stout beer of honeys.” Its sweet non-minty flavor holds up well in baking and sauces, and also makes a wonderful topping for pancakes and waffles.
Orange Blossom: Color is extra light amber with a delightful citrusy aroma and flavor. Derived from a combination of citrus floral sources; excellent, multi-purpose honey for appetizers to desserts.