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Honey, You Don't Say?

September 8, 2005 By:
Andrew Schloss
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Squeamish readers, beware! Honey is the only food that comes to us predigested. The conversion of flower nectar to honey starts as soon as a bee gathers it. It is carried back to the hive, where it is dispensed into the mouths of young bees, who breathe across it, causing it to dehydrate and thicken slightly. As they roll this nectar around on their tongues, glandular enzymes help to change the liquid into nectar.

The resulting "honey nectar" is stored in the waxy cells of the honeycomb, where a temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit is constantly maintained, which helps to evaporate the syrup even more. If it should thicken too much, the bees will dilute it with water to keep it at a perfect consistency.

The flavor of a particular honey is dependent upon what sort of flower nectar is used as its source ingredient. Clover produces a mild, light-colored honey that remains the most popular one today. Some varieties are dark and strong-flavored, like blueberry or buckwheat honey. Others are milder, with subtle flavor distinctions, like sage, avocado, orange blossom or heather.

Many modern manufacturers produce honey from blends of different flower nectars to attain a consistent flavor; these are generally sold by brand, rather than by variety name.

Honey is sold in four forms:

• Comb Honey is a piece of honey-filled beeswax comb that is completely unprocessed. Because of that it has more flavor than a processed honey, but it is prone to the activity of sugar-fermenting yeasts, which are always present in honey.

• Liquid Honey is centrifugally extracted from the comb, heated to around 160 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy any yeasts, strained to remove pieces of wax and other debris, and finally filtered to remove pollen grains and small air bubbles that could cause the honey to cloud. Honeys that are filtered and heated are better at resisting crystallization during storage, but any enzymes that were in the honey are destroyed by such processing.

• Crystallized Honey is a mixture of liquid honey and a small amount of finely crystallized honey that is cooled until it solidifies into a spreadable paste.

• Chunk Honey is a piece of honeycomb in a jar with liquid honey poured around it.

All sugars liquefy as their temperature rises and solidify as they cool; honey is no exception.

Crystallized or creamy honey will become liquid when heated, and liquid honey will crystallize when refrigerated or stored at room temperature for a long time. If honey does become cloudy or crystallized, heating it will clarify and liquefy it.

When substituting honey for part or all of the sugar in a recipe, be aware that honey is slightly sweeter, so you will need to use about 10 percent less honey than the prescribed amount of sugar. Honey will also add more moisture, so any other liquid must be reduced by about one-fourth of the quantity of honey used.

Honey also contains a slight amount of acid. If you''re substituting honey for sugar in a cake recipe, for example, this added acid could throw off the performance of the baking powder. To rectify this, replace a small portion of baking powder with baking soda, which is alkali; that will re-establish the proper acid-base ratio for the maximum rising of the batter.

Of course, honey has more vitamins, minerals and protein - with fewer calories - than an equal portion of sugar. It''s a mistake, however, to infer from this that large amounts of honey promote good health. Honey is principally a sweetener, and its natural sugar content far outweighs its other nutritional assets.

So, like everything in this world, enjoy it - in moderation.

(Also, never serve honey in its raw form to babies under 12 months of age, as they can be seriously sickened by it.)

Squeamish readers, beware! Honey is the only food that comes to us predigested. The conversion of flower nectar to honey starts as soon as a bee gathers it. It is carried back to the hive, where it is dispensed into the mouths of young bees, who breathe across it, causing it to dehydrate and thicken slightly. As they roll this nectar around on their tongues, glandular enzymes help to change the liquid into nectar.

The resulting “honey nectar” is stored in the waxy cells of the honeycomb, where a temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit is constantly maintained, which helps to evaporate the syrup even more. If it should thicken too much, the bees will dilute it with water to keep it at a perfect consistency.

The flavor of a particular honey is dependent upon what sort of flower nectar is used as its source ingredient. Clover produces a mild, light-colored honey that remains the most popular one today. Some varieties are dark and strong-flavored, like blueberry or buckwheat honey. Others are milder, with subtle flavor distinctions, like sage, avocado, orange blossom or heather.

Many modern manufacturers produce honey from blends of different flower nectars to attain a consistent flavor; these are generally sold by brand, rather than by variety name.

Honey is sold in four forms:

• Comb Honey is a piece of honey-filled beeswax comb that is completely unprocessed. Because of that it has more flavor than a processed honey, but it is prone to the activity of sugar-fermenting yeasts, which are always present in honey.

• Liquid Honey is centrifugally extracted from the comb, heated to around 160 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy any yeasts, strained to remove pieces of wax and other debris, and finally filtered to remove pollen grains and small air bubbles that could cause the honey to cloud. Honeys that are filtered and heated are better at resisting crystallization during storage, but any enzymes that were in the honey are destroyed by such processing.

• Crystallized Honey is a mixture of liquid honey and a small amount of finely crystallized honey that is cooled until it solidifies into a spreadable paste.

• Chunk Honey is a piece of honeycomb in a jar with liquid honey poured around it.

All sugars liquefy as their temperature rises and solidify as they cool; honey is no exception.

Crystallized or creamy honey will become liquid when heated, and liquid honey will crystallize when refrigerated or stored at room temperature for a long time. If honey does become cloudy or crystallized, heating it will clarify and liquefy it.

When substituting honey for part or all of the sugar in a recipe, be aware that honey is slightly sweeter, so you will need to use about 10 percent less honey than the prescribed amount of sugar. Honey will also add more moisture, so any other liquid must be reduced by about one-fourth of the quantity of honey used.

Honey also contains a slight amount of acid. If you’re substituting honey for sugar in a cake recipe, for example, this added acid could throw off the performance of the baking powder. To rectify this, replace a small portion of baking powder with baking soda, which is alkali; that will re-establish the proper acid-base ratio for the maximum rising of the batter.

Of course, honey has more vitamins, minerals and protein — with fewer calories — than an equal portion of sugar. It’s a mistake, however, to infer from this that large amounts of honey promote good health. Honey is principally a sweetener, and its natural sugar content far outweighs its other nutritional assets.

So, like everything in this world, enjoy it — in moderation.

(Also, never serve honey in its raw form to babies under 12 months of age, as they can be seriously sickened by it.)

Honey Hot-Pepper Pecans
(Pareve)
2 cups (7 oz.) pecan halves
1/4 cups honey
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. hot-pepper sauce

Place a large nonstick skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Add the pecans and reduce the heat to medium.

Stir until the nuts toast lightly, about 4 minutes.

Add the honey and keep stirring, until the honey browns and the nuts are shiny, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Turn off heat. Add cinnamon, salt and hot sauce; toss to coat.

Immediately scrape onto a sheet pan and spread into a single layer. Wait for about 5 minutes until the nuts are just cool enough to touch, and break them into individual pieces.

Cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

Serve as an hors d’oeuvre.

Serves 4.
 

Glazed Chicken Thighs
(Meat)
2 lbs. kosher boneless chicken thighs
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsps. vegetable oil
1/2 cup fruit salsa, mango, pineapple or peach
3/4 cup orange juice
2 tsps. soy sauce
2 Tbsps. honey
1 tsp. chopped garlic, fresh or jarred organic

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet; brown chicken on both sides.

While chicken is browning, purée the salsa, orange juice, soy sauce and honey in a food processor or blender. Add garlic to skillet; cook for a few seconds.

Pour the salsa mixture into the pan, and boil until chicken is cooked through and salsa mixture has reduced to a glaze.

Toss and stir the mixture frequently near the end of cooking to make sure that chicken is coated and glaze doesn’t burn.

Serves 4.
 

Honey-‘Baked’ Beets
(Pareve)
1 lb. fresh beets
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and black pepper

Cut leaves and stems from the beets, leaving about an inch of stems.

Wash the beets to remove any loose surface dirt; leave wet.

Snap off the “tail.” Place in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic and microwave on high for 12 to 15 minutes, until beets are tender.

Meanwhile, combine the honey, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl.

When beets are cooked, run them under cold water just until they are cool enough to handle. Cut the stem end from each beet, slip off the skins, quarter the beets and toss with the honey-balsamic mixture.

Serves 4.
 

Honey-Ricotta Ice-Cream Sandwiches
(Dairy)
1 container (15 oz.) ricotta cheese
1/3 cup honey
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) sliced almonds
1 cup (6 oz.) mini-chocolate morsels
12 cinnamon graham crackers, broken in half

Combine ricotta, honey and vanilla; pour into a shallow container. Freeze until solid, about 4 hours or longer.

Cut into cubes and purée in a food processor until creamy.

Mix in the almonds and the chocolate morsels, and make sandwiches by layering 2 tablespoons of the ice-cream mixture between 2 squares of graham crackers. Freeze until serving.

Makes 12 sandwiches.
 

Honey-Banana Cake
(Pareve)
nonstick oil spray
1 box (14 oz.) pareve banana-bread mix
1/2 cup chai tea concentrate, such as Oregon Chai
1/4 cup honey
3 Tbsps. canola oil
2 eggs, large or extra-large
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Heat an oven to 350F.

Coat interior of an 8x4x2.5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix all of the remaining ingredients until well-blended; the batter will be the consistency of lightly beaten cream.

Scrape into the prepared pan and bake for at least 30 minutes; make sure to test doneness.

Cool on the rack until pan is comfortable to the touch.

Remove from the pan, and set on a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

Serves 9.

 

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