We have a lot of great honey in Alberta, particularly on the prairies — Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba account for almost 80 per cent of our national production, and bees provide vital pollination to farmers growing other crops as well.
At the market, we’re lucky to have access to jars of honey in a range of colours and clarities, in shades from pale gold to amber to deep mahogany. Generally speaking, the darker the colour, the stronger the flavour, which is ultimately determined by the flowers on which bees feed, like clover, alfalfa or manuka. Terroir, weather conditions, and even time of year can contribute to the nuances in the taste and texture of honey — if you’re tuned into it, you can choose your honey like you might pick a specific jar of jam to spread on your morning toast.
When you’re cooking or baking with it, the subtleties in honey will come through in simpler dishes like creme brûlée or buttery cakes that are unobscured by chocolate or other ingredients. Keep in mind honey is sweeter than sugar, so you won’t need as much of it. It’s also a liquid, which can throw a recipe off when used in place of dry sugar, and it has humectant properties, meaning it draws moisture from the air — both these factors make it better suited to cakes, muffins and other baked goods that have a naturally cakey texture. And because its primary sugar is fructose, honey also browns more quickly, so whatever it is you’re baking will turn golden earlier in its baking time than if it was made with sugar. Most honey is thick, clear and pourable, but creamed honey is more solid and opaque; if you need a liquid honey, warming will transform both creamed and crystallized back to its liquid state.
If you really love honey, here are a few things to do with it: make a batch of baklava, which puts honey on a pedestal; or pour it over oats, nuts and seeds to make a batch of granola. Or if you like things sweet and spicy, add chilies and pour it generously over fried chicken and waffles.
Check out Julie’s recipe for Baklava with Alberta Honey below, and her other recipes in the Fall Harvest Honey issue: Fried Chicken and Waffles with Hot Honey Butter, and Clumpy Honey Granola.