Honey is a rich, golden syrup naturally produced by bees from the nectar of flowers. With a high fructose content, it's even sweeter in taste than granulated sugar. Honey can be used as a spread, sweetener and glaze, as well as an age-old sore throat remedy when mixed with hot tea and lemon.
Honey was used to sweeten foods centuries before sugar became widely available. Prehistoric paintings depict early man gathering wild honey in much the same way it's done today. An Ancient Egyptian scroll listed more than 500 recipes with honey as an ingredient, and the Greeks and Romans used it to flavor almost everything, including wine.
Varieties and Buying Tips
There are hundreds of different honeys around the world, and most are named for the flower from which they originate. The most common varieties at the supermarket are clover and orange blossom. Gourmet or natural food stores may also carry more limited varieties like buckwheat, heather, raspberry and tupelo, all naturally infused with their respective flower's unique flavor and scent.
Honey is also sold in three different styles, or forms. Regular honey is pure liquid that has been extracted from the honeycomb. Most liquid honey is pasteurized to prevent crystallization. Chunk-style honey has pieces of honeycomb included in the jar, while comb honey is a single piece of honeycomb with the honey still inside. Both honey and comb are edible.
Store tightly sealed liquid honey in a dark, dry place at room temperature for up to one year; chunk and comb honey for six months. Refrigerating honey will cause it to crystallize and turn grainy.
- Keep honey in a plastic squeeze bottle to easily dispense the amount you want.
- Before measuring, lightly coat your cup or spoon with cooking spray or vegetable oil. The syrup will easily slide out.
- Reliquefy crystallized honey by placing the opened jar in the microwave at high power for 15 to 60 seconds.
- After using, rinse honey jar caps with hot water and they'll be easier to open next time.
- When cooking, be aware of your honey's source—different varieties carry very different flavors. The very strong buckwheat honey would not be suitable in a recipe calling for orange blossom honey, which by contrast is very light and delicate.
- Swap honey with other liquid sweeteners like corn syrup, maple syrup or molasses.
Try one of our favorite honey recipes:
apples, apricots, bananas, bread, cantaloupe, carrots, chicken, garlic, ham, lemon, lime, mustard, oranges, nuts, phyllo