Honey Makes A Good Sugar Substitute
By Pamela Redwine
Honey has been used since ancient times both as a food and as a medicine. Apiculture, the practice of beekeeping to produce honey, dates back to at least 700 B.C. For many centuries, honey was regarded as sacred due to its wonderfully sweet properties as well as its rarity. It was used mainly in religious ceremonies to pay tribute to the gods, as well as to embalm the deceased. Honey was also used for variety of medicinal and cosmetic purposes. For a long time in history, its use in cooking was reserved only for the wealthy since it was so expensive that only they could afford it.
The prestige of honey continued for millennia until one fateful event in culinary and world history – the “discovery” of refined sugar made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Once these became more widely available, they were in great demand since they provided a relatively inexpensive form of sweetening. With their growing popularity, honey became displaced by sugar for culinary use. Since then, although honey is still used for sweetening, much of its use has become focused on its medicinal properties and its use in confectionary.
Availability and Types of honey
Honey is available throughout the year, however, it is an exceptional treat in the summer and fall when it has just been harvested and is at its freshest. Honey comes in a range of colors including white, amber, red, brown and almost black. Its flavor and texture vary with the type of flower nectar from which it was made. While the most commonly available honey are made from clover, alfalfa, heather and acacia flowers, honey can be made from a variety of different flowers, including thyme and lavender.
How to select and store honey
Honey is sold in individual containers or in bulk. It is usually pasteurized, although oftentimes at farmer’s markets you can find raw honey. Look for honey that states “100% pure.” Remember that the darer the color, the deeper the flavor.
Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor. This is a temperature-dependent process, making the shelf-life of honey difficult to define. For practical purposes, a shelf-life of two years is often stated. Properly processed, packaged and stored honey retains its quality for a long time. The recommended storage temperature for unprocessed honey is below 50°F (10°C).
The ideal temperature for both unprocessed and processed honey is below 32°F (0°C).
Cooler temperatures best preserve the aroma, flavor and color of unprocessed honey.
Tips for cooking with honey
If your honey has crystallized, placing the container in hot water for 15 minutes will help return it to its liquid state. Do not heat honey in the microwave as this alters its taste by increasing its hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) content. To prevent honey from sticking to measuring cups and spoons, use honey that is in its liquid form.
Honey makes a good replacement for sugar in most recipes. Since honey is sweeter than sugar, you need to use less, one-half to three-quarters of a cup for each cup of sugar. For each cup of sugar replaced, you should also reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by one-quarter of a cup. In addition, reduce the cooking temperature by 25°F since honey causes foods to brown more easily.
Do not feed honey – containing products or use honey as a flavoring for infants less than one year of age; honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores and toxins that can cause infant botulism, a life-threatening paralytic disease. Honey is safe for children older than 12 months and adults.
Recipe of the Week
Spiced Honey Carrots
1 package (16 ounces)
peeled baby carrots
1-1/4 cups boiling water
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tblsp 50% less fat
Grated peel and juice of
In covered saucepan, cook carrots in gently boiling water with cloves and cinnamon until just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes; drain well. Add honey, margarine, lemon peel and lemon juice, heat through. Makes 4 servings.