Shes an angel of the first degree
Shes as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee
I was stuck in traffic on my way home from University Village one afternoon, radio blasting, when the Van Morrison song Tupelo Honey came on. The next thing I know, I’m home and I’ve ordered a 1/2 case, because it would make a great title for a blog post! I imagined all the cool honey things I could make… honey ice cream, honey panna cotta, honey walnut prawns. It’s been many months now since that fateful day, and with many bottles of honey still in the cabinet, I figured it was time to get cracking on those recipes. In that time, I’ve also happened upon several other honeys to add to my collection, including a local Raspberry Honey that came in last summer’s CSA basket and a beautiful golden jar of honey from Oxfordshire, given to me by Andrew of Spittoon on my recent trip to London. Before I get to cooking, I thought a tasting was in order.
First up, the instigator, my jars of Tupelo honey, which come from northwest Florida. Bees are kept along the edges of the swampy rivers, and harvest their pollen from the blossoms of the Tupelo gum trees. The honey is a medium gold with a slight green cast. I got my honey from L.L. Lanier and Sons, a family run business that has been passed down since the late 1800s. On my first taste of the honey, I was quite taken aback. It almost didn’t even taste like honey to me, it had such a bright pine-like flavor, almost like sucking on a sweet Christmas tree. As I’ve started using it more, I’ve really become attached to the unique taste, and find that I miss it in other honey.
Next up, the Raspberry honey. This honey is from Bill’s Bees in Bow, WA just north of Seattle. Bill leases out his bees to help local farmer’s pollinate their fields, in this case raspberry fields… and he gets honey out the bargain. This honey crystalized rather quickly (unlike the Tupelo honey which typically doesn’t ever crystalize). Crystalization is a natural process, and doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the honey… in fact, some perfer it crystalized, particularly when the grain is very fine. It spreads easier and drips less. However, if you need to reliquify crystlized honey, just heat it slowly by placing the jar in a pan of warm water, between 100 and 120 degrees, giving it an occasional stir. If you heat the honey to a higher temperature, you’ll likely also change some of it’s flavor. I found the Bill’s Bees honey (which I left crystalized for the tasting) quite mild, particularly in comparison to the Tupelo honey. It tasted like honey, with no specific flavors making themselves known over the others.
Finally, the Oxfordshire Honey that came from Henley on Thames, just outside of London. I had no real luck finding out more about this honey online, other than to find that it is quite often used in making beer. The flavor of this very light golden honey is stunningly floral with distinct rose notes and subtle hints of butter. It’s quite delicious, particularly in tea… and I can’t wait to try making it into a panna cotta or a semi-freddo.
This week, I’ll be focusing most of my posts on cooking with these honeys, starting with a Tupelo honey-glazed roasted chicken tomorrow.
(BTW: today, I noticed that Heidi has a post on tasting New Zealand honeys that sound incredibly tempting as well! Particularly her suggestion of chilled honey on ciabatta with some drizzled melted butter. mmm.)