A thick, sweet liquid made by bees from flower nectar. Contrary to what many people think, a honey's color and flavor does not derive from the bee, but from the nectar's source. In general, the darker the color the stronger the flavor. There are hundreds of different honeys throughout the world, most of them named for the flower from which they originate. The flowers that produce some of America's most popular honeys are clover, orange blossom and sage. Other honeys, some of which are available only in limited quantities in the region from which they originate, come from the following blossoms: alfalfa, buckwheat, dandelion, heather, linden, raspberry, spearmint and thyme, just to name a few. When using honey in cooking, it's important to know its source—buckwheat honey, for example, has far too strong a flavor to be used in a recipe that calls for orange blossom honey, which has a light, delicate fragrance and flavor. Honey comes in three basic forms: comb honey, with the liquid still in the chewy comb, both of which are edible; chunk-style honey, which is honey with pieces of the honeycomb included in the jar; and regular liquid honey that has been extracted from the comb, much of which has been pasteurized to help prevent crystallization. Other honey products such as honey butters, honey spreads and whipped honey are available at most supermarkets. Store tightly sealed liquid honey in a cool, dry place for up to a year; store comb and chunk honey for six months. When refrigerated, honey crystallizes, forming a gooey, grainy mass. It can easily be reliquefied by placing the opened jar either in a microwave oven at 100 percent power for about 30 seconds (depending on the amount), or in a pan of hot water over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Honey is widely used as a bread spread and as a sweetener and flavoring agent for baked goods, liquids (such as tea), desserts and in some cases savory dishes like honey-glazed ham or carrots.

From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.

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