To most home cooks, honey is honey and it doesn’t get much more complicated than that, but anyone who’s spent time harvesting honey can tell you that each harvest has its own unique flavor, color, and aroma. Our bees gather their pollen from many different plant sources around our property, so that any given harvest is extremely different from the next. Many hives, especially commercial hives, gather the majority of their pollen from one flower source, resulting in a specific varietal of honey. Clover honey is the most common U.S. varietal, but there are more than 300 varietals available in the U.S.
The National Honey Board recently revamped honeylocator.com, a site dedicated to helping chefs track down hard-to-find varietals and gain inspiration for new recipes made from the unique flavors of honey out there. Online shoppers can search through suppliers by state, country, or floral source, with varietals ranging from the typical and tasty blackberry and guava to more bizarre Brazilian pepper and catnip.
Emily Manelius of the National Honey Board explains in an article on ezezine.com that “honey varietals can add depth and interest to foodservice recipes across the menu,” and that “the use of honey varietals to add a regional flavor and flair to recipes is of growing interest.”
Sunset recipe editor Amy Machnak became acquainted with honey varietals during her days as a pastry chef, using lavender, chestnut, and rosemary honeys for recipes. And another of our food editors, Elaine Johnson, can tell you that sometimes not using a certain flavor is just as important as finding the right one, which she discovered after using eucalyptus honey in a recipe that required something a bit more mild in flavor. Eucalyptus honey is known for its distinctive menthol taste, so just imagine adding mouthwash to your favorite casserole.
Seeing as we’re in the midst of the holiday season, does anyone have a recipe that could make use of some pine tree honey?