Honey (a persuasive argument)

January 11, 2012 · 16 comments

Pin It

honey-dripping

I’ve been going through a lot of honey lately. We’ve always used it for random things — our granola is partially sweetened with honey, and I use it in bread-making. My kids love it on their sandwiches and toast, and there’s nothing better for sweetening herbal tea in winter. But since I started the GAPS diet, it’s the only sweetener I can have (outside of the natural sugars found in most fresh and dried fruits) — so our consumption has doubled.

Honey is a classic example of the expression, you get what you pay for. Last fall, honey made headlines when it was discovered that large portions of the stock on US grocery shelves was likely obtained illegally from China — and could be contaminated with lead and antibiotics, or laced with artificial fillers. It’s apparently difficult to regulate the sources of large honey producers, which makes it easy for the honey cartel (only mildly tongue-in-cheek) to get away with selling a contaminated product & labeling it as pure.

Since it’s virtually impossible to know the source of honey on the shelves, why not play it safe and buy local honey straight from a farmer (or local grocer who can vouch for them)?

I’ll pretend I’m back in high school debate class and outline some points of my persuasive argument:

  • Local honey is actually honey. From actual bees.
  • Local honey can possibly help combat seasonal allergies. The medical evidence on this is sketchy (though people swear by it), but you can at least be assured that fake honey from China won’t help them at all, and might make them worse.
  • Local honey tastes better. If you prefer mild honey, go for clover (if clover isn’t produced in your locale, your health food store likely sells a regional version).
  • You can usually only buy raw (unpasteurized) honey locally/regionally. Raw honey has retained beneficial enzymes to aid in digestion — a thin layer spread on bread actually starts the digestive process for you.
  • Buying local honey helps keep a farmer in business. Those bees are helpful to your environment in ways more than simple production.

The cheapest way to buy it is in bulk — I buy it by the gallon ($35-$40, or around $5/pint) and even once split a 5-gallon bucket with friends ($3.50/pint). But if you don’t use it quickly enough, you could be faced with that ultimate frustration: a big batch of crystallized honey. I wrote a post last year that included a remedy for that problem, but since that process can be risky (I cracked two mason jars and lost 2 quarts of honey), prevention is the way to go.

Honey crystallizes fastest when stored at temperatures between 55° and 63°F — and in my kitchen in winter, the temps easily go down to that range at night. Last winter, I was voicing my frustrations to my honey farmer, and he suggested I freeze it. Freezing honey preserves its enzymes, protects it from crystallization, and is easy to do with a little extra space in your freezer.

honey-jars

The honey doesn’t freeze into a solid block — it more has the consistency of hardened taffy. When I buy a gallon, I immediately divide it into four quart canning jars, letting every last bit drip from the container. One quart jar stays out for use, the rest go in the freezer.

I’m feeling pretty good about my persuasive argument at this point (it helps that I don’t type “um,” — whereas if I was saying all this in person I would have uttered the word no less than 200 times). If you have a plastic honey bear in your pantry, perhaps labelled with the words “Great Value” (and really, who among us hasn’t?), have I convinced you to give a finger to the cartel and try local?

If so, I’ll be forwarding your answer to my high school debate coach. She should probably know that, though it took 20 years, her efforts were not in vain.

………………………………………………..

This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

{ 16 comments }

Rebecca Martin January 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm

No convincing needed here! I live on honey – and I cringe at the years I spent consuming SO much grocery store honey. Ah, well. I know better now. Frightening though, isn’t it?

katy January 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm

it’s getting so creepy to shop at the grocery store.

Heidi @ Food Doodles January 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm

I love this! And completely agree – I love my local honey and we thankfully have quite a few sources of it in our small town. I was wondering about the crystallization though so thank you so much for covering that! I’ve been just scraping it out of the jar and then pouring hot water in the jar to get the last little bit to use in my tea. Can’t wait to try putting it in the freezer when I get a fresh batch.

katy January 11, 2012 at 9:21 pm

Heidi, I had a feeling I’d be happily preaching to the choir, as they say, on this whole local honey thing. But I’m glad you might save your future batches from crystallizing — it’s crazy, works like a charm!

Stefanii Ferenczi January 11, 2012 at 6:31 pm

I could easily be convinced to split another 5 gal if people are ready for it. I could take another gal +/- myself, since my intake has drastically increased for the same reasons. I have outlawed sugar in our house. My girls complained at first, but they gave up when they saw I wasn’t giving in. And aren’t we allowed maple syrup?

katy January 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm

I’m in. After my 30 days, I’ll be going through a gallon in a month, I’ll bet.
Only this time I hope she has some that’s not already crystallized : /

Sacha January 11, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Okay, first a quick comment on the other post, the one you linked to in this one. Next time you are thinking “wetness ratio,” write “moisture content.” Really, Katy.

Re: local honey, I love thinking/saying “I have a honey guy” when I hear those stories about Chinese honey on the news. (Tangent: Is saying “I have a guy” to mean “someone does that for me already” an East Coast thing?) I don’t buy in bulk because we don’t use that much but it’s nice to know the honey is local nonetheless. Maybe I’ll put our little jar in the freezer!

The Egg Man (AKA my honey guy, who I also buy eggs from) tells me the best way to warm up honey is to put it in the sun. He keeps his in the back window of a car—which is useless to suburbanites who park in the garage, and may cause odd looks from neighbors to city dwellers—or on a window sill. His mother uses the glass-jar-in-hot-water method but, since my honey is packed in a plastic jar, I can’t do that.

katy January 11, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Tee hee (on the whole wetness ratio thing). (mantra to self as I fall asleep tonight: moisture content. moisture content. moisture content.)

I totally love saying “I have a guy.” Though one of my egg farmers is a girl…

Tara January 12, 2012 at 12:03 am

Could you share your favorite local source(s)? I live in Indy as well.

katy January 12, 2012 at 8:06 am

Tara, I’ve bought from a couple vendors at the Farmer’s Markets (Broad Ripple, City Market, Indy Winter Market). Most often I buy from Wildflower Ridge — right now he sells at the Indy Winter Market. His honey is raw, I think he’s in Anderson. He also stores it well so it hasn’t crystallized (important since honey isn’t harvested over winter months).

Amy January 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

I get my honey from a coworker whose family has a farm outside of West Point, MS. I love it.

She told me a little bit about the whole illegal honey business. First of all, a scientist CAN tell the source of honey by identifying the pollen in it. That’s how they caught all the Chinese honey, by the types of plants they were able to identify. After the imports from China were banned, the Chinese looked for another way to sell it abroad and found it in India. The honey farmers in China will sell huge quantities of honey to Indian honey farmers who will mix the import with their own honey. As a result, you get honey that contains about half Indian pollens, and it gets sold en masse overseas. The combination of pollens makes it much easier for the mixed honey to get past testing.

Does the plan life in a given area affect the taste of the honey? Meaning, would my uneducated palate be able to tell the difference between West Point honey and Indianapolis honey?

Amy January 12, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Obviously I meant “plant” life.

katy January 12, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Plant life does change the flavor, so clover honey tastes very different from wildflower honey — and you’d be able to taste the difference. What I doubt is that clover honey from Indiana tastes much different from clover honey in Mississippi.

That’s so crazy, about the Chinese honey. Sneaky.

Nancy January 13, 2012 at 11:23 am

I can’t even remember the last time I bought honey from a grocery store. Every Christmas, my aunt Martha gives me home grown honey. It has wonderful notes of mint in there with the clover. Probably some black berry in there, too. It’s what I’ve grown up having for dessert: the crispy crust from the cornbread, melted butter, and honey drizzled over top. My mother used to seem amused that I saved my triangular cornbread crusts for “dessert.” I’m an odd fish, I know.

Dad January 16, 2012 at 10:55 am

Honey suppliers here had a rough time last summer since it was so dry. I don’t know if it affected the bees or their food sources. Anyway, my last came from Angie, LA as the locals just didn’t produce enough for our area.

Rebekah January 20, 2012 at 10:47 am

oh wow…you have maybe convinced me. (notice the maybe…i have commitment issues.)

but price still dictates everything around here, as much as i despise that and work very hard to make sure we eat as well as we can within those parameters. but it looks like buying honey in bulk isn’t that much more expensive than buying the gross honey at the store! so that’s exciting. :)

Previous post:

Next post: