Will you BEE my honey?
Siena in the summer has a special heat that lulls you….at the same time to sleep, and somehow hyper aware of the colors, the warmth, the honey bees. ”Il mieli delle api” as they are called in Italy, are the essential factor in creating the honey that tastes like it was dripped off of the Sun. You can hear them, busy at work, like a gently hovering murmur.
Almost like a whisper, but much more like a song. The honey, and Siena, are both warm, and sweet, and somehow spicy. There are many kinds of honey, and depending on your mood you can include this liquid sunshine in both sweet and savory foods.
Honey is usually identified by the flowers that they used. Polyfloral (which sounds so much more melodious as “Mille Fiori”) means the bees used a variety of flowers, such as wildflowers, to create the honey. Depending on where the flowers were grown, there can be subtle changes in regional Polyfloral honey based on climate, growing season, soil, etc. In fact, eating local honey is proven to help alleviate allergies. It’s almost like introducing sweet anti-bodies of the local pollen into your system…and it works!!
Blended honey is usually mixed from only two different kinds of honey. The Mono Honey, which is made from only one type of flower, is then combined with another mono-honey. Each of the various single flowers create their own special flavor.
In addition to flower sources, honey is also identified by its consistency.
Creamed honey is really “granulated” honey. This particular honey is really a solid at room temperature, much like a butter. It has a soft and gentle flavor and its creaminess lends itself to being Toast’s Best Friend.
Raw Honey is exactly what it sounds like….it hasn’t been heated, which means it is unpasteurized. This unprocessed form of honey is supposed to be the most nutritious. It also contains the….”earthier fragments” of a natural substance. This includes raw bits of the honey comb, pollen, and even bits and pieces of the bees’ wings. I don’t know about you, but my kids won’t drink orange juice with “feathers” (pulp) in it. This honey is best when it is not heated. Adding it to tea is good, but it is also perfect for drizzling on fruits or cheese. (Think pears and ricotta….apples and cheddar….you get the idea.)
At the grocery store, you usually have less choices of honeys. However, at farmers’ markets or food festivals, it helps to remember your ABC’s.
A is for Alfalfa. This honey is not as sweet as the more common Clover honey. (Shhh, later, that’s the “C”.) It is mild in both flavor and color, which makes it perfect for cutting through the acidity of balsamic vinegar. It adds a gentle flavor to honey mustard dressings and marinades.
B is for Buckwheat. If you find this kind of honey, buy it!! It’s rare to come across, but it is a favorite with hard core “honey heads”. (I just made that term up….go me!) In fact, like that gorgeous Amish furniture, it is only made in Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania and part of Canada. It is the darkest and the strongest of all of the honeys. It looks like a dark purple, bronze, molasses. This is perfect for a dense baked good, like gingerbread, spice cake, or Emily Dickinson’s famed Black cake recipe.
C is for Clover. This is the most typical honey found on shelves in American markets and on tables nation wide. In fact, I thought it was a brand until I was an adult. Mild flavor, lovely amber golden, it is sweet as…..wait for it….honey. This is usually a favorite with children because of it’s mild flavor. (It would be irresponsible of me not to mention here that you should NEVER give honey to a child under the age of one. Ask your pediatrician!)
Of course, there are so many kinds of honey, it would be impossible to give each one it’s due here. The fun of honey is tasting and trying. Use cheese, hot peppers, and bread…..hey….that was one of the AWESOME episodes that Debi and Gabriele did once. Loved it!!!
I leave you to think of all the wonderful honey comb-inations you can come up with….as well as some final bits of advice….. One, remember, for cooking, one pound of honey equals 1 1/3 cups…..and two….”If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.” Proverbs 25:16 (Credit: God, not me.)