She's as sweet as…

…tupelo honey
Shes an angel of the first degree
Shes as sweet as tupelo honey
Just like honey from the bee

I was stuck in traffic on my way home from University Village one afternoon, radio blasting, when the Van Morrison song Tupelo Honey came on. The next thing I know, I’m home and I’ve ordered a 1/2 case, because it would make a great title for a blog post! I imagined all the cool honey things I could make… honey ice cream, honey panna cotta, honey walnut prawns. It’s been many months now since that fateful day, and with many bottles of honey still in the cabinet, I figured it was time to get cracking on those recipes. In that time, I’ve also happened upon several other honeys to add to my collection, including a local Raspberry Honey that came in last summer’s CSA basket and a beautiful golden jar of honey from Oxfordshire, given to me by Andrew of Spittoon on my recent trip to London. Before I get to cooking, I thought a tasting was in order.

First up, the instigator, my jars of Tupelo honey, which come from northwest Florida. Bees are kept along the edges of the swampy rivers, and harvest their pollen from the blossoms of the Tupelo gum trees. The honey is a medium gold with a slight green cast. I got my honey from L.L. Lanier and Sons, a family run business that has been passed down since the late 1800s. On my first taste of the honey, I was quite taken aback. It almost didn’t even taste like honey to me, it had such a bright pine-like flavor, almost like sucking on a sweet Christmas tree. As I’ve started using it more, I’ve really become attached to the unique taste, and find that I miss it in other honey.

Next up, the Raspberry honey. This honey is from Bill’s Bees in Bow, WA just north of Seattle. Bill leases out his bees to help local farmer’s pollinate their fields, in this case raspberry fields… and he gets honey out the bargain. This honey crystalized rather quickly (unlike the Tupelo honey which typically doesn’t ever crystalize). Crystalization is a natural process, and doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the honey… in fact, some perfer it crystalized, particularly when the grain is very fine. It spreads easier and drips less. However, if you need to reliquify crystlized honey, just heat it slowly by placing the jar in a pan of warm water, between 100 and 120 degrees, giving it an occasional stir. If you heat the honey to a higher temperature, you’ll likely also change some of it’s flavor. I found the Bill’s Bees honey (which I left crystalized for the tasting) quite mild, particularly in comparison to the Tupelo honey. It tasted like honey, with no specific flavors making themselves known over the others.

Finally, the Oxfordshire Honey that came from Henley on Thames, just outside of London. I had no real luck finding out more about this honey online, other than to find that it is quite often used in making beer. The flavor of this very light golden honey is stunningly floral with distinct rose notes and subtle hints of butter. It’s quite delicious, particularly in tea… and I can’t wait to try making it into a panna cotta or a semi-freddo.

This week, I’ll be focusing most of my posts on cooking with these honeys, starting with a Tupelo honey-glazed roasted chicken tomorrow.

(BTW: today, I noticed that Heidi has a post on tasting New Zealand honeys that sound incredibly tempting as well! Particularly her suggestion of chilled honey on ciabatta with some drizzled melted butter. mmm.)

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  • Andrew

    Glad you are enjoying the honey and do I spot a certain odd little spoon too! :-)

  • Ashwini

    Goodness I cant wait for your posts Lara…I keep learning so much about food from your blog – the masutake mushroom now the honey…its all inspiring.
    Keep up the great work and a Happy New Year to you.

  • peabody

    Imagine that…sitiing in traffic on the way back form the U Village :)
    Enjoy your honey…I hope you post about the semifredo.

  • Debra

    I have wanted to order some Tupelo honey since seeing “Ulee’s Gold” back in ’97. (a must NetFlix movie for this week, if you’re cooking with honey). Haven’t actually done it, but you’re inspiring me to get off the mark and do so.

  • Tanna

    Thanks so much for the tasteing. Now, I’d like to try the Tupelo honey. I think I’m going to have to try Whole Foods or Central Market, I know they both carry a bunch of different honey. And I’ve even got a recipe I want to play with.

  • Yvo

    Wow, that sounds divine but the thing that drives me batty is the pictures. I know you’re using a pro camera and it makes me despise my auto-focus Canon (SD550- which supposedly, when I did the research on it, has a lot more features to fiddle with than most other P&S’s, hah!) even more than I am starting to when I try to focus on different parts of the picture. Absolutely gorgeous. I LOVE it.

  • L

    Thanks Andrew! Yes, I am definitely enjoying both the honey and the lovely spoon!

    Thanks Ashwini! Happy New Year to you too!

    Peabody – We’ll see on the semi freddo. I can’t decide between that or the panna cotta. And, there is only so much dessert one can eat in a week! Thanks for the comment!

    Debra – I am really enjoying mine, although I do wish it were easier to find in stores rather than having shipping costs. I think it’s worth it, but better if you have a group of friends and you can order a larger amount to split the overhead. Thanks for your comment!

    Tanna – I haven’t seen Tupelo honey in the stores anywhere… but if you do find some, let me know where.

    Thanks YVO… yes, an SLR (I use the Canon 20D) is much easier to control focus on than a P&S. I have a little Panasonic that has a Leica lens that is quite good and even takes about the same res photos as my SLR… but it’s so hard to give up the control! Thanks so much for your kind words!

  • clifford weiner

    Have you ever tried the Italian honey from the brand Seggiano? Most delicious I have ever got, various flavors and flowers. Recently we tried out a honey ice cream, first with a chestnut honey but it was to strong in flavor, then with a wildflower, ecstatic! must try.

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  • Tupelo Honey

    I really enjoy tasting all types of honey and really enjoyed this article. I have conducted taste tests with my kids where we open several different jars to see who likes “which honey the best”. But, of course, here in North Florida, Tupelo is always at the top of the list.