At Bee America, we are careful not to heat our honey as we want to preserve the enzymes and probiotics that make it a healthy food product. However, in medieval times, mead makers actually cooked honey in big iron cauldrons over an open fire pit. The honey would simmer and bubble for hours and eventually burn, which lent it the perfect flavor for creating Bochet, a mead made from burnt honey. Contemporary mead makers claim that Bochet tastes like a heady blend of toffee, chocolate and marshmallow flavors…not that medieval mead drinkers compared tasting notes on three flavors they had never even heard of, but I’m sure they enjoyed its taste nonetheless.
With a little bit of heat however, you can easily make caramelized honey, which is a wonderful treat, especially at this time of year. Caramelizing honey intensifies its taste, producing a richer, more golden honey with a nutty, sweet flavor. Caramelized honey is delicious as an ice cream topping or as a decadent drizzle over bananas or apples. It can also be mixed with peanut butter and spread over muffins or toast.
The trick to successfully caramelizing (and not burning) honey is to have a little patience and heat it slowly over a low flame. If you’ve ever cooked down a sugary syrup, it’s the same idea. All you need to begin is a heavy-bottom saucepan, a wooden spoon, lemon juice, water and honey. I prefer to use Tupelo honey as its rich, sweet taste forms the perfect backdrop for the caramelizing process. In the saucepan, combine 12 oz of honey, 2 teaspoons of water and a couple of drops of lemon juice.
The water is important as it prevents the honey from scorching and is necessary for the caramelizing process, which involves a complex series of chemical reactions including the removal of water from sugar. The addition of the lemon juice will stop the caramelized honey from hardening in the pan.
Start by placing the honey mixture in the saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture begins to simmer and tiny bubbles form at the sides of the pan, stop stirring and let it cook until it darkens to a golden brown color and emits a nut-filled aroma (only 1 to 2 minutes). Remove the pan from the heat, gently stir the mixture and then immediately pour it into a handy storage container. It’s that easy!
1. While caramelizing honey is a relatively straightforward process, don’t try to speed it up by turning up the burner temperature. You’ll just end up with burnt honey.
2. Once the honey begins to simmer, it is important not to stir it. If you do, the honey will not caramelize and will instead transform into a crystallized “mistake”.
3. Be extra vigilant during the actual caramelizing process as the honey can quickly go from golden brown perfection to a blackened, bitter mess. Quickly removing the honey from the source of the heat and transferring it directly to another container is the key to success.