Honey is probably the first sweetener know to mankind. Honey can be used in place of sugar to sweeten drinks, compotes, poached or baked fruits, for cakes, sponges and cookies. Honey is used in savory dishes too.

Facts about honey

Honey is probably the first sweetener used by men. Its use has been registered in the Bible and also ancient Greek and Roman writings. Honey was considered a miraculous medicine, effective against a number of ailments, as much as food.

It is well known honey acts as an antiseptic/antibacterial agent when applied topically to wounds, skin ulcers or burns. Honey reduces swelling and prevents scarring. It can also be used as oral antiseptic, especially mixed with lemon.

Honey has been used instead of gold to pay taxes, by the Egyptians and in Roman times. In some parts of Greece, brides dipped their fingers in honey and took them to the mouth before entering her new home to ensure a sweet marriage.

What honey is

Honey is a thick golden to medium brown syrup produced by bees from the nectar of flowers. Worker bees collect nectar and deposit it in the beehive. There, it will be partially digested until it becomes honey which is then stored in the honeycomb. Bees facilitate the evaporation of water and the ripe honey will have a high sugar content and extremely low humidity. In those conditions, no dangerous microorganisms can thrive.

Honey is appreciated as sweetening substance and for its medicinal properties. Raw honey has enzymes that help in its digestion and also vitamins and antioxidants. It is seen as a healthier sweetener than sugar.

How to use and store

Honey can replace all the sugar in a recipe, especially in baking. It is recommended to start with recipes formulated to use honey first, and experience substituting honey afterwards.

Honey has higher fructose content than sugar giving it stronger sweetening power. You need to use less honey to achieve the same level of sweetness.

Honey should be stored at room temperature, any shelf in your pantry or kitchen cabinet is fine. If you store honey in the fridge, it will become solid. The cold temperature in the fridge makes honey to crystallize -crystallization is a natural process in which liquid in honey becomes solid.

If your honey has crystallized, to dissolve the crystals you have to warm it up. Place the honey jar in warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve. Or, place the honey in a microwave-safe container and microwave it with the lid off. Don’t microwave to full power. Stir every 30 seconds, until the crystals dissolve. Be careful, don’t overheat the honey, it might boil or scorch and it will spoil.

Coat the cup or spoon with non stick spray or flavorless vegetable oil before measuring honey. The honey won't stick, sliding easily out. For your information, 1 cup honey is equivalent to a standard 12 oz (350 g) jar of honey.

Cooking with honey

Honey can be used in savory or sweet recipes.

Honey in savory dishes

  • Rub honey on pork chops, fresh or cured, before grilling.
  • Rub honey on the layer of fat before roasting a leg of lamb or pork ham. Easier to coat with honey if it is warmed up, melting to liquid point, on a low heat.
  • To prepare a sensational baked gammon or ham, preheat the oven to medium.Place a layer of pineapple rings, drained, at the bottom of a baking pan. Warm up the pineapple juice with 2 Tbs honey until honey dissolves. Place the ham over the pineapple rings and cover with the liquid. Bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour, basting regularly.
  • Stuffed shoulder of lamb will feel less heavy if the fatty layer is rubbed with a mixture of honey and lemon. Warm up the juice and rind of 1 lemon with 2 Tbs honey in a thick bottomed pan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until honey dissolves. Baste lamb with this sauce while roasting.

Honey in sweet dishes

  • Mix mashed bananas, chopped roasted nuts and honey. Spread over plain cookies or use this cream to fill small pastries.
  • Use 2 Tbs melted honey instead of jam sauce to cover a steamed pudding or sponge cake.
  • Use honey as filling for profiteroles, instead of cream or jam. Or sweeten whipped cream with honey and use it as filling.
  • To prepare a honey and chocolate sauce for ice cream or sundae, melt half a tabled dark cooking chocolate, and mix with 2 Tbs honey and 2 Tbs whipped cream.
  • For a honey-pear steamed pudding, place a layer of pear slices, chopped nuts and honey at the bottom of the recipient.
  • Use honey instead of jam for meringues.
  • Make honey-cinnamon apples by placing 2 Tbs honey in a thick bottomed pan with 2 Tbs butter and ½  tsp cinnamon, add apples, peeled, cored, and sliced,  when honey has dissolved and cook until tender.
  • Fry slices of bread in butter until slightly toasted, drizzle with honey and garnish with roasted nuts, chopped. Serve right away.
  • Honey gives a delicious sweet taste to yogurt and warm milk.