Make your own Infused Honey with household herbs & spices
I know we see a lot of DIY crafts in the more traditional sense on Handmade Philly, but crafting in the kitchen is equally creative, as any chef or culinary enthusiast will tell you. Infusing honey, sugar, and other ingredients ahead of time can provide not only a tasty addition to coffee and tea, but also a flavorful base to baking and stove top concoctions, including creme brulees, puddings, and custards. Just today I made walnut shortbread with vanilla-infused sugar!
Aside from the favors inherent in infused honey, however, one can also benefit from the incredible medicinal qualities inherent in the kitchen spices and herbs that surround us. Intense infusions bring out these benefits, whether through their volatile oils or chemical compounds, and an infused honey can help with digestion, sleep, energy, and other qualities that the chosen herb imparts. The spice I used for this project is cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia), which stimulates appetite and aids common digestive complaints including cramps, nausea, and gas. Cinnamon has superb levels of anti-oxidants and can add a tremendous boost to your anti-oxidant intake when you add it to coffee and tea beverages.
But let’s not forget that cinnamon & the infused honey are plain delicious! It’s an incredibly well-recognized taste cross-culturally, and the honey is very versatile in all kinds of kitchen experiments. Keep in mind, however, that you can go through the steps below with other herbs, including rosemary (a wonderful, pungent herbaceous taste), lavender (a beautiful, relaxing, and aromatic honey), thyme (herbaceous and savory), cummin seeds, fennel seeds, chamomile blossoms, and organic rose petals. In the summer, I also make infused honey from lemon balm and mint, both of which are rich in aromatic volatile oils.
Step 1: Select a good quality honey, preferably raw honey for highest benefit. I recommend visiting Bee Natural at Reading Terminal Market for excellent honey.
Step 2: Use a heavy cast iron or heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add 1/2 cup of herb or spice to about 2-3 cups of honey.
Step 3: On the lowest possible stove top setting, gently bring honey to a near-boil. WATCH CAREFULLY. You do not want the honey to boil or you will use some of the benefits of the honey, and second, if the pot boils over, it makes a royal mess! (believe me). Stir once or twice. When it’s getting close, you will see a whitish foam form on the top.
Step 4: When it gets to this point, remove from heat and allow to cool.
Step 5: Repeat heating and cooling 2-3 more times for a stronger taste. (I usually heat at least twice). You can allow the honey to cool somewhat after the last heating, but keep in mind that the warmer the honey is, the easier it will be to strain.
Step 6: Strain herbs using a funnel & cheesecloth, herb funnel (with built-in sieve), or a regular mesh sieve. Pour into sterilized glass canning jars and cap. Place a wee sprig of the herb or a few seeds or chips of the spice on the top of the honey before capping.
Good sources for herbs:
Herbiary ~ a new herb source in Reading Terminal Market
The Apothecary Garden ~ (same people, but their Chestnut Hill location)
The Random Tea Room ~ in Northern Liberties
Penn Herb ~ in Northern Liberties (questionable quality herbs, however)
Mountain Rose Herbs
Sarah Powell, an herbalist, medical anthropologist and proprietor of the natural bath & body business, Lilith’s Apothecary. Visit her blog at www.lilithsapothecary.wordpress.com for more natural herbal tips and recipes.