Thursday, June 7, 2012

Experimenting with Infused Honey

Honey is one of nature's best gifts (if not the best). Between school, working as an environmental educator, and baking sweets, I've had the pleasure of getting up close and personal with honey bees and local honey. 

I found myself back on Swarmbustin' Honey's website (West Grove, PA) this week thinking about their flavored honey (did someone say GARLIC honey?!). Although I've tried several different varieties of honey, I have yet to try flavoring my own. That's the inspiration for this post. 
Extracting fresh honey for some excited taste testers at the 2011 Philadelphia Honey Festival.

I spent some time visiting a number of websites, mostly from fellow bloggers, about how to flavor and infuse honey. You have two choices in the infusion process but both end in the same delicious results. Think mint honey in your tea, lavender honey on vanilla ice cream, orange honey on your morning scone, pepper honey on your cheese, or cinnamon honey on your oatmeal. If that doesn't sell you, than you might be hooked on the perfect little gift for a hostess or your next best skin product.

Germantown Hives: For best results, use local honey! 

Flavoring Ideas
Lavender: up to one cup of lavender buds

Vanilla: 2 split beans 

Orange: zest of one orange (could also use lemon or grapefruit)

Mint: 1/4 to 1 cup loosely packed leaves

Ginger-Lime: 10 quarter-sized slices of peeled fresh ginger, zest of 2 limes

Cinnamon-Clove: 5 cinnamon sticks, 1 tablespoon cloves (let stand 24 hours before straining)

Hot Pepper: peppercorns or red pepper flakes

Other ideas: rose petals, sage, chamomile, basil, anise, rosemary, lemon balm ... I have mint, lavender, and cinnamon and cloves readily available thanks to my garden and spice cabinet, so I will start there. 

No Heat Needed  (Sure to preserves all of honey's fantastic properties)

1 cup honey
1/4 c. flavoring (up to 1 cup if herbs are not as potent)

Pour honey into a sterilized glass jar over herbs. Stir and cover, and let jar sit. Invert the jar every day for a week or longer. The longer you wait, the more potent the flavor. When ready, strain the honey through a cheesecloth or mesh strainer, and pour back into your jar. Heat honey slightly to speed up the straining process by placing the jar in a bowl of warm water.

Stove-top Method (To jump start your flavoring process)

1 cup honey
1/4 c. flavoring (up to 1 cup if herbs are not as potent)

Pour honey into a small saucepan over low heat and warm until the honey has the consistency of syrup (about 1 to 2 minutes). Add flavoring and simmer for five minutes, stirring often. Be careful not to scorch the honey. A temperature between 100-120° is likely enough. Remove from heat and let stand for ten minutes. The longer the mixture sits before you strain, the stronger the flavor will be. Strain through a cheesecloth or mesh strainer while warm. Pour honey into a sterilized glass jar. (Adapted from Thomas Honey Company and a method for lavender honey from the Herb Gardener).

Note: You will have to adjust the amount of herbs/flavoring in both methods depending on whether you use fresh or dried herbs. You can use whole or chopped leaves (chopped leaves will flavor your honey faster).

Busy Busy

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