The fruit of bees is desired by all, and is equally sweet to kings and beggars and not only pleasing but profitable and healthful; it sweetens their mouths, cures their wounds. – Saint Ambrose
8,000-year-old cave painting of honey gathering.
As a Chef, tea drinker and (very) amateur beekeeper, I’ve always loved honey. Honey gathering started at least 8,000 years ago and has been practiced throughout both the ancient and modern world and among many diversified societies.
What could drive someone to thrust an unprotected hand into a beehive to scoop out a glob of insect regurgitation? Well, the easy answer is it tastes good, was the world’s first sweetener and preservative, and has many medicinal uses.
Because of honey’s elevated acidity and high sugar content, it is an excellent preservative and absorbs flavors easily. Honey readily takes on the flavors of herbs, spices, fruit peels and even odd bits like garlic and chilies.
There are two main ways to infuse your honey. Both are quite easy.
Cold infusion is as simple as placing the herbs in a jar, covering them with honey and allowing the blend to sit for 2 weeks, then press through a fine mesh strainer. This method is the easiest but can be a sticky mess. Like no petting the cat for a few hours kind of a sticky mess.
Hot infusion is quicker and cleaner than cold infusion. As honey is heated it becomes thinner, easier to pour and handle, & absorbs flavor faster. Because honey burns easily and at a very low temperature, the hot infusion method can’t be done over direct heat. A double boiler will be required, and something as simple as a steel mixing bowl set over a pot of simmering water will work.
There are numerous herbs and spices that can be used: Lavender (good glaze for duck), Basil, Rose Petals Cinnamon, Rosemary (good paired with bleu cheese), Apple or Orange Blossoms, Star Anise, Garlic… really almost anything goes. Store infused honey at room temperature and it will keep indefinitely. Refrigeration will cause crystallization.
Add 1 to 2 cups of the (chopped) herb of your choice directly to the honey..
Heat the mixture at 170 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
Pour hot Honey Mixture through fine mesh strainer into bowl then into jars while still warm.
Flavored honey can be used to make glazes for meat, used in vinaigrettes, or just spread on toast.
Honey is an healthy substitute for sugar in baking recipes but because of honey’s water and acidity levels adjustments have to be made. If a recipe calls for 1/2-cup sugar or less, omit the sugar and use the same amount of honey instead. One-cup honey contains 1/4-cup water. As a rule, when you replace sugar with honey, cut the liquid by 1/4 cup. When a recipe calls for one cup of sugar, use one-cup honey and reduce the liquid by 1/4 cup. Be careful when you use honey in cake and cookie recipes, prevent browning by lowering your oven temperature by 25 degrees.
Honey has long been used for it’s health benefits, when infused with ground Chagga Mushrooms it makes a great daily supplement stirred into coffee or tea. For centuries medicines have been made based on honey, such as throat lozenges and cough syrup.
Coat a sheet pan with pan spray and don’t be shy about it these will stick other wise. If you own a Silpat or other non-stick mat, use it.
Put honey in a small saucepan over low heat.
Stirring constantly, bring the honey to a boil. Put in the thermometer and continue stirring until the honey reaches a temperature of 300 to 310 degrees F.
Honey can burn fast, so no doobie breaks, reduce heat to a simmer if necessary.
Immediately remove from heat.
Check for the right consistency by dropping a few drops of the cooked honey into ice water. Let it get cold, then feel the drops. They should feel like hard candy. If the honey is still soft, return to the heat and cook a little while longer, and do the ice water test again.
Off heat, continue to stir, , until the honey cools enough to drop by teaspoonfuls onto the sheet pan. It still needs to be runny, but a little less runny than when you first took it off the heat. Don’t wait too long or the honey will be impossible to remove from the pan. Work quickly.
Allow drops to cool completely at room temperature.
Toss with Powdered Sugar and wrap individually in Cellophane or plastic wrap or else they will stick together.
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