Honey is one of our most popular – and oldest – ingredients. Cultivated for thousands of years, it is not only incredibly moreish but much more than just a treat for your sweet tooth.
Amongst the many benefits of honey, it is:
Honey has an almost limitless shelf-life when stored properly, making it economical as well as tasty. Honey bees play a pivotal role in its production, and as the bee population continues to be threatened by pesticides and disease, honey is suddenly in the spotlight – with a new wave of producers seeking to preserve this fantastic kitchen staple.
In addition to supermarket brands of the sweet stuff, artisan producers are growing in numbers, and thousands of hobbyist and professional beekeepers are trying their hand at creating new and exciting varieties of all natural raw honey.
Rock paintings dating back around 8000 years depict honey harvesting, though not in the modern way we view the process today. The days of risking bee stings are long gone, replaced with controlled and mindful beekeeping.
Whether used for eating, bathing or for its medicinal properties, honey has been used all over the world for aeons. Ancient Egyptians were sometimes buried with honeycombs, and archaeologists have discovered the preserved honey is still edible!
The Romans used honey to help heal wounds after a battle, and in Medieval England, mead was the drink of choice, otherwise known as honey wine. In an era of convenience, it’s hard to imagine how valuable a natural resource honey was regarded by our ancestors, though new interest in slower processes of food production is breathing life into unprocessed and unrefined honey’s popularity, with healthy pure honey once more making its way onto dinner tables everywhere.
Honey begins life as flower nectar. After being collected by bees, it is broken down into sugar within a honeycomb, before evaporating into liquid thanks to the helpful bees’ persistent wing movements. Beekeepers source honey by scraping off the wax enclosure bees create to keep the honey stored.
Following extraction, the honey is strained and ready to sell. The taste and colour of honey can vary dramatically depending on the kind of nectar the bees have collected, producing plenty of different flavour profiles for honey connoisseurs to enjoy!
The profound variety of the types of honey available is not limited simply to flavour. Whilst honey is undeniably healthy, the processes used as it is bottled and makes its way to your kitchen cupboard can have a dramatic effect on the true nutritional value and authenticity of the honey you consume. Whether found on a supermarket shelf or at your local farmers market, not all honey is created equal.
There is much to be said for supporting smaller local brands over larger varieties, from a flavour perspective as well as quality and the protection of the honey bee. Raw, unpasteurised honey such as English Meadows Honey provides all the natural health benefits of honey whilst also offering a distinctly recognisable 'sourced from the English countryside' taste profile not found with other large-scale, mass-produced supermarket brands.
This level of intricacy and detail is simply not possible with generic mass-produced brands. For a taste of honey in it’s most natural state, pure, unrefined honey is the most delicious option for true foodies in search of their next sweet fix.
Perfect for sweetening tea and coffee, spreading on warm toast and incorporating into luxury dishes and homemade baking, smaller producers support the preservation of honey bees – meaning many more years of this delicious treat.
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Seán Farrell – Founder, Chateau Rouge