Celebrate the flavor, versatility, and nutritional benefits of honey during National Honey Month!
Ever since I was a little girl, the start of fall makes me think of honey. Growing up in a Jewish home and raising my children in one now, we celebrate honey for weeks between September and October as we dip apples in honey on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year), drizzle honey on our round challahs (symbolic of the new year), and sit in the sukkah with bees swarming around us (ok, that part isn’t really much fun – I remember the bee catchers my mother would fill with honey to divert their attention away from her guests and food).
I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence, but September is National Honey Month and Rosh Hashana starts tonight with the holiday of Sukkot following just a couple of weeks later. So in honor of these holidays, I thought I’d share with you some of the fun facts and sweet (pun intended!) attributes of honey, many of which I learned during a National Honey Board webinar, co-sponsored by The Recipe ReDux and Healthy Aperture.
Making Honey: Harvesting, Filtering, & Bottling
- Honey is made from the nectar of flowers, not pollen. The nectar provides bees with carbohydrates, their primary energy source, whereas the pollen provides them with protein and fats.
- Nectar is collected by the field bees and stored in their honey sacs, which are not a digestive part of their stomach. The field bees then go back to the colony and transfer the nectar to hive bees, which deposit the honey in a honey comb to be dried.
- Nectar can have as much as 85-95% water in it; to be true honey, it needs to have less than 18.6% water content.
- Raw honey is unfiltered, but most of the honey sold is filtered, which has it’s benefits.
- Removes pollen, air bubbles, and contaminants
- Improves clarity and delays crystallization (pollen can cause honey to crystallize prematurely)
- Ensures quality
- To be considered USDA Grade A honey, pollen needs to be removed. Pollen is NOT a part of honey.
- Recent studies show that filtering honey does not impact nutrient content
- Filtered honey is not the same as ultra-filtered honey. Ultra-filtration is a process where water is added to honey and then put through fine filters which take out everything in the honey. This changes the composition of honey completely, resulting in a product that is NOT honey.
- Bottling honey is a simple, elegant craft, which consumers appreciate for the consistency of clear, golden honey.
- Honey will never expire! It will stay liquid on store shelves for two years. The Best Buy date is for 2 years out and it’s really meant for tracking to ensure it stays liquid, but it can be used longer than that!
Benefits of Cooking with Honey
- Honey is a natural flavor enhancer and can complement and enhance a variety of foods and flavors, including bitter and sour.
- Honey locks in moisture and helps resist spoilage.
- Honey is an emulsifier for sauces and dressings. Try my Sweet Potato Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette pictured above!
- Honey provides an eye-catching color, sheen and glaze. (I used honey in the glaze of my Asian-Style Turkey Meatloaf, pictured above.)
- When substituting honey for other sweeteners in baking, reduce the liquid ingredients in the recipe by 1/4 cup, then add a 1/2 teaspoon baking soda to balance acid and alkali components. Reduce oven temp by 25 degrees F since honey browns more quickly than sugar.
- Explore different varieties of honey. During the webinar, we tasted four varieties: Alfalfa, Avocado, Tupelo, and Buckwheat. My favorite was alfalfa, which is the mildest of these four varieties. Click on the photo below for a full description and pairing notes for all four of these honey varieties.
Nutritionally, honey is a natural energy booster, perfect for athletes as a quick pick-me-up thanks to it’s carbohydrate count. One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, 17 g carbohydrate, and traces of antioxidants.
Search my archives for more recipes using honey – I have a lot of them! And tell me:
Do you use honey in your cooking?