I’ve never been a fan of bees, especially since being stung at MTSU when I was 6. I will generally have a full-blown freakout if one starts following me. It’s probably video-worthy, with my arms flailing, voice three octaves higher and my shoes moving as fast in the opposite direction as possible. But, these little guys make one of my favorite ingredients in the world.
At any given point, we have three different types of honey in our pantry. I love it. Almost to the point that I would say you could put it on anything. The only downside to honey is that it is mostly nutrient-empty. Better than granulated sugar? Probably, but still not equal to an Acai bowl with avocado. But, you could put honey on that and make it taste better, too!
After 8,000 years of cultivation and consumption, it’s safe to say honey is one of the world’s oldest and most widely used ingredients. In the U.S. alone there are over 300 different varieties of honey. Bees work incessantly to produce this liquid gold. They fly from flower to flower drinking up its nectar, some of which is used to maintain their bodies during flight, then naturally break this down into simple sugars and store it in honeycombs. The worker bees’ constant wing-flapping causes evaporation to occur. The water content drops from 20% to 18% and the sugar content is raised, which prevents fermentation. The bees then cap the cell walls with wax until removed by a beekeeper. Stored properly, honey has an almost indefinite shelf life.
Between 2015 and 2016, the University of Maryland conducted a study that concluded 44% of honey bees were lost from beekeepers and small-scale farmers. This mostly happens because of a parasite called Varroa Mite. In order to sustain these bees, we need a better understanding and method of controlling this parasite. It is possible to bring back the hive, though it takes work and money, both of which are limited for farmers.
We have several varieties of honey at our local farmers markets every Tuesday, Friday
and Saturday. It’s a key ingredient in my home and my business. It’s ridiculously versatile: dressings, marinades, sauces, baking, stir frying, glazing, brining and the list goes on.
Try honey butter on biscuits, pancakes and waffles. Keep in mind, the darker the color, the stronger the flavor and aroma. And, if it crystallizes, it’s not bad! Just warm it up in its jar or nuke it for a few seconds and boom . . . liquid gold once again.
Here’s a great recipe I use for a number of applications. This can be used as a pasta salad dressing, salad dressing or even a chicken marinade.
Champagne Honey Vinaigrette
1 shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons dijon Mustard
¼ cup good quality champagne vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoon Allepo pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
Pour all ingredients into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Shake violently until mixture looks creamy and emulsified. Season to taste.
Alternatively, you can combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until smooth and combined.