A Sweet New Year: A Honey Primer

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A Sweet New Year: A Honey Primer
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A Sweet New Year: A Honey Primer

Honey is an ancient ingredient in Jewish New Year celebrations. In the following excerpt from her book, Jewish Holiday Style, author Rita Milos Brownstein explains the basics.

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Honey Basics

Learn why honey is kosher, how to handle honey and how it gets its flavor.

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Why Honey is Kosher

Stump your kosher-conversant friends with the fact that honey is the only kosher food that comes from a nonkosher animal. The reason for this? The bee is concentrating flower nectar into honey for the hive—honey is not a product of the bee's body. [However, note that some unfiltered varieties of honey are not kosher due to small amounts of other materials present. If this is of concern to you, consult a religious authority for more information.]

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How to Handle Honey

Temperature is very important. The delicate bouquet and fine flavor of honey are vulnerable to heat and improper storage. Excessive heat should be avoided—the damaging effects of heat on honeys can produce an "off" flavor. Store at room temperature out of direct sunlight, or the liquid honey will become granulated. If this happens, simply microwave for two or three minutes, stirring every thirty seconds or so, until the honey is smooth again, good as new.

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How Honey Gets Its Flavor

The tastes of honey are heady, complex, and varied. Gourmet shops, natural-food stores, and farmer's markets in recent years have begun to offer dozens of honeys that vary in flavor and texture from sunny and light to dark, dense, and rich, some even with hues of red and green. The differences in taste, texture, and color depend on the kind of nectar the bees have been collecting, and there are as many subtle flavors of honey as there are plant nectar sources. (A little nature trivia with which to dazzle your guests: Did you know that the bee must tap the nectar of two million flowers to produce one pound of honey?)

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Honey Types

Learn the difference between clover honey, orange blossom honey and other major varieties of honey.

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Alfalfa Honey

This comes from Canada and the United States. Mild and light, alfalfa honey is one of the most commonly sold commercial varieties.

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Black Locust Honey

Strong, aromatic, and very bright yellow in color, this honey comes from the black locust plant.

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Clover Honey

This is one of the most commercially popular of all honeys. With a mild taste and a brandy coloring, it comes from the red, white, and sweet yellow clover vetches, or tiny blossoms.

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Dandelion Honey

Strong, aromatic, and bright yellow in color, this honey comes from the basic backyard dandelion plant.

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Eucalyptus Honey

A strongly flavored, robust honey that comes from the Eucalyptus tree, an Australian import. This honey is produced mostly in California and the South.

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Orange Blossom Honey

This honey is found everywhere, with a mild taste and golden color. Many of these honeys come from the nectars of tropical citrus trees, including orange, grapefruit, and tangerine, and most of these honeys are produced in Texas, Florida, and California.

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Honey is an ancient ingredient in Jewish New Year celebrations; a lovely culinary symbol of the sweet year ahead. So this holiday season, why not give it center stage by serving several interesting varieties for your guests to taste? In the following excerpt from her book, Jewish Holiday Style, author Rita Milos Brownstein explains the basics. We've also added a brief primer on different types of honey.

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