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Honey is a unique natural sweetener that besides being sweet it is also rich in nutrients including vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Honey contributes many unique qualities to the foods we eat. There are approximately 300 varieties of honey in the United States and no two are exactly the same. Depending on the floral blossoms the bees visit when collecting their nectar, the flavor of the honey will vary, along with the color of the honey. In general, the lighter-colored honeys such as those from clover will have a milder flavor and the darker-colored honeys will have a bolder taste. Some producers will mix the honey from different sources to achieve a better flavor. 

Honey can be used in a variety of ways. Try adding a little honey to salad dressings, smoothies, mustard, soups, glazes, side dishes or baked goods. When using honey in baked goods, it is best to use a recipe that has been developed for honey. However if you would like to substitute honey for sugar when baking, it can be substituted for up to one-half the sugar, and with some experimentation, you may be able to substitute it for all the sugar. 

Reduce the liquid in the recipe by ¼ cup for each cup of honey used and add ½ teaspoon baking soda for each cup of honey used. Also reduce oven temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning. Honey has more sweetening power than sugar, so it will take less to sweeten your recipe.  Store honey at room temperature since refrigeration will speed up crystallization. When stored properly, it will keep almost indefinitely. 

If honey does crystallize, simply place the honey jar in warm water and stir until the crystals dissolve. It can also be heated in the microwave to dissolve the crystals. Be careful not to boil or scorch the honey.

There are many honey producers in Montana— in fact Montana is the nations’ second leading producer of honey, coming in just behind North Dakota.  Honey also ranks as Montana’s 10th most valuable crop. Find a local producer in your area and also look for them at your Farmer’s Market.

Honey provides a wonderful flavor to this barbecue sauce, and the honey’s sugar will caramelize under high heat and give these spareribs a golden glow.

“Barbecue” spareribs 

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients:

  • 4 pounds spareribs
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1½ cups ketchup
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons thick steak sauce
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Directions:

Cut spareribs into serving portions. Place spareribs in a large pot or deep skillet; add enough water to cover, plus 2 teaspoons salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Mix remaining ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain spareribs and place in a shallow baking pan. Pour honey sauce over ribs and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until fully cooked and tender, basting every 10 minutes with sauce. Turn ribs over halfway through cooking to coat all sides with sauce. 

Source: “Honey Recipes” from 1997 American Honey Queen and Honey Princess.       

Honey, horseradish and mustard combine to give a savory flavor to these beef pocket sandwiches.

Tangy roast beef pockets 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup prepared horseradish
  •  ¼ cup Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 large tube (1 lb. 1.3 oz.) refrigerator biscuit dough
  • 1 package (8 oz.) low-fat cream cheese
  • 1 pound deli-style roast beef, chopped coarsely (3 ½ to 4 cups)
  • 1 jar (4 oz.) sliced pimentos

Directions:

In medium bowl, mix honey, horseradish and mustard. Set aside. Divide dough into 8 biscuits. Roll each biscuit out to 1/8-inch thickness. On each of 4 biscuits, spread ¼ of cream cheese, stopping ½-inch from edge. Top each evenly with beef, pimentos and honey horseradish sauce. Moisten edge of biscuit with water. Top each with a remaining biscuit and seal edges together by pressing firmly with a fork. Prick top of each completed pocket a few times with fork. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Source:  “Swift & Savory” Honey Helps Make Delicious Dinners Easy, National Honey Board Pamphlet.

When used in baking, honey provides a sweet, smooth taste, but also absorbs and retains moisture. This helps keep baked goods from drying out and becoming stale. These scones with a hint of orange flavor are golden-colored and light in texture.

Honey currant scones

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2½ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter or margarine
  • ½ cup currants
  • ½ cup dairy sour cream (can use low-fat)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten

Directions:

Combine flour, orange peel, baking powder, soda and salt; mix well. Cut butter into flour mixture. Add currants. Combine sour cream, honey and egg; mix well. Stir honey mixture into dry mixture to form soft dough. Turn dough onto floured surface; knead 10 times. Shape dough into 8-inch square. Cut into 4 squares; cut each square diagonally into 2 triangles. Place on greased baking pan and bake at 375 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Source:  “Breads & Spreads”, National Honey Board Pamphlet.

Many flavors of honey butter can be created, but make a batch of this recipe to serve with the Honey Scones.

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Spiced honey butter

Makes about ¾ cup

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve with biscuits, breads, muffins or scones. 

Source:  “Breads & Spreads”, National Honey Board Pamphlet.

Try this recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies made with honey instead of the usual sugar. It may become your favorite.

Honey chocolate chippers

Makes 2 dozen

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (6-oz.)

Instructions:

In medium bowl, beat honey and butter until creamy but not fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla. In separate bowl combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into wet mixture until thoroughly blended. Mix in pecans and chocolate chips. Chill dough for 30 minutes. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten each cookie with a spoon. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops are dry. Cool on wire racks.

Source: “Good & Golden”, National Honey Board Pamphlet.

Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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