Honey is wonderful, golden nectar. It can be stored indefinitely. It is full of vitamins, minerals, and local pollen. The flavor complements a wide range of foods and has been used for everything from beverages to skin care.
One common belief about honey is that it is antimicrobial. While plain honey does not spoil, that may largely be due to the balance of sugar and humidity. When combined with other ingredients, honey ferments beautifully and can be a wonderful addition to your fermented foods.
Since honey is a natural sugar that requires no refining to enjoy, it is the base of perhaps the very first wines. Mead is made simply from honey, water and yeast. For those of you who have been enjoying fermenting at home for long, you probably know that yeasts are everywhere! I promise to write more about mead later. For now, let’s talk about some of the ways you can use honey in ferments already brewing in your kitchen.
Yogurt: Honey is our family go-to sweetener for yogurt. There is something soothing about the flavor and meditative about stirring it in. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon for the perfect, simple snack.
Sourdough: I nearly always add honey to my baking. A tablespoon or so of honey in a loaf of bread improves the flavor, speeds up the rise time (but only a little) and creates a golden-brown crust. My favorite part about adding honey to my bread? It’s a natural humectant. That means it pulls water to the bread. Instead of my bread drying out, it stays moist for days. This is even more helpful in gluten free breads.
Water kefir: Making up a batch of water kefir with honey is quite a treat. The honey doesn’t kill the grains due to antimicrobial action, though it will eventually kill the grains. The real reason is two-fold: Honey is fructose and water kefir grains must have glucose. It’s also high in minerals. While water kefir does need minerals, too many will turn the grains to a slimey, sad mush. Make sure to use very active grains, and ones that can be spared. They don’t always recover after fermenting honey.
Sour cream or soft cheese: For an elegant, simple dessert that will amaze your lucky guests whip sour cream or a soft cheese (ricotta or marscapone work well) with just enough honey to sweeten. Fold in fresh berries and serve in small dishes. Yes, of course I licked my dish when no one was looking!
Kombucha: Jun has become quite popular and we are often asked if we carry it. Sadly, it’s a tough culture to grow, but you can replicate it at home. Use an extra scoby (remember the warning about the water kefir?) and follow the directions for making kombucha with the following adjustments: Use green tea and ¼ less honey than sugar called for. So if you are making 1 gallon, use ¾ cups honey in place of the sugar. The green tea and honey mixture will ferment much faster than kombucha, so watch it closely, especially in warm weather. You can reuse the scoby as long as it looks healthy, stays firm, and there are no signs of mold or decay.
I’m sure there are as many ways to use honey in ferments as there are ferments. How do you use honey?