Sweet as Honey

By Eileen Goltz

Honey has always been an integral part of Judaism.  First and foremost, there’s its integration into the meals of Rosh Hashanah and the rest of the High Holidays.  Anyone who doesn’t dip challah in honey or overindulge in apples and honey really hasn’t gotten into the spirit of the Days of Awe.  We use it to symbolize our hope for happiness and for a sweet new year.  We also can’t forget that Israel has always been referred to as the Land of Milk and Honey.  Honey is definitely here to stay, but how much do we actually know about its whys and wherefores?

Most of us know honey as a sweet, golden liquid.  But, in fact, honey can be found in a variety of forms.  There’s liquid honey that is free of visible crystals.  Liquid honey is extracted from the honeycomb by centrifugal force, gravity or straining.  While all honey will crystallize in time, creme honey (also known as spun honey, sugared honey or whipped honey) is sold in a crystallized state.  The crystallization is controlled so that, at room temperature, the honey can be spread like butter.  In many homes around the world, creme honey is preferred to the liquid form.  Finally there is comb honey.  This is honey that comes as it was produced — in the honeybees’ wax comb.  The comb, as well as the honey, is edible.

Cooking with honey is something that everyone should try — not just because we’re supposed to incorporate honey into our lives at certain specific times of the year, but because honey is really good for us.  Because of its high fructose content, honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar.  This means you can use less honey than sugar to achieve the sweetness you desire.  This translates into less calories.

To substitute honey for sugar in recipes, start by substituting up to half of the sugar required.  With a little experimentation, honey can replace all the sugar in some recipes.

When baking with honey, remember the following:

*Reduce any liquid called for by 1/4 c. for each cup of honey used.

*Add 1/2 t. baking soda for each cup of honey used.

*Reduce oven temperature by 25°F to prevent over-browning.

*When measuring honey, coat the measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil before adding the honey.  The honey will slide right out.

*Always store honey at room temperature; never in the refrigerator.  If your honey becomes cloudy, don’t worry.  It’s just crystallization, a natural process.  Place your honey jar in warm water until the crystals disappear.  If you’re in a hurry, place it in a microwave-safe container and heat it in the microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds.  Remember, never boil or scorch honey.

One final note:  honey should not be fed to infants under one year of age.

This year, let honey lend its sweetness of tradition to some not-so-traditional recipes.  Once you’ve set such a sweet precedent for the New Year you’ll want to use these honey recipes all year round.

HONEY LIME SALMON

3 T. honey

1 t. ground cumin

1 t. ground coriander

3/4 t. salt

3/4 t. freshly grated lime peel

1/4 t. coarsely ground black pepper

1 t. very hot water

4 pieces salmon fillet, 3/4 inch thick (about 6 ounces each), skin removed

3 T. chopped fresh cilantro leaves

lime wedges

In a cup, mix honey, cumin, coriander, salt, lime peel, pepper and 1 t. of very hot water until blended.  With tweezers, remove any bones from salmon.  With hands, rub honey-spice mixture all over salmon.  Place salmon on grill over medium heat and cook ten minutes, or just until salmon turns opaque throughout and flakes easily when tested with a fork.  Turn salmon over once with wide metal spatula.  You can pan fry the salmon if you don’t want to use the grill.  Sprinkle salmon with cilantro leaves and serve with lime wedges.  Serves 4.  This can be doubled or tripled.  This is wonderful served with cole slaw.

CINNAMON HONEY CHICKEN

Marinade:

1 1/2 c. dry sherry (or white zinfandel)

2 T. cinnamon

1 c. honey

1/3 c. lime juice

Zest of one lime

2 large cloves of garlic, crushed (or to taste)

Salt and pepper, to taste

Three 3 lb. chickens, cut into eighths

In a bowl, mix together all marinade ingredients.  Arrange chicken pieces in a single layer in a shallow, non-aluminum, oven-proof pan (or use a zip-lock bag and then transfer before cooking).  Refrigerate overnight, turning pieces occasionally.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place the chicken in a baking pan and bake chicken uncovered 40-50 minutes, turning once or twice.  Or bake for a shorter time and then broil until done for crispy skin.  Serves 6.  This can be doubled or tripled.

CHOCOLATE DIPPED HONEY COOKIES

3 eggs

1 c. sugar

1/3 c. butter or margarine, melted

1 c. honey

4 c. flour

1/2 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 t. cinnamon

8 oz. pkg. semisweet chocolate, melted

In a mixing bowl beat the eggs until they are light in color.  Mix in the sugar.  Next add the butter and honey and blend well.  Add flour, soda, salt and cinnamon and mix well.  Drop by teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheets.  Bake at 350°F for 13-15 minutes or until brown around the edges.  Do not overcook.  Let the cookies cool and then dip half of cookie in melted chocolate; place the dipped cookie on waxed paper and then refrigerate.  6 to 7 dozen cookies.

FRESH FRUIT SALAD WITH HONEY RUM DRESSING

Dressing:

1 T. chopped crystallized ginger

1/2 c. unsweetened orange juice

2 T. honey

1/2 t. rum extract

Fruit:

2 c. halved strawberries

2 kiwifruit, peeled and sliced

1 papaya, peeled and sliced

In a small saucepan, combine all the dressing ingredients.  Heat just to boiling and then remove from heat.  Cool to room temperature.

In medium bowl, combine the fruit.  Pour dressing over fruit mixture; toss lightly.  Refrigerate one hour to blend flavors, tossing occasionally.

Note:  You can add melons, grapes, peaches, apricots, or whatever is in season, or change the fruit mix.  Rum:  If you like the “real thing.”  This recipe can be modified, through trial and error, using regular rum.  I would try the light rum and not the dark.  Serves 6.  This can be doubled or tripled.

HONEY MUSTARD MAYONNAISE

3/4 c. mayonnaise

1/2 c. honey

2 T. Dijon-style mustard

1 t. prepared mustard

In a bowl combine all the ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Makes 1 cup.

HONEY COCOA DIP:

Combine 1 c. non-fat sour cream, 1/2 c. each honey and unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1 t. vanilla extract.  Cover mixture and refrigerate.  Serve as a dip with fruit and chunks of angel food cake.

CHERRY CHAMPAGNE SAUCE:

Reserve 1/4 c. liquid from 1 can (16 oz.) of tart red cherries.  Puree cherries in blender; add reserved liquid and 1/4 c. honey.  In large saucepan, bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half.  Cool; stir in 1/4 c. chilled champagne.  Serve over custard, sliced fruit or ice cream.

© Eileen Goltz 1999

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This article was featured in the Fall 1999 issue of Jewish Action.
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