I’ve always associated honey with Winnie the Pooh, thanks to the good ole cartoon classic from my childhood. So the other night, as I was strolling through the aisles of Whole Foods gathering up ingredients, I came across a wide variety of honey. I had to stop and stare for a moment; I didn’t know there were so many varieties. I was just looking for the plastic bear bottle. This got me thinking, why honey over sugar; and is there an actual difference in the types of honey?
We all know that honey is produced by those little hard working honey bees and is a great sugar substitute. I actually prefer honey in my coffee over sugar; and with less than 100 calories per 1 oz of honey, in my mind that serves as a great sweetener. And honey is purportedly supposed to be a great antioxidant and have lots of antimicrobial agents. Did you know that honey comes in a range of colors including white, amber, red, brown and almost black; the darker the color, the more intense the flavor. Most commonly available honeys are made from clover, alfalfa, heather and acacia flowers. The 4 categories of honey are comb honey, direct from the hive in the honey filled beeswax comb; liquid honey, prepared by whirling the comb in a honey extractor and using centrifugal force to move the honey out of the cells; creamed honey, which is a mixture of granulated honey and liquid honey; and finally chunk honey, a honeycomb in a jar with liquid honey poured around it.
So what are those different honey types found on the store shelves?
Raw Honey – Honey is usually pasteurized, but visit any farmer’s market and you’ll be able to find raw honey in all its glory. Raw honey will not have gone through the pasteurization process, and it hasn’t been clarified or filtered; it’s as organic and pure as you can get.
Clover Honey – This honey has a milder taste and is what is most commonly found. Depending on the location and type of clover, this honey can range in color from white to light amber.
Honeydew Honey – This honey is produced from the sweet excretions of insects, known as honeydew.
Most commonly found honey are either filtered or strained. Filtering is the process to remove all fine particles, pollen, air bubbles and other materials from the honey. A little different process, straining will remove most particles from the honey, but grains of pollen, air bubbles and very fine particles won’t be removed. One of the last categorizations of honey is grade; most honey will either be grade A, B or C. As a general rule of thumb, anything below a grade C is substandard and should be avoided. The grading system measures the moisture content, absence of defects, flavor & aroma and clarity. Grade A and B are both free from caramelization, chemicals and fermentation, with grade A being the higher rating. Grade C scores a little lower in flavor and aroma, clarity and absence of defects.
So what did I pick up from the shelf at Whole Foods, Grade A filtered amber honey, and now I know what that means!