Honey is a very versatile ingredient that can be used by itself as a sweetener, spread on food, or mixed with other ingredients for cooking and baking. It adds moisture and flavor to foods. Although nutritionally honey is not a major contributor it’s flavor can’t be topped by sugar or any processed syrups or sweeteners. So when I need a sweetener I use honey. I do not buy processed commercial honey, only local honey from local bees. I often eat a teaspoon of honey in the morning as it also helps my allergies in the High Desert. I like local honey best since it is not pasteurized or otherwise processed, and no extenders are added to lower the cost. Although the honey we eat is harvested from honey bee hives many other bees also produce honey in much smaller quantities and it is not commonly harvested because it does not have same taste quality.
Fresh honey has a clear amber color, the exact shade depending on the pollen source and time the honey has been kept in storage. Do not use cloudy honey, but if honey turns a very dark color it just means it’s over a year old. Honey is quite stable and will last a long time. I store mine in Mason jars and keep it in my cupboard. If it crystalizes add a teaspoon or two of tap water right in the jar, and heat uncovered in the microwave for a minute or two at a low power, stirring ocassionally to dissolve the sugar crystals. (As with any microwave cooking use precaution and follow microwaving instructions). You will get the same results with a double boiler method.
There have been many health benefits attributed to honey, not all of them believable or based on scientific evidence. But there are evidence based facts to keep in mind:
- Do not give young children, from baby through at least a year or two honey or foods with honey as an ingredient as it may cause an allergy to develop
- If you're allergic to bees you may also be allergic to honey
- Honey is a sugar, and as such should be used in moderation and avoided by diabetics like any other sugar.
- Honey does not have any other nutritional value except carbohydrate, calories and a percentage of sugar - just like sugar and just like syrup
- If you decide to use honey for baking first experiment and be aware that its high moisture content will change the texture of your baked product, so you have to change some of the proportions.
- Honey's strong taste may not lend itself to delicate deserts unless you intend to enhance the honey flavor; unlike sugar it does not go undetected as it imparts its flavor to the food