When I first started beekeeping I never thought I would say “what do I do with all of this honey?!?” Having too much honey isn’t a problem that most of us are having in Wisconsin this year. A cold summer and wet fall lead to a smaller fall crop for a lot of beekeepers. However five years ago I had quite the bumper crop.
The perfect condition of great weather and strong hives made for my most productive year ever. The two hives in my backyard produced over 12 gallons apiece. I was fairly new to beekeeping, and this was more honey than I ever dreamed of. The holidays came and went, and all of my relatives had received their quart jar of honey. There was still a lot of honey left.
It filled every half-gallon, quart, and pint jar in the house. Our basement storage area was full of jars of honey. I hadn’t started my business yet, so I wasn’t prepared to sell it. So what did I do with it? Here are some of the best uses of honey (besides eating it) that I’ve come up with over and after the holidays.
The best know use for large quantities of honey is mead. Mead is honey wine, and is probably best known from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Viking drinking halls. It’s also arguably our oldest alcoholic beverage. The term honeymoon even comes from the drinking of mead.
Mead simply is honey, water, and yeast. The beauty of mead is that there is so much you can do with it. You can add fruit, grapes, apples, spices, herbs, flowers, and even malt. Each of these combinations has its own name: melomel, pyment, cyser, metheglin, rhodomel, and braggot. One of the best mead making books I have come across is ‘The Complete Mead Maker’ by Ken Schramm.
The amount of honey one uses for mead can vary, but it’s usually about 1 to 1-1/2 gallons of honey for a single batch of mead. This yields around 20-24 wine bottles, or 40-48 beer sized bottles. Mead is fairly easy to make, however it’s one drawback is that it can take a while to be ready to drink. 6-12 months is typical of most meads. Fortunately they will last 5-10 years, so making a couple batches of mead can use up a great deal of honey and make holiday gifts for years to come.
My kids favorite use of honey is when we make candy. My wife makes honey caramels and honey roasted almonds, and I make marshmallows with honey every holiday. I would recommend a candy thermometer and a stand up mixer for the marshmallows. These are great recipes that make great gifts.
Honey Roasted Almonds
- 2 cups almonds
- 2 tbs sugar
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tbs water
- 1 tbs oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
Roast the almonds at 350 degrees for 10-15 min on a baking sheet. Stir every 5 minutes.
In a cast iron pan on medium mix the other ingredients. Heat the mixture until the syrup boils.
Add hot almonds to the pan and stir until covered in the syrup mixture.
Cook on med/low heat stirring frequently until syrup has lightly caramelized.
If you want the caramel to be darker and smokier, turn up heat to medium high. Remove and toss almonds in bowl of table sugar.
Place on wax paper to cool. Shake off excess sugar when cool.
from Puerto Rican Cookbook by Elizabeth B.K. Dooley
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
Line an 8 × 8 pan with aluminum foil, letting the edges of the foil hang over the side of the pan, and spray generously with cooking spray or butter.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan.
Add the honey, sugar, and heavy cream. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has mostly dissolved. Turn the heat to medium low.
Clip your candy thermometer onto the side of the pan…carefully.
Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches firm ball stage, which you can determine by when the mixture reaches 248º F (give or take a degree or two) on a candy thermometer (it will be marked with “FB” or “firm ball”).
Immediately remove from the heat, quickly stir in the vanilla (it will bubble slightly) and pour the mixture into your greased pan.
Sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool, lift out of the pan using the foil, then cut into squares with a pizza cutter and wrap in squares of parchment paper or cellophane.
- 2/3 cup water, divided
- 3 envelopes of unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup honey
- pinch salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 cups confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Grease a 8x pan with oil and coat with confectioner’s sugar.
In the bowl of a standup mixer, pour in 1/3 cup water and sprinkle in the 3 packets of gelatin. Let stand for 10 minutes.
In a small pot, combine the other 1/3 cup water, sugar, honey and salt. Clip a candy thermometer to the pot.
Cook without stirring, let the mixture reach soft ball, 240º F then remove from heat.
Turn the mixer on low and pour over the gelatin in the mixer bowl.
Increase the speed to high and add the vanilla.
Beat for 10 minutes. It should be very stiff and sticky.
Spread the mixture in your pan with a wet or oiled spatula. Use wet hands to press and flatten the marshmallow into the pan.
Let it cool for an hour until firm.
Then sift more confectioner’s sugar over the pan. Loosen the marshmallow with a wet knife and put it on a cutting board dusted with more confectioner’s sugar.
Cut into as large or as small pieces as you like. Toss each marshmallow in a bowl of confectioner’s sugar to keep them sticking to each other.
These marshmallows make the best hot chocolate ever.
I hope you had a good year beekeeping, and I hope you find interesting things to do with your honey. Have a great holiday season and a great New Year.
Nathan Clarke is owner of Mad Urban Bees, an urban apiary in Madison, WI. Check out Urban Honey gift packs on his website: www.madurbanbees.com.