bees, honey and other sticky subjects

Friday, October 08, 2004

Winter sweeteners

Winter is coming and I must be becoming hyperphagic. I've been given some really interesting honeys lately and I've gone out and bought some more. I wish I had the language to express their flavours.

First to arrive was a Dorset (UK) ling heather honey bought at a local fair (in Thomas Hardy country). It wasn't pure ling (and so wasn't thixotropic, a gel), but the flavour was fantastic. It's very strong and almost has a bitter taste with its sweetness. And the aroma -- that nearly pervades the kitchen when the jar it is opened.

Then came an early season honey from Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA. Beautifully clear in the biggest honey jars I've ever seen, it has a surprisingly strong taste, healthy viscosity with a confectionery overtone I'm still trying to place.

And last weekend, three honeys were brought back from a stall by the Spanish Steps in Rome. A wonderful mountain honey, one of the tastiest traditional honey blends I've had in a very long time. There was also a very pale honey with a beautiful texture and delicate flavour -- unfortunately the label fell off and I can't remember the nectar source. And then there was a sweet chestnut honey. Ugh! It's one of the very few honeys that I have ever found unpleasant (along with buckwheat and ivy). Perhaps it's an acquired taste.

Yesterday, I was in Waitrose, one of the UK's posher supermarkets, and was very impressed at their range of honeys -- all good value. I chose Romanian coriander (“a hint of citrus” -- I'm not sure I'd agree with that) and Scottish heather (bell heather, I suspect) honey (“a rich burnt caramel flavour” -- that's for sure) from the well-advertised Murray McGregor.

What we need is a good handbook on honey flavours ...


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