Learning About Your Food:
My girls and I have really enjoyed our time getting up close and personal with the Hillendale honeybees. Early in June we got to meet the bees and in July we got to help with honey extraction! I have certainly loved experimenting with the sticky stuff in the kitchen as I developed some yummy honey creations! See links below to all my honey recipes in this "Bee 101" series.
I just checked in with my sister-in-law Laura and she reports that she’s a little concerned that the bees have not made much of the late summer honey yet that they will need to get them through the winter. She has also had to treat the hives for mites. Overall, it has not been the best bee season for the honeybees at Hillendale. I’m crossing my fingers that next season will be better. Time Magazine recently ran a cover story on the plight of the honeybee in the US. It was an interesting read and I hope that soon the country’s honeybee population will take a turn for the better.
In June, I attended a Montgomery County Beekeepers Association Meeting with Laura and my brother, Tom. We learned a great deal from master beekeeper, Vincent Aloyo, Ph.D, about the composition and properties of honey and how these relate to using honey in your cooking and recipes. Association member, Eli, demonstrated some recipes using honey and provided us with delicious samples of his honey cake and some salads. Vincent’s wife made the most delicious honey ice cream! What a treat! She actually made two batches, one with honey from France and one with honey from South America. It was amazing how you could taste differences in the honey from the two regions. I’ll share below 6 tips I learned about cooking with honey.
6 Tips for Using Honey in Your Cooking & Recipes:
1. Honey is hygroscopic; it readily accumulates moisture from the air. This is why the honeybees seal the honeycombs with wax. This property makes honey a great sweetener for your fruit salads and compotes. The honey will draw moisture from the fruit to make the salad juicy. Baked goods made with honey will stay moist longer also due to its hygroscopic nature.
2. Honey has cryoprotective properties. This means that using honey can help protect the cells of frozen items. So when freezing berries or other foods, honey is a great sweetener to use.
3. Unlike sugar, honey contains water so you may need to reduce the liquid levels in a recipe. For 1 cup of honey, try reducing the overall liquid level in the recipe by ¼ cup.
4. Honey is acidic. This makes it a perfect ingredient in your marinades as the acid can tenderize. If you want to neutralize the acid in baking, you can add ¼ teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey. This acidic nature (3.4 - 6.1 ph) also makes honey self-preserving. Honey does not need to be refrigerated.
5. Baked goods made with honey tend to brown more readily than those made of sugar, you may want to try reducing the oven temperature by 25 degrees when baking with honey.
6. There are about 300 different varieties of honey in the US. Their flavors and colors can vary greatly. Choose a light colored honey when you want a little honey flavor and choose a dark colored honey when you desire a stronger honey taste.