Honey Do List: Cooking With Honey

Put your bees' honey to good use throughout your cooking repertoire.
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honey-roasted ham

honey-roasted ham

This honey-roasted ham proves that cooking with honey is yummy.

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

This honey-roasted ham proves that cooking with honey is yummy.

If you’ve been following Kelley Walters’ adventures in beekeeping here on HGTV as I have, you have already glimpsed the magical world of the honeybee and the fusion of art and science necessary to produce the golden elixir coveted by man and cartoon bear alike.

Henry David Thoreau said,“the keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams.” Ancient Egyptians used it in embalming. Hippocrates wrote of honey as a cure for a range of illnesses and the Ancient Romans applied it to wounds to promote healing.

But I think Winnie the Pooh said it best when he said, “that buzzing-noise means something. If there’s a buzzing noise, somebody’s making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you’re a bee … And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey….”

“And the only reason for making honey is so as I can eat it.”

Well said, Pooh.

Honey is an organic sweetener that requires no processing before use. Nearly twice as sweet as granulated cane sugar, it can be used to sweeten tea, flavor your morning oatmeal or transform a biscuit or a piece of toast into a treat that satisfies even the sweetest tooth. 

But the implementation of honey in your kitchen exploits need not stop there. Honey does more than serve as a substitute for plain ol’ sugar. Its distinctive taste and texture can transform food in ways that make it clear why it has been a kitchen staple since … well, since before there were kitchens.

Glazing

Coating meats or vegetables in honey before baking not only brings an understated sweetness to traditionally savory foods. The thick honey holds well to food surfaces and the sugars will caramelize to create a crisp, brown coating to seal in flavors. Honey baked ham is a holiday tradition, but a glaze of honey and soy sauce applied to salmon may have you rethinking Christmas dinner.

Baking

The sticky sweetness of honey feels like an obvious choice for pastries or cakes, but its value in baked goods goes beyond flavor. Honey retains moisture in a way many other sweeteners do not. Flaky, tender and sweet.  Thanks, honey.

Binding

Hey, this stuff is sticky! Just the thing when making granola, energy bars or holding delicate cookies together. But as a natural emulsifier, it can be used anywhere a little viscosity will come in handy. Give it a shot when making homemade condiments like ketchup or salad dressing.

Outstanding texture and flavor. All natural. Versatile culinary properties. This stuff has it all! But let us not forget that sugar is sugar and it does carry with it the calories and carbohydrates that come with the territory. My friend the cranky dietician would like me to remind you that honey gets its sweetness from a combination of fructose and glucose. That’s the same stuff from which high fructose corn syrup is made.

What a killjoy.  Go honey!

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