A jar of honey, the product of an age-old dance between bees and flowers, is truly a gift of nature. You can further enhance the flavor of honey with fresh herbs, flowers, spices and citrus — keep reading to learn how and to see unique combinations of ingredients.
All sorts of flavors, from floral to piquant, complement honey’s earthy sweetness. Try fresh herbs such as lavender, mint, rosemary, thyme or lemon verbena; organic rose petals; grated citrus zest; peeled and chopped fresh ginger; spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice, star anise or cardamom; or add heat with red pepper flakes or a sliced fresh chile.
Lavender: For 1 cup honey, add 6 to 8 fresh organic lavender sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers. For added flavor, place a few small lavender sprigs in the jar.
Lemon Verbena: For 1 cup honey, add 18 to 20 fresh lemon verbena leaves and 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest. For added flavor, place a few lemon zest strips and a few small lemon verbena leaves in the jar.
Rose-Lemon Thyme: For 1 cup honey, add 20 to 25 fresh organic rose petals and 6 to 8 fresh lemon thyme sprigs. For added flavor, place a handful of rose petals and a few lemon thyme sprigs in the jar.
Rinse and dry your flavoring ingredients (see above). Combine the honey and flavorings in the top pan of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl. Set over (not touching) simmering water and clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the honey reaches 185 degrees F on the thermometer. Simmer at 185 degrees F for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the honey from scorching. Remove from the heat and let stand for at least 10 minutes or up to 2 hours. Have ready a hot, serilized jar and its lid. For added flavor, place fresh flavoring ingredients in the jar before adding the honey. Reheat the honey over low heat until warm and strain into the jar. Seal the jar tightly. Store at room temperature for up to 1 year.
Top wedges of a sheep’s milk cheese such as Manchego with a drizzle of lavender-flavored honey; add apple slices or figs and Marcona almonds to round out the cheese plate. Make an Asian-inspired salad dressing with ginger-flavored honey, lime juice, rice vinegar, soy sauce and Asian sesame oil. Stir lemon-flavored honey into a cup of hot water, and add a splash of brandy and a squeeze of lemon juice for a hot toddy.