Monday, February 23, 2009

Spiced Honey, At Long Last

Spiced honey falls under "not really thrifty, but cheaper than in a store" category of home food preserving. A frugal indulgence, if you will. One can pay a pretty penny for a very similar commercial product, but spicing and canning honey at home is so easy and it's such a perfect winter canning project that it would be a shame not to try it at least once.

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There are those who believe that cloves and cinnamon sticks are the order of the day. Purists adhere to one or the other. I say go big or go home and load up on star anise. Beautiful, aromatic and delicious, star anise adds an ever-so-slightly licorice flavor to the honey alongside an indefinable what is that that lends the whole affair a decidedly mysterious bent.

I buy honey from a hobbyist-turned-microfarmer who lives a few miles down the road from me. If you can, try to find someone close by your neck of the woods from whom you can do the same. We're all a little spooked by the dying bees thing and, whatever the cause of the trouble, we'll all do well to help however we can. This does not mean that I believe you're disqualified from spiced honey if you can't locate a local provider. Not at all. File it under "trying" and carry on as best you can. This is supposed to be fun, not guilt-inducing.

So. You've got your honey, about 2 pounds of it, I'd say. All you need next is a bit of citrus juice, maybe a tablespoon, and some kind of spice. Lemon is canon, but I also like lime and what I've got tonight is a pink grapefruit (from my grandmother's tree! wheee! I love grapefruit) so that's what I'm using. For the spice, do what you will. You don't need a lot of it because you'll be infusing the flavor and don't have to include the spices themselves in the jar (unless you want to - the effect can be lovely).

Combine all your ingredients into a saucepan and warm over low-to-medium heat, stirring frequently. Keep on like this, tasting liberally, until you get something you like. Then jar according to the directions on the box, straining the spices out and leaving half an inch of head space, and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. If you have an odd amount that's too small to process, strain it into a clean jar and put it in the fridge. The honey will crystallize, but will be perfectly good for spooning into a beverage or spreading onto toast.

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That's it. For maybe 15 minutes of hands-on time you've been rewarded with a few jars of pure sunshiney gold, not to mention a few tricks you can change up and switch around depending upon your mood the next time. And I can't imagine how there wouldn't be a next time.

I used half-pints tonight since I'm embracing honey-based selfishness with these and don't intend to share (but probably will anyway). For gifting I might go with quarter-pints (you know, those teeny tiny jam jars) and pair with some white tea or a loaf of really good white bread. If you've got a sick friend, a jar coupled with a small bottle of brandy and a new tea cup probably wouldn't go amiss. If you hang with unrepentant sweet mongers, then spoons are probably the best accompaniments.

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But you didn't hear it from me.

2 comments:

caro said...

Wow - that's beyooootiful!

Sophie said...

What a neat & great idea!! Lovely to enjoy in a hotgtea for in wintertime!!

MMMMMM,...or in desserts!!

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