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Feature Article From Harvest to Health
How to select, store, prepare and preserve a variety of farm-fresh produce





Honey is a sweetener in liquid form. The honeybee produces it from the nectar of flowers and stores it in the small waxy cells of a honeycomb. The flavor of honey varies with the source of the nectar. Besides ornamental and wild flowers, Missouri honey comes from a wide variety of other plant sources including agricultural crops like clover, cotton, and soybeans as well as the blooms of many trees.

Selecting Honey:

The color of honey ranges from almost colorless to a dark brown. In general, the darker the honey, the stronger the flavor. Use dark honeys in whole grain breads, muffins, and pancakes. Use milder, sweeter, lighter-colored honeys as table-top sweeteners and in making cookies, cakes, and pies.

Missouri honey is sold in several forms. Comb honey is sold just as it is stored by the bees. Sometimes it is cut into small chunks and wrapped in individual cartons. Liquid or strained honey is the most popular form. It is produced by forcing the honey from the comb and straining it free of crystals. Creamed or solid honey is strained honey that is partially or wholly solidified or granulated. Chunk honey is a combination of liquid and comb honey.

Do not give honey to infants younger than one year or to people on sugar-restricted diets. For more information about this, please refer to GH 1120, Using and Storing Honey, available free from your county extension center:

Storing Honey:

Liquid honey keeps best in air-tight containers in a dry place at room temperature (70F to 80F). The air-tight cover is necessary because honey loses aroma and flavor and absorbs moisture and odors readily when exposed to air.

Keep creamed honey in the refrigerator as it may partially liquefy if stored at too high a temperature.

Cover and store honey in the refrigerator if it has been diluted with water or other liquid. Like other thin syrups, it may ferment or mold quickly if not kept cold.

Honey kept for many months may darken slowly and become stronger in flavor but will still be usable. However, when honey absorbs extra moisture, yeasts that are naturally present in honey begin to grow and ferment the sugars, producing gas and off-flavors. Honey that foams and smells like alcohol is spoiled and should be discarded.

Honey may crystallize or granulate as it gets older, or if it is refrigerated or frozen. This is a natural process and does not harm the honey in any way. To return crystallized honey to liquid form, place the open container of honey in a pan of hot (not boiling) water until crystals disappear. You can also do this in a microwave oven--check owner's manual for directions. Be careful not to overheat because too much heat causes honey to change color and flavor.

Cooking and Preserving with Honey:

An advantage to using honey in place of granulated sugar in cooking and food preservation is that honey is sweeter than granulated sugar so you can use less honey for the same sweetening effect. For equal sweetening power, substitute 2/3 to 3/4 cup honey for each cup of sugar. An additional advantage is that baked products made with honey remain moist longer during storage. Use these tips when cooking with honey:

  • You can replace all the sugar in puddings, custards, pie fillings, baked apples, candied sweet potatoes, sweet and sour vegetables, salad dressings, sauces and glazes with honey.
  • Use honey to replace up to half the sugar in cakes. Reduce the liquid called for by one-fourth cup for every cup of honey used.
  • The amount of honey that can replace sugar in cookies varies with the type of cookie: Replace no more than one-third the sugar with honey in crisp cookies like gingersnaps; honey can replace one-half the sugar in brownies and up to two-thirds the sugar in fruit bars.
  • When making either cakes or cookies, first mix the honey with the fat or liquid, then mix it thoroughly with the other ingredients. This will help prevent a soggy layer from forming on top of the baked product.
  • Neutralize the acid in honey by adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for every cup of honey used, but if the recipe already calls for soda, don't add more.
  • Products made with honey brown faster than foods made with other sweeteners, so lower the oven temperature 25F when baking with honey.
  • It's easier to measure honey if you lightly grease the measuring cup or spoon first. Or, if liquid or solid fat is called for, measure it first, then use the same cup for the honey. Every last drop will slip right out.
  • One pound of honey equals about 1 1/3 cups. A three pound container holds about 4 cups of honey.

Honey can replace up to one-half the granulated sugar in syrups for canning fruit and up to one-fourth the granulated sugar in syrups for freezing fruit. You can also use honey in all types of sweet spreads. Guidesheets on all these procedures are available at your county extension center.


Quick and Fresh Ideas

  • Tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Make a special sandwich filling by mixing honey with cream cheese, chopped dried fruit, nuts, and grated orange peel. Stuff into whole wheat pita bread.
  • Drizzle honey over whole grain griddle cakes, french toast, or waffles. Top with fresh fruit and add a glass of milk--guaranteed to delight even non-breakfast eaters!
  • As a late afternoon pick-me-up for tired kids and grown ups too, give them a Honey Hug: In a blender, combine one cup milk or plain yogurt, one banana, one peach, a half cup of strawberries, and sweeten to taste with honey. Whirl till frothy.

Honey Bran Muffins
This makes 24 muffins--freeze some for later!

2 1/4 cups flour (For a nutty, whole grain flavor use half whole wheat and half all-purpose)
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt, if desired
3 cups crushed bran cereal
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raisins
1 cup boiling water
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk

In a large bowl, combine cereal, oil and raisins and pour boiling water over them. Set aside to cool slightly. In a smaller bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk and honey. Add to partially cooled cereal mixture. In another bowl, mix together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the cereal mixture, stirring to moisten. Cover and let stand for at least 15 minutes (an hour at most). Grease 24 muffin cups, or use paper muffin tin liners, and fill them three-fourths full with batter. Bake muffins in a preheated oven at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes. Makes: 24 muffins.

Honey and Spice Bread
A great dessert or breakfast bread!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each: cloves, nutmeg, salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup honey

Mix all dry ingredients and set aside. Mix all liquid ingredients and add to dry mixture. Blend well. Pour into greased 9x5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350F for 45 to 60 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes: one 9x5 inch loaf.


To order any of the "From Harvest to Health" publications or for more preservation information, please refer to the University of Missouri Extension, Human Environmental Sciences Publications - Food, Nutrition and Fitness section.



Last update: Thursday, June 18, 2009


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