Thursday, August 19, 2010

Honey, I'm Home!

Honey is by far my favorite sweetener.  It's the nectar of the Gods.  On the off chance I actually sweeten my tea, I prefer honey.  I've drizzled it over desserts, I've used it in ice cream, I love the way it tastes and am always looking for ways to enjoy it.  One of my favorites is smearing peanut butter on pita bread and topping with honey. Jelly ain't got nothin' on you!  I've definitely featured honey in quite a few posts, both as a highlight and a hidden sweetener.  I recently got to thinking... I've tried several types of honey over the years, but never all at once to really pick apart the differences.  I decided to conduct a honey tasting, because if winos can do it, so can I.  I had a couple varieties in my house, and asked some relatives if they had honey I could steal to incorporate into my tasting. They happily obliged :)  In the end I tasted 4 honeys.  There are hundreds.  I couldn't begin to buy and taste them all, I think after a while a swarm of bees would probably attack me out of vengeance.  I tasted 2 clover honeys, one light and one dark, an orange blossom honey, and a wildflower honey.

From left to right: Orange Blossom, Clover, Wildflower, Clover (darker)

I decided to start with the clover honeys.  Normally I would just go from light to dark since the flavors get more intense that way, but I wanted to compare the clover honeys side by side because they were so different.  The store-bought version was the typical light-hued honey that people associate with the word, while the second farm-purchased one, was much much darker and seemed to be a bit thicker too.

Flavor-wise the traditional clover honey was sweet, mild, and floral with an almost sour aftertaste, while the second clover honey had similar flavor characteristics but was much deeper in flavor and almost reminded me of molasses.  I'm not entirely sure how the second one was produced because it is certainly not a typical clover honey, but I'm glad I tried it and can see how even honey produced from nectar from the same type of plant can be so different depending on where and how it is produced.

Next I tried the last two honeys, the orange blossom and the wildflower.  The orange blossom was by far the lightest in color and the wildflower was considerably dark compared to the first two, but still lighter than the dark clover.  I made sure to have some water before I tasted these since the dark clover was so intense and sweet and I didn't want it to affect my taste buds before I went back and tried a lighter honey.

The orange blossom honey was incredibly mild and had a delicate floral flavor.  It lacked the almost sour aftertaste I noticed with the first clover honey.  The wildflower honey had the strongest floral flavor.  With the exception of the almost molasses flavor of the dark clover, it was the most intense and the sweetest.

There are so many other types of honey out there, including some even darker than the ones I tried, such as buckwheat honey or pine honey among others.  It's difficult for me to pick a favorite, but I can easily say my least favorite is the dark clover honey. It's just not my style, too intense to enjoy on its own.  A little goes a long way and could easily sweeten your tea (or anything) with just a little bit.  My favorite might be the orange blossom because it is so mild and reminds me of chewing on honeycomb when I was little.  The light clover is a classic (can't go wrong with a classic!) and is the flavor I (and most people) associate with honey, while the wildflower has an intensely floral flavor and really stands on its own.  I've used the wildflower honey in ice cream on more than one occasion and really loved the flavor, but I think it would be interesting to try one of the lighter honeys next time to see how it changes the flavor and softens it up a bit.  Mild honeys work well in baking as well as a substitute for sugar, while darker honeys are less desirable in that situation.  All in all, this was a delicious experiment :) What's your favorite honey?


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