Baking and Preserving with Honey
by Linda Conroy
I love honey and I love the honeybees. I have lived for a good number of years with a bee yard right outside my kitchen window. Watching the bees is such a delight and enjoying their sweet gifts in my food and medicine has offered nourishment to my everyday life.
Refined sugar certainly is detrimental to our health, as is any refined highly processed food. While we know that ingesting large amounts of sugar can cause a cascade of health issues, sugar is an essential source of energy for the body. Your brain and nervous systems are particularly demanding; they use 70% of all the energy you metabolize.
Incorporating natural, unrefined and minimally processed sweeteners into our diet supports the body in a variety of ways.
1. They offer minerals and vitamins to the body, in an assimilable form.
2. In raw form honey provides beneficial enzymes and healthful plant chemicals that assist in digesting and breaking down the carbohydrates.
3. When cooked the minerals in honey are concentrated, thus increasing the concentration of minerals ingested.
I bake with honey, maple syrup and sorghum. I also add these sweeteners to my salad dressings, marinades, beverages and I incorporate them into my herbal remedies.
Honey provides a medium for storing and preserving herbs. It has been considered a healing substance for thousands of years. The best honey is local raw unheated honey. Honey also has as much as 35% protein. Honey is antibacterial and when applied topically holds moisture where it is placed. It is a source of vitamin B,C,D,E and some minerals. Adding herbs to honey only enhances these healing qualities and suspends the nutrients as well as healing properties of the herbs.
Note: all honey, but especially raw honey, contains the spores of botulism. While this is not a problem for adults, children under the age of one year not have enough stomach acid to prevent these spores from developing into botulism.
To make an herbal infused honey:
1. chop the herb of your choice
2. fill a jar with plant material
3. pour honey over the plant
4. let steep for 2-3 weeks.
5. depending on the herb you may or may not want to strain the plant material
6. ‘store in a dark cool place (if you do not have a cool place put in the refrigerator after storing for 2-3 weeks)
Tips on Baking with Honey
Baking with honey is fun and delicious. It replaces sugar and can offer a nice flavor to any baked good. My general rule of thumb is to add ½ the amount of honey, to replace the sugar. For example is the recipe calls for 1 cup of sugar, I add ½ cup of honey.
I choose different types of honey for various products. For example I like to add buckwheat, which is a dark honey to food that I would enjoy molasses. Sorghum syrup is another sweetener that works well in lieu of molasses. I do like molasses as well and it is a good source of iron, so I would not discard molasses all together. I simply like these other options. I often add these darker sweeteners to corn bread when I bake it. I find it adds a nice deep flavor to the corn bread.
Corn Bread - (adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook, Mollie Katzen)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees
¼ cup honey-I like to use buckwheat honey and/or sorghum syrup
1 cup buttermilk, yogurt, whey or milk
1 cup corn meal (I like to use an heirloom variety but any will do)
1 cup wheat flour
3 Tbs. melted butter
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ cup of seaweed
Beat together egg, milk and honey, set aside. In large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add egg mixture and melted butter to flour and mix well. Pour into greased 8-inch square baking pan. Bake 20 minutes. Serve hot with butter.
Canning with honey
Proper canning practices include:
• carefully selecting and washing fresh food,
• peeling some fresh foods,
• hot packing many foods,
• adding acids (lemon juice or vinegar) to some foods,
• using acceptable jars and self-sealing lids,
• processing jars in a boiling-water or pressure canner for the correct period of time.
Collectively, these practices remove oxygen; destroy enzymes; prevent the growth of undesirable bacteria, yeasts, and molds; and help form a high vacuum in jars. Good vacuums form tight seals which keep liquid in and air and microorganisms out.
Procedure for preparing jars all canning projects: Sterilize canning jars by boiling them in the canning pot. Prepare two-piece canning lids by boiling them in a small pot of water.
Honey Syrup ratios for canning fruit
• light - 1 1/2 cups honey to 4 cups water
• medium - 2 cups honey to 4 cups water
I also love cooking and baking with maple syrup. Maple syrup is very high in minerals and has a unique flavor. I like to use it for more rustic baked goods as well as add it to my salad dressings and marinades. It makes a great addition to barbeque sauce and it rounds out acidic flavors ie tomato soup, similar to salt.
You can make a simply switchel beverage with honey or maple syrup. A switchel or farmers punch is a wonderful electrolyte drink. Below is a simple recipe which can be adapted to create fun and flavorful beverages.
*you will want to adjust these ratios to taste
- 1 gallon cold water
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ cup maple syrup, honey, sorghum or molasses
*herbal variations for added nutritive value and flavor:
---make an herbal water infusion and use that in place of plain water (lemon balm is quite good!)
-make an herbal infused vinegar and add that for additional nutrition value. (recently I added dandelion flower vinegar).
-make an herbal infused honey and add that instead of plain honey. (Rosehip honey is fabulous and will add extra vitamin C to the blend).