Dipping Into the World of Honey
Honey is one of the regulars in my rotation of natural sweeteners. It’s also traditionally eaten during Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize a sweet New Year. But the days of the honey bear as the lone option on market shelves is long gone.
There are over 300 varieties of honey in the United States. Each has a unique flavor profile, anything from mild to distinctively bold, and the honey hues range from nearly colorless to deep brown.
Clover honey: This is the type most commonly found in stores. It varies in color from water-white to extra-light amber and has a delicate flavor.
Orange blossom honey: A top honey in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, this pick has a white to pale amber tint and the distinctive flavor and aroma of orange blossoms, making it a nice choice for cakes and cookies.
Alfalfa honey: Widely available in Utah, Nevada, Oregon and other Western states. The color is white or extra-light amber and the flavor is mild. This honey is perfect for everyday use.
Other varieties of honey include avocado, basswood, blueberry, buckwheat, eucalyptus, firewood, sage and sourwood. Many local farmers markets sell local variations.
Honey Versus Sugar
Although both honey and sugar are made from simple sugar, honey also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including iron, niacin, copper, riboflavin, potassium and zinc. Honey also contains phenolic acids and flavonoids, which act as antioxidants. The darker the honey, the more antioxidants it contains.
Strained Versus Raw Honey
Honey is made from honeybees that collect the nectar of flowers and plants. Honey is strained and filtered to ensure the quality and purity. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, strained and filtered honey is still pure honey. It does not contain any added ingredients or preservatives.
Raw honey isn’t filtered or strained. There are claims that raw honey is healthier than strained honey, the theory being that straining destroys the nutrients in honey. A 2012 study, funded by The National Honey Board, found that straining honey doesn’t affect its nutrients. Straining, however, will reduce the pollen count in honey.
Cooking with Honey
Honey can be substituted for granulated sugar in recipes but doing so takes a bit of trial and error. Start by substituting honey for up to half the sugar in a recipe. In some recipes, honey can be substituted for all of the sugar. If you’re baking with honey, here are the substitution guidelines:
Reduce the liquid in the recipe by one-fourth for each cup of honey
Add approximately 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for each cup of honey
Reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning
To prevent honey from sticking to your measuring cup or spoon, coat it with cooking spray before measuring the honey
Here a five recipes that call for the bee brew.
Make an apple compote using honey, and then spoon it over whole-grain pancakes.
Forgo the bottled stuff and make your own savory-sweet dressing.
Bring out the natural sweetness in sweet potatoes with a drizzle of honey.
For biscuits with a hint of sweetness, just add honey.
Enlist honey to make a flavorful glaze for chicken.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.