Kate's Cuisine

Sep 01 2011

What’s That, Honey?


We may spread it on a piece of toast in the morning, or add it to our favourite sauces without thinking twice, but what is honey really? Sweet nectar of the Earth is what it is, and September is here to celebrate it – it’s National Honey Month! Of course I’ll be posting wonderful honey recipes and interesting facts along the way but we’ll start with a look at this wonderful ingredient, just what it is, and all the wonderful things it can do for you!

If you have a bottle of honey in your cupboard, it’s most likely pure honey – with no added ingredients, sugar, or preservatives. Honey doesn’t actually need preservatives because the natural acid pH level prevents bacteria from ever growing in it. The worst it will do is start to crystallize as the sugar breaks down, but it’s always safe to eat. And honey doesn’t need any added sugar either because it’s so naturally sweet and delicious!

Honey really is just honey. After the bees buzz around their flowers gathering the nectar, they take it back to the hive and put it onto the honeycomb, where it’s aired out and vented so that it can ripen and eventually turn into honey. Beekeepers then remove the filled cells of comb and drain the honey out of them. Of course the entire process is a bit more complex than that, but that’s basically how it breaks down. But let’s not make just mere mention of the honeybee that makes it all possible – they play the most important role of all and they work incredibly hard to bring us all that honey. In fact, it can take up to 60,000 bees in a beehive and over 55,000 miles of travel just to make a single pound of honey!

So what about all those different colours and varieties you see in the store? Dark honey, light honey, cremed honey, liquid honey, and hundreds of different kinds of each! Well, it’s all in where the bees buzz. The colour of the honey is solely based on the nectar of the flower that was used to make the honey. So while clovers, the most popular flower used for making honey, has a light golden colour, honey from buckwheat flowers might be a bit darker. That’s not to say that colour doesn’t affect the taste. Generally lighter honeys have a much milder taste while dark honeys have a bold and intense flavour.

And in addition to colour, you’ll have a few more choices than that when you find yourself standing in the grocery aisle looking at all the different kinds of honey. One of those choices will be the form your honey comes in; there are four main types.

Even though you’re most likely buying pure honey every time you buy it, if you want to be a true honey-purist you can use comb honey. Comb honey has been taken directly out of the hive and placed in a jar. The honey has not been taken off the cells of the comb, and it’s in the most natural state as stored by the bees. Another type of honey, chunk honey, is made by placing large pieces of the honeycomb into a jar and then pouring liquid honey over top.

Liquid honey is the type of honey that many of us have in our kitchens – it pours out of the bottle in a smooth, golden (or amber) stream, adding instant natural sweetness to anything it touches. It’s great for cooking and baking, or just drizzling. Cremed honey is much thicker than liquid honey and many prefer it to liquid honey. I especially love spreading a thick layer of it over top of toast! Cremed honey is still pure honey; it’s made up of one part granulated honey that’s been blended with nine parts liquid honey and then stored at a specific temperature until it hardens.

Honey is more than just a natural sweetener and a natural wonder though – it also has many healing properties! Honey is known to be a great antiseptic for wounds; provide energy to athletes before, during and after rigorous training; and it’s also known to be a natural cough suppressant. In addition to all of these honey benefits, the sticky substance is also known to bring a host of beauty benefits along with it.

So take a few moments this month to celebrate honey – it’s got natural goodness on so many levels! And remember, the next time you take that honey out of your cupboard, that you’re about to use some of the best stuff on earth!

Happy Honey Month everyone!

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “What’s That, Honey?”

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