Honey in History
Man has been aware of the value of honey for many centuries. A painting found on rock in Spain which is thought to be thousands of years old, shows men taking honeycomb from a hole in a cliff.
The ancient Egyptians used honey in cooking and for medicinal purposes and made sacrificial offerings of it to their gods. Honey has also been discovered in ancient Egyptian tombs in a sealed container and found to be almost as good quality as the day it was made, thousands of years before.
Britain was once called the Isle of Honey and it was used widely in cooking before the advent of white sugar. The most popular use for honey was in the preparation of alcoholic drinks, such as mead. It was made from the honey which remained in the combs after extraction by crushing and draining. The pieces of comb were then washed and the honey used to brew mead.
The leading honey-producing countries are the USA, Canada, Australia, Argentina, Mexico and China.
The uses of honey are as diverse as its places of origin. Today, it is used industrially in ice-cream manufacture, in anti-freeze for car radiators, as a spray adherent and in chewing gum.
Honey produced in Britain today originates from a great variety of floral sources, most importantly clover and heather. Gooseberry, plum, pear, apple, cherry, willow, holly, crab apple and maple are frequently basic sources of nectar. Since almost every honey is a blend of many floral nectars, the honey must contain at least 51% of the nectar of a particular flower in order to be labelled as honey of specific origin.
Varieties of Honey
Blended honey is honey from differing botanical and geographical sources which has been mixed together commercially. This can improve flavour, quality and even shelf life (where it alters the water content).
Clover was at one time the major variety of honey produced in Britain. However, the gradual loss of permanent pastureland has led to a decline in production. It is pale straw in colour and has a delightful aroma. However, it tends to granulate quickly. Rowse Organic New Zealand Clover Honey
Acacia is pale yellow and has a mild flavour. It is high in fructose and for this reason will remain liquid almost indefinitely. Origin: Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia and China. Marlet Acacia Hive Honey
Australian Excellent quality and produced under the most strict standards of hygiene. Capilano Australian Organic Honey in No-Drip Pack
Chinese Almost a fifth of the honey imported into Britain is Chinese in origin. There are many varieties, but packaging can be below the standard of other sources.
Mexican Mexico has become one of the leading producers of honey. Quality and packaging excellent. Equal Exchange Mexican Honey
Store in a covered container in a dry place at room temperature. If exposed to the air, honey tends to lose its flavour and absorb moisture. Honey kept some time tends to become darker and stronger, but will still be usable. It may also crystallise if kept at too cool a temperature. However, this does not affect the quality of the honey. In fact crystallisation will occur more readily in a pure and better quality honey. Sometimes a white layer will form on top of crystallised honey as tiny air bubbles are squeezed onto the surface. This does not mean the honey is spoiled. Pure, natural raw honey will never spoil and crystallisation can easily be remedied by placing the container in warm water until the crystals disappear.
How Honey is Made
Bees draw up nectar from the flower and store it in their honey sacs. Conversion into honey then starts immediately. It takes place in 2 stages – firstly fermentation (caused by enzymes in the nectar and enzymes extracted from the pharyngeal glands of the bees) and secondly, evaporation of any excess moisture.
Evaporation of excess moisture is achieved by the worker bee in the hive, who can tell instinctively if the honey has the correct texture – a concentration of about 60% sugar.
She then places it in the cells, fans her wings over it, getting rid of more excess moisture, until there is a sugar concentration of about 80%. The last job is to seal the cell with wax so that the honey will keep indefinitely.
Honey is made up of simple sugars, converted by a secretion from the bees salivary tract. It is therefore easily and quickly absorbed and is a source of quick energy.
It promotes the correct working of the digestive organs and can be taken as a laxative. (Mix half molasses to half honey to provide a laxative with a balance of vitamins and minerals.)
Babies whose diet includes honey rarely suffer from colic. (Add 1-2 tsp to 8oz feed.)
When honey is applied to burns, it will prevent the formation of blisters and promote quick healing of the skin.
Honey can absorb moisture and it has been prized for its mild antibiotic properties for centuries due to this fact. Where bacteria is trapped in honey, the honey will absorb moisture from the bacteria and so kill it off.
Manuka Honey is from the tee tree and has very strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties.
Active+ Manuka Honey, try UMF activity for digestive maintenance Comvita Active UMF10+ Manuka Honey
A facepack can be made by mixing honey with half a cup of bran to form a smooth paste. Add rosewater to mix if necessary. Remove with warm water and apply a good astringent. Use twice a week to keep the skin soft, supple and free from scaliness.
Many hand and body lotions, facial creams, soaps and depilatories contain honey. It will penetrate tiny crevices through which even water will not pass. It therefore makes an excellent emollient as well as a protective, germ-proof shield.
Comvita Manukacare 18, a high potency sterilised UMF18+ Manuka honey, to protect shield and hydrate the skin.
Honey contains all the vitamins and trace elements which nutritionists consider necessary for health: the B vitamins, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, biotin, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and nicotinic acid. Unlike fruit and vegetables, it will never lose its vitamins during harvesting, storage and preparation. Trace elements include iron, copper, manganese, silicon, chlorine, calcium, potassium, sodium, phosphorus, aluminium and magnesium.
However, the exact composition of honey varies with the type of flower, the type of soil, the season of the year and the weather conditions at the time of collection. The darker honeys have the highest mineral content and can contain four times as much iron as lighter honeys.
Basic Cooking Information
Honey should be stored in a dry place as it absorbs and retains moisture. High temperatures affect the flavour of honey. Products should therefore be baked at lower temperatures (300-350oC/Gas mark 2-4) for a longer period of time. Honey is sweeter than sugar. One teaspoon of honey is equivalent in sweetness to 1.5 tsp sugar. Cakes, puddings, biscuits and sweets will stay fresh longer when made with honey. 1 tsp = 20 calories, 1 tbsp = 60 calories.
Honey Wholemeal Bread Combine 450g (16 fl oz) warm milk with 1 tsp sea salt, 4 tbsp veg oil and 100g (4oz) honey. Add 1oz fresh yeast, crumbled. Mix well. Gradually add 400g (14oz) wholemeal flour with 225g (8oz) rye flour, mixing well.
Allow to stand for 5 mins, then knead for 8 mins until it becomes elastic in texture. Coat a large mixing bowl with oil. Coat dough in oil. Cover with a cloth and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until double in size.
Knead the dough again and leave to rise for 45 mins. Knead a third time and divide into two. Allow to stand for 15 mins. Place the ball of dough on a greased baking sheet and allow to rise until double in size (this will take up to 1.5 hours). Bake for 45 mins or until browned at 190°C(375°F)/Gas mark 5.
Honey Mint Dressing Combine 175g (6oz) honey with 100g (4 fl oz) water and 0.5 tsp ground cardamom in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3 mins. Add the mint leaves and allow mix to cool for 10-15 mins. Pour the liquid from the pan through a sieve into a blender. Add lemon rind and juice and the oil. Blend at low speed until smooth. Store in a fridge. Shake well before serving. Use with green salads, vegetables or fruit salad.
Honey Sweet and Sour Sauce Heat 1.5 tbsp veg oil. Stir in 15g (0.5oz) flour and gradually add 0.75 pint chicken stock, stirring constantly. Add 1.5 tbsp honey,1.5 tbsp strong mustard and 1 tbsp natural soy sauce. Simmer for 4-5 mins. Serve with nut loaf.
Fruit and Honey Spread Soak 454g (1lb/3 cups) of dried pears overnight. Drain the pears and then puree in a blender. Stir in 454g (1lb) honey and mix very well. Add lemon juice from one lemon and some of the peel of the lemon, finely grated. Store in a screw-top jar in the fridge, and use within a few weeks. Good on bread, stirred into yoghurt, or as a topping with nuts for a dessert. If you like, you can add spices to this spread, or you can make it in exactly the same way using other dried fruits such as apricots or peaches.
…search the range of honeys available from Goodness Direct