Learning about honey can be an enjoyable experience

Back in February, before the pandemic arrived, I invited a small group of friends for an evening of honey tasting.

We had eight unique honeys that I collected from local beekeepers, a rancher in Mexico and an imported grocery store honey.

Everyone wants the inside track on which is the best honey to buy.

The truth is we enjoyed all of them, but not so much the imported grocery store honey. Each had its own qualities. Some sweeter, others mild, one more floral. In the end all were contenders for what we liked in honey.

Choose a honey for its intended use. Are you stirring into hot tea? Drizzling it over goat cheese? Spreading it on toast?

Small honey producers can probably tell you which blossoms were available for their honey.

“Our first pull is early July,” said Jayme Viglas of Gouldtown Gardens in Gouldtown, Sask.

“The main flowers for us would be native prairie plants, caragana, apples, haskaps, sour cherries, dandelions and alfalfa.”

Another beekeeper told me that his third pull of the season is when squash blossoms, sunflowers and mustard are in season. It produces a very mild honey. His personal favourite is caragana honey. I have my order in for a jar this spring.

The colours of the honey are also interesting. They run from clear white honey to very amber. I may be going out on a limb but I felt the darker honeys also had more pronounced flavours.

Terroir is a word used for wine and it certainly also applies to honey. My Mexican honey was purchased from a rancher at a small town market in Lo de Marcos, Mexico. He was also selling mezcal so I assumed the bees fed on agave blossoms. The particular climate and soil conditions for agave impact the flavour of his honey, making it stronger and more floral.

Cheese is a good palate cleanser at a honey tasting. I chose a hard, sharp, raw milk cheese produced by Saskatoon Spruce in Saskatoon. The saltiness of cheese cuts the sweetness of honey. It’s a good match.

The prairie provinces produce 82 percent of Canada’s honey, according to Agriculture Canada. The Prairies have long summer days and a favourable crop mix. To make one pound of honey, bees have to visit two million flowers and fly about 88,000 kilometres. Now we can understand the saying “busy as a bee.” And honey never spoils.

Honey and cheese

The easiest way to serve honey with cheese is to drizzle the honey over a wedge of cheese. You can also serve a jar of honey on the side of a cheese plate. Almost any cheese pairs well with honey: goat cheese, ricotta, blue or parmigiana reggiano.

Pieces of honeycomb add a touch of interest to a cheese and charcuterie board. Leaving the honeycomb whole is visually stunning on a cheese plate. Guests can simply cut off pieces of honeycomb to eat with the cheese.

Serve slices of baguette or crackers along with your cheese plate. These give the cheese and honey a solid foundation to build on top of, making it all a little easier to eat.

Honey roasted nuts

Coat the nuts with melted butter, honey and a dash of smoked paprika.

Roast them until golden. Roasting in a slow oven, 300 F, ensures that the nuts roast slowly and evenly and don’t burn. Roast them for about 30 minutes and stir them twice during that time to ensure even roasting.

The last step, when they’re done, is to spread them on a tray lined with parchment paper, sprinkle them with sea salt and allow them to cool.

You can keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. They lose some of their crunch after the first day, although they are still delicious. Reheat them in a 300 F oven for 10 minutes to restore that crunch.

Seeded honey

  • 1 tbsp. fennel seed 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. black sesame seeds 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. poppyseed 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. fennel seeds 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. flax seed 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. quinoa 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. sunflower seeds 15 mL
  • 1 tbsp. pumpkin seeds 15 mL
  • 4 c. liquid honey 1 L

In a small dry pan, add the fennel and sesame seeds. Gently dry roast the seeds in the pan by continuously swirling as they toast. Cook until fragrant and golden.

Remove the seeds to a small mixing bowl and add the other seeds. Pour in the honey, stir to combine, and allow to cool.

Serve with cheese and crackers, on toast, as an ingredient in salad dressings or wherever you might use honey. Adds a nice savoury flavour.

Store in an airtight jar.

Honey mustard salad dressing

  • 1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt 125 mL
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. Dijon mustard 60 mL
  • 3-4 tbsp. honey, to taste 45-60 mL
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt 2 mL
  • freshly ground black pepper

In a jar, cup or bowl, combine all of the ingredients as listed. Shake or whisk until blended. Taste, and season with additional salt and pepper, more honey or more lemon juice, if necessary.

Store salad dressing in the refrigerator, covered, for 10 to 14 days.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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