Culturing with Honey

Culturing with Honey

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?

Sarah

Sarah

I live in Oregon with my 4 kids. I hop between my kitchen and sewing room. As the daughter of a ranch-girl turned County Extension Agent, I really believe that with enough ingenuity and know-how, anything can be made. I try to keep some cultured vegetables and condiments on hand, as well as a robust supply of yogurt. What really excites me though is finding old ways of culturing foods from around the world and making it work in my life. “I wonder” is a phrase I utter a lot, and can make my kids nervous! I love to learn and share what I’ve discovered.

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Chewy Sourdough Italian Bread

dreamstime_s_28711426

Working with sourdough makes many things possible as a home baker. For one, you get that delicious depth of flavor provided by sourdough that simply cannot be mimicked with commercial yeast. This stems from a longer fermentation and the complex nature of a sourdough starter which holds not only yeast but bacteria and acids as well.

The other perk of sourdough is that it is not as volatile as commercial yeast. This buys me time in the kitchen. With a commercial yeast bread I might only have a couple of hours between mixing the bread and baking. This can create a high-pressure situation in which I must be very attentive and available during this small window of time for punching down and shaping and baking.

Sourdough, on the other hand, gives me a larger window of time between the mixing and shaping stages and the final proof and baking. This is a real blessing to the busy home baker. You can plan these 4-12 hour stretches around other meals, time away from home, and sleeping patterns. And if that isn’t handy enough, use Erin’s tip for delayed fermentation in the refrigerator to buy you even more time.

If that isn’t reason enough to work with sourdough, maybe this chewy, crusty-bottomed Italian bread will help.

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Shannon

Shannon is a mama to four small children, homesteader, freelance writer, and picture-taker. She lives with her husband on their off-grid homestead where they make and eat kefir, kombucha, sourdough, and fermented vegetables.

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I realize it’s May, and I am just now digging up some notes for a blog post cultured up in September of 2014. I finally found the time in the fall to try out Sarah’s summer pizza recipe, as it sounded so good that I had to do it when I had the chance. Now that things are warming up outside again, why not revisit and finally post about it? Maybe it will inspire you!… 

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Jerri

Jerri

Jerri is a wife and mama. Her culturing adventures began several years ago with other moms who were seeking a healthy way of feeding our families. Together they dabbled in milk kefir, yogurt, sourdough, kombucha and sauerkraut. In the past year she's expanded from sauerkraut to other vegetables, and has grown a passion for water kefir!

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Sourdough Irish Soda Bread

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I’ve tried to get back to my cultural roots since becoming a mom, and found that using fermented and cultured food is a great way to show my children what our ancestors ate back in “the old country”. It’s rewarding to know that I can pass down a piece of my family’s history that my girls can one day teach their children.

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Stephanie

Stephanie

I've been a pastry chef and a cook for the majority of my adult life, so working for Cultures for Health is a natural fit! I’ve worked with fermenting personally and professionally. Some of my favorite cultured foods are sauerkraut, mead, mascarpone cheese, and pickled ramps. Since my step-daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in April 2014, I’ve strived to introduce healthy eating habits for my whole family. We do everything from gardening to teaching our children the joys of cooking and creativity. I’m a wife and mother of two wonderful daughters. I come from a large farming family and enjoy instilling old fashion values and fun in my children’s lives. In my spare time I enjoy baking extravagant cakes, cooking, painting, crocheting, knitting, gardening, and quilting. I believe it’s important to pass on passions and talents like these to the next generation, just as my mother and grandmothers did for me.

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