Honey is considered as a sweet food and a natural sweetener. Honey is made by honeybees using the flower’s nectar. Though honey is produced by other insects also honey bee’s honey is the only product suitable for human consumption. ‘Beekeepers’ are usually those people who breed the honey bees and use them to make honey. It is a slightly healthier option than sugar, which contains only empty calories. Honey is used to make various honey dishes like honey and apricot sauce, ginger honey drink and honey cookies that are well-liked in global cuisine.
History of Honey
Long before beekeeping was introduced, the honey obtained from wild bees was highly valued by the Stone Age men for its rarity and taste. Until the Middle of the 17th century, honey was considered as the sweetener for ordinary people in England while sugar was used by noble. However, in late 17th century, honey became the treat for people whereas sugar was the universal sweetener. In Greek mythology also, honey has a special place.
Culinary Use of Honey
Cooking with honey is very easy hence it is used as a sweetener in many sweet and savory dishes. Cakes, pies, puddings, sauces and salads make good use of honey as a natural and healthy option than sugar. Honey recipes also include roasted pork and chicken dishes. Honey goes very well with milk and almond honey milk is a very popular health drink for people of all ages. Ginger honey drink and honey beer called ‘mead’ are very popular drinks. Though honey is a good substitute of sugar it should be kept in mind that it is denser than sugar. While adding honey in honey dishes, always remember that one tablespoon of honey is more than one tablespoon of sugar.
Cuisines Commonly Making Honey Dishes
Honey is a versatile ingredient and due to this property it is widely used in various cuisines such as Egyptian, Indian, Jewish, Greek and European cuisines. Egyptians used to make honey dishes that are usually baked items such as cakes, pastries, breads and pies. In Indian cuisine also honey is used to make various desserts and drinks. There is a traditional and sacred honey dish in Indian cuisine called ‘panchamrita’ that is made with honey, milk and other ingredients. It is considered a ‘holy drink’. ‘Rosh Hashnana’, a popular Jewish dish made with apple slices and honey is served in traditional meal of New Year. Honey bun, honey glazed chicken and crispy honey chicken are some of the popular European honey dishes. Honey has also been considered in religious festivals throughout the world as the food fit for gods.
Preferred Methods for Cooking Honey
• Baking – Honey is mainly used to make baked items such as cakes, pies and breads.
• Glazing – Honey dishes are also made by glazing method. Pork, chicken and lamb are glazed by honey to make delectable savory dishes.
• Mixing – honey can be mixed with other ingredients to make salad dressings and drinks.
• Fermenting – Honey is fermented through its natural yeast and used to make ‘honey beer’ called mead.
Nutritive Value of Honey
Honey has been endowed as a legendry nutritional and healthy food item. Honey is considered healthier that refined white sugar. Honey supplies little more energy in the form of simple carbohydrates. Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that it has antiseptic properties and can heal wounds. Similar to sugar, honey also acts as a mild sedative. The best and most popular use of honey is a drink made to treat sore throat. Ginger extract mixed with honey gives a relieving effect in sore throat. Lime, honey and water mixture is a good detoxifying drink and helps to reduce weight.
Consumption Criteria of Honey
Honey can contain naturally occurring toxins from plants. Sometimes, bees collect pollens and produce toxic honey that can cause paralysis if eaten.
Buying and Storing of Honey
• Branded and high-quality honey should be purchased.
• Honey labeled as ‘pure’ is only suitable for human consumption.
• Beware of non-graded honey as it may cause adverse health effects.
• Most varieties of honey contains antibiotics to prevent bee-ailments; hence it should be checked by the grocer before buying honey.
• Storage of honey is quiet easy. Honey gets crystallized very easily and this is not a sign of impurity or bad quality honey.
• Honey is not required to be stored in refrigerator but it should be kept away from heat.
• Honey should not be stored near petroleum products or with strong-odor products.
• Honey dishes should be stored in refrigerator for up to 2-3 days.
Types of Honey
Honey is of different varieties which have different requirements for storage.
Here are some of the varieties of honey:
• Whole comb- This is the unprocessed honey straight from bee-hive.
• Raw honey – This variety of honey is unheated and contains parts of insects and wax.
• Filtered – Raw honey is heated and filtered to remove impurities and particles. The nutrients are similar to raw honey.
• Liquid – This variety of honey is heated through to make it easy for filtration. Though heating removes some of the vitamins of honey.
• Crystallized or Spun – This is the most processed and clear form of honey. Free from impurities and has a creamy texture.
Honey was used as a payment of tax by the ancient Egyptians. Honey contains 18 calories more than the white sugar.