Honey: The Complete Guide for Food Professionals
If you’re looking for the comprehensive buzz on nature’s sweetest nectar, you’ve come to the right place! This complete guide to honey for food professionals will give you info on where honey comes from, varieties of honey, honey’s nutritional value, health benefits of honey, honey hazards, cooking and baking with honey, the difference between raw and store-bought honey, organic honey certification standards, and more. Finally, to top off this delectable menu, you will enjoy a rich helping of little-known facts about this golden syrupy nugget!
All-Natural Honey – in High Demand
In an age where interest in all-natural ingredients, natural lifestyles, avoidance of harmful chemicals, and nutritious foods and beverages is on the rise, it’s no great surprise that restaurant owners, caterers, bakers, and other foodservice professionals are taking note of the virtues of honey –and including its plethora of flavors and colors in their menu offerings. If your restaurant or catering company follows current market trends, then adding honey to your recipes is a natural outgrowth of going “green,” catering to consumer demand, and protecting the environment. It’s also a savvy way to boost your business!
History of Honey
Bee-lieve it or not, the history of honey dates back to the Stone Ages! It appears in cave paintings from 8,000 years ago and in rock art pictures (which bear similarities to drawings in A.A. Milne’s classic “Winnie the Pooh”). Beeswax, likely used for waterproofing, has been found on pottery from 7000 B.C., while the ancient super-powers (Greeks, Romans, Chinese) used honey to soothe wounds and treat stomach upsets and fevers. The ancient Egyptians offered honey to the gods and the natural sweetener has been used for millennia in traditional Ayurveda medicine to treat indigestion and body imbalances. A mainstay in medical practices from ancient to modern times, evidence of humans cultivating bee colonies for honey consumption began as early as 2400 B.C.
Origin and Nutritional Value of Honey
Raw honey, collected straight from the beehive, is produced from the concentrated nectar of flowers. Unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed, it is the most organic form of honey available. In its purest form, honey contains ingredients similar to those found in fruits and is in fact comprised primarily of fructose, glucose, and water. It also contains trace amounts of enzymes, minerals, B vitamins, vitamin C, amino acids, and antioxidants classified as flavonoids. Flavonoids are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which accounts for some of the health benefits associated with honey.
However, the exact nutritional value of honey (as well as its color, flavor, and fragrance) depends on its origin, as there are over 300 natural varieties of this sweetener.
Types of Honey
Honey’s color and taste depends not only on the flower providing the nectar but on the weather conditions and region where it grows. One way to break down honey varieties is as follows:
- Light-colored honey, milder in flavor
- Amber-colored honey, moderate in flavor
- Deeply colored honey, robust in flavor
- Combating infection
- Wound management
- Modest reduction of blood pressure (hence reducing risk for heart disease)
- Modest reduction of cholesterol levels (lower LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and higher HDL ‘good’ cholesterol)
- Treatment for skin conditions such as psoriasis and herpes
- Effective cough medicine for children over the age of one year
- When using honey in baked goods, substitute ½ cup honey for 2⁄3 cup white sugar
- For every cup of sugar a recipe, reduce the amount of honey by ¼ cup
- Since baking with honey can cause excess browning, reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit
- Stir honey into coffee or tea
- Drizzle honey or use as a frosting on top of cakes, cupcakes, waffles, and pancakes
- Spread honey on whole grain toast topped with peanut butter
- Mix honey into yogurt, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, or blend with fruit to make smoothies
- To sweeten green salads and vegetables, add a few drops of honey to your favorite vinaigrette dressings
- Create your own honey mustard sauce, dip, or spread by adding a drop of mayonnaise to honey and combining with equal parts mustard
- Add grated lemon, lime or orange peel to honey and whip into ricotta or cream cheese
- It can take bees two weeks to make one frame of honeycomb
- Pure honey left alone will granulate or crystallize, but stored in an airtight container, it has no expiry date and will not spoil
- Honey can be frozen and will return to liquid form after thawing
- Looking for a sweet idea for an original gift? Honey “comb” is edible! Made of beeswax, it is in essence the world’s first chewing gum and candy rolled into one. Alternatively, for a mouth-watering snack, enjoy a piece of honey comb spread on toast
Some of the most popular types of honey include:
Buckwheat: A dark variety known for its malty taste and sometimes likened to blackstrap molasses, buckwheat honey is collected from the white blossoms of the buckwheat grain. While not recommended for table use, it is popularly used in cooking sauces and baking breads and honey cake.
Alfalfa: Collected from purple alfalfa blossoms, this honey features a light, mildly sweet taste. It is recommended for cooking and baking as well as for table use.
Clover: Boasting the largest annual production and hailing from aromatic clover blossoms, golden-colored clover honey has a sweet, light, cinnamon-y taste and is a popular ingredient in meat sauces and desserts such as sweet breads and yogurt.
Creamed Clover (aka Spun Honey): Featuring a creamier and richer texture that is easy to spread, creamed clover honey is the result of crystallization (storing the honey for a period of time at about 55 degrees Fahrenheit) and is commonly used on toast, bagels, and biscuits.
Eucalyptus: Hailing from the eucalyptus trees of Australia, this honey’s sweet flavor with cool undertones is commonly used to bake pastries, to sweeten tea, and as a popular spread on toast.
Orange Blossom: Fresh from Florida’s own orange groves, golden-colored orange blossom honey has a light citrus undertone and a wholesome, sweet taste. It is commonly used to prepare drinks, pancakes, and pastries.
Honey Health and Hazards
Is honey healthy? Though it contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, the health benefits of honey come mainly from its antioxidant content. Ongoing research confirms that honey has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and soothing properties. Some of the health benefits and uses of honey in modern medical science include:
Nonetheless, honey should not be consumed by infants under one year of age-old due risk of botulism, a rare but severe type of food poisoning which can cause paralysis.
Cooking and Baking with Honey
In almost any recipe, you can substitute honey for sugar. Since honey is sweeter and more liquidy, you will probably need to use less or make recipe adjustments. Here are some great tips on baking with honey, and substituting honey for sugar:
Sweeten Your Menu by Using Honey in Different Ways
Some delicious ways to add honey to your menu and please your customers’ palates include:
Organic Honey Certification: Buyer BeeWare
Given the growing demand for raw, organic honey, food industry professionals must verify that they are in fact purchasing pure honey with no additives. Damage to American beehives has led to an increase in imported honey, the source of which can be hard to verify.
Buyer BeeWare: Unless purchased directly from a beekeeper, even honey products labeled “pure” or “organic” may in fact be filtered or diluted with corn syrup or other sweeteners that lack nutrients and are not produced by bees. To ensure that you are purchasing pure honey, it must be certified organic by your country’s agricultural certification body. In the United States, look for a True Source Certified logo.
Super-Sweet Honey Trivia
To further tingle your taste buds, here are some little-known golden nuggets about honey:
In Sweet Summation
With honey gaining a strong foothold in the restaurant and catering worlds, sweeten your recipes and menus with your customers’ favorite varieties of honey – and enjoy the sweet smell of success!