WHAT'S IN HONEY?
The National Honey Board has done extensive study and research about the history, nutrition and medicinal properties of honey and have compiled huge resource of information. For more information about honey, please visit the National Honey Board website.
Honey is a supersaturated sugar solution with approximately 17.1 percent water. Fructose is the predominant sugar at 38.5 percent, followed by glucose at 31 percent. Disac- charides, trisac -charides and oligosaccharides are present in much smaller amounts. Besides carbohydrates, honey contains small amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Honey is known to be rich in both enzymatic and non-enzymatic antioxidants, including catalase, flavonoids, ascorbic acid and alkaloids. Although appearing only in trace amounts, honey also contains around 18 different amino acids. Crane, E. 1976. "Honey: A Comprehensive Survey," Corrected edition. International Bee Research Association/Heinemann, London; Berenbaum, M., Robinson, G. and Unnevehr, L. 1995-1996. Antioxidant properties of Illinois honeys. University of Illinois.
Each variety of honey has characteristics that make each one unique. Some of the main properties are color, granulation, moisture content, Levlose (fructose sugars) levels and Dextrose (glucose sugars) levels. Honey color is always graded with a number. A low number indicates a light color and the higher the number the darker the honey. Granulation is also given a number value to rate at which point the honey tends to crystallize or granulate. Levlose, dextrose and moisture levels are based on a percentage. The USDA has a grading system that covers the moisture content, absence of defects, flavor and aroma, and clarity. Color is defined but not part of the grade calculation. Note that the USDA grading system does not cover things like purity or added ingredients (like sugar or syrup), heating, contaminants, authenticity of labeling, biological source, botanical source, or regional source. From the USDA Rules and Regulations, "...honey does not require official inspection in order to carry official USDA grade marks and since there are no existing programs that require the official inspections and certification of honey, ..." All the more reason to buy honey from your local beekeeper or farmer, as most of what the label says is not regulated at all.
Honey that is sold as raw contains all the pollen, enzymes and other micronutrients that are typically filtered out of and/or destroyed by heat when the honey is processed. Traditionally honey is heated and filtered so that it will remain liquid much longer, and have greater shelf appeal in the supermarket. Raw honey will crystalize quickly due to the fact that it is unfiltered. Eco Bee offers raw honey exclusively, strained as opposed to filtered, and its never heated above 115 degrees. It is widely believed that raw honey offers many health benefits over traditionally processed honey. For more on the benefits of raw honey, read here.
USES & STORAGE
Honey has been used for everything from skincare to mead (honey wine). Honey is widely preferred as a natural sweetener because it is also a flavor enhancer. The wide variety of flavors available from different honeys makes honey a gourmet's delight. If properly stored, true raw honey will not spoil: A pot of honey found in an ancient Egyptian tomb was proved to be as wholesome as fresh honey. However, honey will ferment if it is diluted by moisture from the atmosphere or by other liquids. Prevent fermentation by keeping honey containers tightly sealed before and between uses.
IMMUNE SYSTEM WARNING
Honey should not be consumed by infants under one year of age or those with a compromised immune system.
SUBSTITUTING HONEY FOR SUGAR
Replace 1 cup of sugar with 3/4 cup of honey and reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup. Add a pinch of baking soda to recipes that do not call for sour cream or sour milk, so as to reduce the acidity of the honey.
Cook jellies and jams at higher temperatures when you replace sugar with honey.
Beat honey candies longer, and seal them more tightly when storing them to keep the honey from absorbing atmospheric moisture.
- When baking with honey, lower the oven temperature by 25° to 30° F to prevent over-browning.
- When measuring honey, first coat the measuring utensil with a small amount of oil so the honey will not stick.
- If honey granulates, place the container in hot water (not boiling) until the honey re-liquifies.
- Store honey at room temperature rather than in a refrigerator, where it will just thicken and become impossible to pour. Keep it tightly covered and in a dry place.
- Honey, because it is hydroscopic, tends to keep foods moist and tender. Therefore, if you are baking goodies for kids away at school, service members overseas, or friends or relatives who live out of town, always bake with honey to ensure freshness.
GRANULATION (OR CRYSTALLIZATION)
Crystallization is defined as a natural occurring process of raw honey that changes it from liquid to solid. Some people think the honey is spoiled as it crystallizes but actually it occurs when the honey molecules are at optimum temperature. This has a lot to do with how the honey is stored. When stored below 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or in a certain containers the optimum is 57 to 58 degrees) it will crystallize. Note that processed honey that has been pasteurized or mixed with sugar or syrup may not crystallize, but it has significantly less nutritional value and none of the best properties of pure, raw honey. Levulose and dextrose levels affect crystallization also, so typically the one with the higher dextrose will crystallize more quickly; for example, Clover and Alfalfa crystallize more quickly than Orange Blossom or Blackberry. Additionally, larger quantities will crystallize if they are stored on a concrete floor and the cold temperatures are drawn up into the container. If the honey re-crystallizes very quickly it only indicates that the honey did not get properly liquefied which means that the sugar crystals have not dissolved. In this case, place the jar of honey in a pan of water and heat it slowly making sure to dissolve all the crystals and crystallization will be slowed. Interestingly, the optimal temperature for storing honey is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.