My maternal grandfather was a beekeeper. At one time he cared for one thousand hives of honey bees: five hundred of his own and five hundred for a local orchard. When I was a girl, I sometimes watched him extracting the clover and wild flower honey from the frames in his “honey house.” Grandpa would encourage me to taste a bit on my finger. I never really enjoyed the taste of plain honey, but Grandma would talk about the health benefits of honey. When I was in high school and my freshmen year in college, I represented the honey and beekeeping industry for my county and the state of Pennsylvania as “Honey Queen.” During that time, I was exposed to beekeepers from across the state and up and down the East Coast. I tasted blueberry honey in Maine and orange blossom honey in Florida. I learned that you can substitute honey for sugar in recipes that varied from baked goods to fruit punch. Naturally shy, I gained valuable experience in public speaking and interacting with many varied and interesting people.
I suppose it makes sense that when our family began our journey towards a more natural approach to eating, one of the first steps was to substitute honey for sugar in baking. At first, I had to experiment to find the method that produced the best product. While honey has twice the sweetening power of sugar, it is more of a liquid than sugar; so the consistancy of baked goods can change. I now bake cookies and muffins on a regular basis. For these items, I substitute 1/2 the amount of honey for sugar; then I replace the remaining amount of sugar with flour. For example if the recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar, I use 1 cup of honey and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. For cookies, I push them down with a fork before baking, as they do not spread as well as those made with sugar. Occasionally, I bake a pie, cake, or fruit cobbler and substitute honey for sugar. In the summer, I can fruit and pickles with honey. I bake bread with honey. Honey can be used in sauces such as sweet-n-sour and barbecue, salad dressings, fruit punches, and homemade ice cream. For all of these items, I use 1/2 the amount of honey as sugar called for, but do not add extra flour. Honey is also great in tea or to sooth sore throats.
For the best tasting and healthiest honey, find a local beekeeper from whom to buy. The honey I buy here in southeastern Kentucky is delicious. I bought some poplar honey recently, but sourwood is common as well. In buying directly from the beekeeper, you form a relationship with a person. A few days ago, when I called the beekeeper to see if they still had any honey for sale, his wife said, “Yes, we saved you four quarts.” When I stopped by their house to pick up the honey, he told me I was one of his best costumers and gave me an extra partial quart. That is certainly not something that would happen at the grocery store!
Raw honey is expensive, but worth it. Remember it has twice the sweetening power of sugar, so you use less. I can tell a difference when I bake with honey in my appetite. Occasionally I run out of honey and bake with sugar. I feel less satisfied after consuming a baked item made with sugar rather then honey. I do not have any scientific proof, but I feel like sugar is more addictive than honey.
Honey has been used since antiquity. Here are some ancient words of wisdom to ponder:
(The ordinances of the Lord) are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:10-11