“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh, what’s the first thing you say to yourself?” asked Piglet.
“‘What’s for breakfast,’ ” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, ‘I wonder what exciting thing is going to happen today?’ ”
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.
Pooh had it down. He was ahead of the curve. Honey truly is a versatile, savory, sweet, and delightful food. Its flavors are more complex than cane sugar, drawing from the infinite number of specific flower nectar available. It carries natural enzymes for digestion, its thick stickiness coats our throats in flu & cold season. Rub a layer into your pork and chicken for a comprehensive absorption of the spices and herbs you pat onto them. Scientists have estimated one of every three bites of food we take is dependent on bees doing that pollinating thing, thus any practice of preserving and encouraging bee life is on fleek. In 2011, NYC Honey Week brought local bee keepers out of the boroughs and has grown stronger annually. New Yorkers have just begun to catch on, post the fried chicken/bacon/comfort food explosion of 2015, which naturally incorporated honey into many menus.
Where are we seeing honey now, late 2016? In skin care, pizza, and alcohol.
When we say versatile, we mean versatile. Red Bee, an Italian single-origin honey producer who compares honey flavor notes to that of wine, also has a line of skin care products which use beeswax. Foot rub, lip balm, body oil, and face scrubs, all sustainably produced.
In Upstate New York we have Farmacy, a local and similarly mission-driven skin care company, who's beauty products are all paraben free and instead use the natural amino acids and humectant properties of honey for ultra healing skin potions. From the hive, propolis (or bee glue, if you like) is added to their products as a healing antiseptic (like for cold sores, and those other issues you don't have.) Winter is coming, stock up! Or, visit one of NYC's local apiaries for supplies and make your own nourishing balm.
Mike’s Hot Honey is a favorite of New York’s artisan pizza places as a chili heat infused savory-sweet topping to your pie. Inspired by the hot honey of Brazil, It first appeared at Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in 2010, and has since shown up in Barboncino, Rosco’s, Pizza a Casa, and L’Inzio – though it’s reach is much greater than Brooklyn and is a nationally circulated product. Delicious, simply delicious.
On any given Saturday you can take the train out to Poughkeepsie to visit the farm stand of Plan Bee Farm Brewery to taste a variety of truly locally crafted beers. All ingredients poured into your cup are sourced from New York - The brewery’s property is host to six bee hives which produce the yeast for the beer, which is cultivated from the honey combs. Hops and flowers are grown in the farm’s fields as well.
Gluten free? There is a Vermont based Meadery that's got you covered. Mead is literally alcohol made from fermented honey and water, and until recently we haven't seen hide nor hair of it since the days of Aristotle. It is the oldest alcoholic libation of European, American, and African nations. Humblebee Meadery currently features two canned, sparkling meads. the Bees Knees, which we take to be the standard, and The Champion of the Sun, with notes of saffron and orange.
Beer seems like a natural hiding spot for honey, but we also see it in as the title ingredient of Caledonia Spirit's Barr Hill label. While hipsters might prefer the "bathtub gin" namesake offered in the prohibition age, but those of us with more refined palates appreciate attention to flavor profile. Barr Hill, located in Vermont, describe themselves as bee keepers and farmers. On their gin: "The gin is a celebration of our special connection to the land. We use pure grain spirits as a canvas to showcase juniper berry and raw northern honey. Added just before bottling, the raw honey imparts unique floral qualities that vary with season and blossom." On their vodka: "Our relationship with the land and honey bees inspired and gave birth to this vodka. The soul of a beekeeper is filled with the rhythms that flow through the seasons, reflecting the changes in the flowers, rains, sun and all the forces that are a part of this beautiful mystery." Agreed.
Vermont is just all over this honey trend. Meet Katrina Coravos, founder of Liberty Chocolates, an all-American, liberty loving woman who uses fair trade Peruvian cacoa beans and Vermont-local honey, and hopes her brand will show people the benefits of being a collaborative member of your local community - just like a bee. Honey is an unconventional sweetener for chocolate - it has been a long held belief by chocolate chemists that the flavor and sugar does not hold in the process of making chocolate. Coravos was undeterred, and after some unconventional experimentation, Liberty Chocolates sweetened with 100% honey was born. Her attachment to honey comes from many places, intellectual and emotional. "When I think of the Queen Bee," she writes on her page, "I think of absolute sovereignty. The Queen Bee is in service to her hive, and her hive is in service to her. Each bee has their purpose, and their role in the hive. They work collectively together to create in the end, absolute blissful nectar. I believe that each of us has a Queen Bee inside of us, a part of ourselves that knows what he/she wants to create. And in the end, with support from the community and hard purposeful work it is bliss that is found."
Let's not forget fruit preserves. On the back of New York's obsession with all things pickled comes something sweeter. V Smiley Preserves, also from Vermont, is a jamming and pickling farm that only uses honey - no other sugar to be found. Why? "I make jam with honey because I love its taste." Says V Smiley (her company gets it's name from V herself), "Honey is under-represented in preserves. In cookbooks, we read that honey disrupts jam’s clarity of flavor or that honey is a flavor usable like a spice. Here’s the thing. Sugar has a taste too, but it’s a taste we’re very used to and tend not notice as a flavor anymore. Honey is a powerful preservative and sweetener that comes from near-by and is intrinsically linked to the fruit-growing process. Conceptually, I like that as a pollinator the honeybee provides everything we need to make fruit preserves. " We like that V Smiley is also working expand the farm into an agricultural hub with seed-saving, arts, education, dining and events.
Now that you've been immersed in the buzz, you need to share it. This little box of honey chocolate bees might be the cutest way to do so. So cute you could crush their little heads with your teeth. Mother's Day is not exactly around the corner, but I'm telling you - bookmark this page. John and Kira's chocolates, like many of the companies featured here, has it's own charming history of love, locality, and living artfully. These three things seem to go hand-in-hand with honey and it's place in the American food industry idealism of 2016.
said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think.
Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment
just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he
didn't know what it was called.
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
You said it, Pooh. Here's a twist on an old seasonal favorite, if you're picking up on this feeling:
CARMELIZED BRUSSEL SPROUTS WITH CITRUS
1 lb brussels sprouts, yellowish outer leaves removed
2 ounces pancetta, diced
1 tbl olive oil
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper - add more if you're into it
1 tbl honey (clover honey is great)
1/2 of an orange or grapefruit, fresh squeezed juice
kosher salt, cracked black pepper to taste
Wash brussels sprouts and cut into halves stem to tip. In a shallow pan heat the olive oil and pancetta until the fat has rendered out and the pancetta is crispy. Drain pancetta on a paper towel and add the Brussels sprouts to the pan and brown on all sides turning frequently so they do not burn. Once sprouts are tender, add the honey, citrus, and cayenne, and toss to cover the sprouts. Add the pancetta and season with cracked black pepper and kosher salt to taste.