Friday, February 1, 2013

Honey Tasting

"Bee Good, Bee Well, Bee Healthy."
Cottage Industries.
For Christmas 2012 my stepmother, Lisa, who lives back east, sent me a precious surprise; two jars of her own cultivated wild honey. One jar still holds a chunk of the comb, which has a delicious chew to it. I was thrilled when I opened the small hay packed box, and as soon a I touched the nectar to my lips I was very excited to find ways to fully enjoy this honey.

With my work in kitchens I have encountered my share of wild honey from various pollen; lavender, clover, apple, etc. My all time favorite until this experience has been an orange blossom honey which is available at The Orange Store in Fresno, Ca. No commercial or artisan orange blossom honey has come close to this honey's distinct flavor. Although Lisa's honey does not possess a specific blossom flavor, it has a complexity all it's own; light, floral and clean. It dances on my tongue as it melts.

After my initial taste straight from a spoon I realized that a tasting was in order. To pair and contrast Lisa's honey with other sweet syrups, fruit, nuts and cheese would be a fun way to enjoy and experience subtle nuances of her and her bees hard work. After all, this was her first bulk harvest, and from what I understand, processing the honey was no easy task. I was a lucky recipient of a rare substance.

I collected some dried fruit and almonds, yogurt, mustard, fresh fruit and some blue cheese. I also had some generic commercial honey and some agave nectar. I didn't go overboard on my selection of elements spending a lot of time and money buying rare elements. Most of the goods I had in stock in my house. I simply wanted to taste.
My sweet stuff.
My humble array of tasting elements.

Cottage Industry's Pure Honey: Light and clean. Floral with notes of warmth and blossoms. Golden.

Agave Nectar: Clean finish but definite cooked flavor. Reminiscent of caramelized refined sugar. Taste similar to bruleed sugar.

Conventional Honey: Rich, cloying with a definite cooked down flavor. Muddy in comparison to both the agave and Lisa's honey.

As with any rare, precious or favorite food or drink a tasting is a perfect way to indulge in a study of flavor. Gather some friends and taste an array of cheese, wine, beer, mustard, jam or a combination of any favorites. Keep it simple and fun or do some research collecting classic flavor pairings. Platters or courses, a tasting is an excellent way to get closer to your food and develop your palate.

As I was tasting Lisa's honey with my various goodies, a truth about food was reaffirmed: good food and good flavor combinations compliment and enhance each other. It is not simply the addition of another flavor, but a marriage if you will. For the same reason, recipes are written and shared, and the opinions and insights of chefs sought, in order to optimally enhance our experience when eating. Experiences like this confirm the value of seeking out pure, fresh ingredients that are locally grown or produced without additives or genetic altering.

Making several stops to gather ingredients and foods from different locations does take time. Waiting once or twice a week for your local farmers market and then having to estimate how much to buy for the week may seem abstract. Reading the ingredients on the backs of products to make sure you are not buying any of those harmful additives that you can't remember (such a long list) can be tedious. And I probably just squashed any desire you had to take these steps. However, as we start to bond with our food through our desire for a truly unique and pleasurable experience, we will in time discover the people, places and elements that complete our recipes.

There is a huge variety of honey in the world. Without getting into such a vast menu I have listed below some simple food pairings which work well with a broad spectrum of honey.

Blue Cheeses, Manchego, Asiago, Brie, Fromage Blanc

Green Apple, Grapefruit, Banana, Dried Apricot, Berries

Dry Cured Meat 
Proscuitto, Bresaola, Soppressata

Pistachios, Walnuts, Almonds

Dark Chocolate 85%+

Coffee & Tea

Here are a couple of links to check out if you want more ideas and information about a honey tasting-
Grampa's Gourmet

For a fun story and interesting recipe for Honey Cake, check out Smitten Kitchen.


  1. Hi Graham, have just hopped over from G+. Like you I am a lover of honey and the infinite permutations one can derive from different foods. My love for honey is fairly new and it's such a fun and wonderful journey to date!

    1. Hi Azlin, thank you for the comment. It appears we have a lot in common in our passion for food. I have enjoyed getting to know about you on your blog, . A very interesting childhood and journey with food. I love the extensive array of cuisines and cake decorating you have shared on your blog. A great resource! Thank you.

      P.S. Two in my household will not eat any cheeses other than cheddar- How IS that possible?