Monday, July 1, 2013
On a recent visit, my step-mom stuffed about 10 jars of the most gorgeous, golden, cherry-blossom honey into my suitcase to take home. I use honey in everything from baked goods to my morning coffee, so it was a real treat.
Being suddenly rich in honey, I thought it might be fun to experiment with some simple infusions and concoctions. The following are three of my favorites.
Infusing honey with lavender is an easy touch that gives plain honey a little something special. You can experiment a bit with the amount of lavender flavor and scent you like, but I’ve found about a tablespoon of lavender per cup of honey is a good ratio.
To begin, roughly chop the lavender — blossoms, stems and leaves are all fine — and tie it up in a cheese cloth. You can just put the lavender into the honey and let it seep for several weeks, but I like to hurry things along by heating the honey. To do so, put a jar of honey in a skillet, and fill the skillet with water up to about an inch below the top of the jar. Then let the water simmer for an hour or so, topping it up as necessary. You can then remove the lavender, or leave it in to let the honey continue to infuse.
This same method will work with any number of ingredients. Think herbs like thyme, camomile, anise, cloves, rosemary or mint. Or go really wild and infuse your honey with chili peppers, lemon peel or dried mushrooms. (I know the mushrooms sound strange, but they make an earthy honey that’s heaven with cheddar cheese.)
Rosemary honey syrup
On a trip to Philadelphia several years ago, I had my first rosemary latte. It was a bit of a life-changing experience for me, and I’m always trying to re-create it. Honey syrup — whether rosemary-infused or just plain — is also useful for cocktails and iced coffee where plain honey would just form a cold lump in the bottom of the glass.
To make honey syrup, mix equal parts honey and water in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring it to a boil, and then turn off the heat.
To infuse the syrup with rosemary — or, as with the lavender honey above, with any other herb you like — add a cheesecloth-wrapped bundle of rosemary to the pot. Then once the syrup begins to boil, turn the heat down to low and let the rosemary gently infuse for just a few more minutes. Let the syrup cool before removing the rosemary and storing the syrup in the fridge.
Cinnamon honey butter
This is another easy way to make something plain — toast with butter — a decadent treat. Cinnamon honey butter is like childhood in a jar for me.
To make it, put a softened stick of butter, a tablespoon of honey, and 2 or 3 pinches of cinnamon into the bowl of a mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat everything together until the butter is creamy and pale, scraping down the sides as necessary.
I’ve found this is a tiny bit better if you let it sit and meld in the fridge for a day, but who can stand to wait.