Honey - how bees did a lot more than buzzing

“"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called”

When you eat SCD, honey is one of those little things that make life more than just a bit sweeter. Honey can be light and clear, drizzled from a spoon over a slice of fresh pear, it might be dark and syrupy, falling in caramel ribbons over a bowl of Greek yogurt, sometimes it is thick and creamy, melting on the tongue like summer scented fudge or spread generously over cool creamy butter on a piece of hot toast.

Good honey is always a distillation of the many flowers and plants visited by bees as they tirelessly harvest and carry, pollinating as they go. Their place in the great eco system of plant reproduction is as immovable as the plants themselves. Even after a rather painful and unexpected sting on the jaw the other day, when I saw the heather humming with bees I gave thanks for the part they play in the food we eat, the richly oxygenated air we breathe and the plants that clothe all the bits we haven't smothered in concrete yet. Thanks guys! we owe you one.

Honey can taste of pure sweetness, or it can take the flavour of a particular pollen. My very favourite is sunflower honey, deeply yellow, thick and creamy with a round buttery flavour and summery scent. But I also have a place in my heart for clover (mild and light), orange blossom (delicately perfumed with the slightest hint of bitter orange), heather (dark, rich and caramel flavoured) and on the odd occasion lavender honey with a deep floral tone that sings in a china cup of chamomile tea.

Buying local honey can be a great way to support local business, reduce food miles, avoid sugar produced on the other side of the world and even reduce pollen induced hayfever. By buying from small producers who look after their hives (flocks? swarms?...) you can do your bit towards preserving the bee stocks that may become increasingly endangered as they struggle to cope with our changing environment. You'll also be tasting a little bit of the land where you live, your honey will taste of something - it may taste of clover or sweet chestnut, or simply of wild flowers. It won't be a bland blend of EC and non EC honeys that often tastes as characterful as golden syrup and is to small producers of quality honey what battery chickens are to those lovely hens that scratch in the grass all day and have a bit of bite to them. 

When you bake with honey you need to use less of it than sugar - and then you find that you use less and less over time until your palate can detect the sweetness inherent in many foods. If you are converting a recipe, use a little less liquid too as honey is runny. Set honey is great for creamed cakes as it has just the right body and melds with the butter beautifully. Choose a lower temperature and bake for longer as honey has a lower burning point than sugar.

If you're looking for a recipe that uses honey (like the honey lollipops above), there are plenty on my sidebar under Breads, Cakes and Sweet Things (choose the ones with SCD at the end).

As soon as the roses come out I plan to make some rose petal honey. I'll tell you how it turns out.

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