September is National Honey Month and time to celebrate the sweetness that bees bring to kitchens worldwide, a versatile ingredient that deserves applause!
Beyond its place in the kitchen for tea or toast, honey is one of the more uniquely adaptable ingredients. As a humectant, it attracts and retains moisture, making it ideal for everything from fluffy pancakes to chewy breakfast bars and flavorful piecrust. The moisture-rich properties of this “one-ingredient-wonder” and its eternal shelf life can help extend freshness in baked goods while adding natural sweetness. Plus, as an emulsifier, honey can be used as a thickening agent for sauces, dressings and dips.
Aside from its wide array of applications, honey itself has a diverse range of types with over 300 varietals in the U.S. alone. Just as a wine’s terroir reflects its origin, honey’s spectrum of flavor, smell and hue all stem from its floral source. The flower of a California avocado, for instance, produces bold, smoky nectar with a molasses-like viscosity that is well suited for use in dressings and sauces. Found along the coast of California or throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains, sage honey is noted for its pale coloring and delicately mild yet sweet profile that is the perfect complement to strong cheeses. Moving across the country, honey from the Sourwood tree—typically found in the Appalachian Mountains spanning from southern Pennsylvania to northern Georgia—has a sweet, spicy, anise aroma and lingering aftertaste. Its versatility makes it a highly valued ingredient for myriad uses from glazes to marinades. And along the East Coast, honey from a cranberry yields a pungent, subtle tartness with lightly floral notes – all of which are excellent when paired with pork, birds or fish.
Well beyond the standard clover, wildflower, tupelo or even orange blossom honeys, the list of regionally reflective and plant specific varietals goes on and on!
This September, celebrate the gifts of the honeybee and all the buzz-worthy ways it makes the world a little bit sweeter! Say thanks be for bees!