Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blueberry Honey, New England Cranberry Co., Lynn, MA

I can't remember exactly where I picked up the blueberry honey I have. It is packaged and distributed by the New England Cranberry Company which operates out of Lynn, MA, just up the coast from Boston. They have a website that states that they were founded in 1994 to initially create exciting cranberry products.If you are interested here is the link:

Their first product was Colonial Cranberry Sauce and it was such a hit that they then expanded into other things, including pepper jellies, chutneys, mustards and honey. Apart from blueberry honey they also sell Cranberry Bog Honey. The label on the jar and the website state that "our honeybees create this delicious honey by pollinating the blossoms of blueberry bushes. There is no infused essence here, just all natural flavor." Sounds great.

The honey has a reddish tinge to it. It is clear and thick, but at the same time runny. It is very smooth. You can roll it around in your mouth for a few seconds before it dissolves. It is uncomplicated; the first and after tastes are very similar. It is sweet, but not too sweet and has a straight honey taste of sweetness with a very subtle undertone of something herb-ish that is faintly bitter. After having a few tastes trying to find any hint of blueberries I can say with confidence that there is no taste of blueberries (alas). This honey would be very good in tea or baking, anywhere you might want to add some robust honey sweetness without changing the flavor too much.

If you are in New England you might find this honey in your local supermarket, but if you go to the New England Cranberry Co.'s website you can also order it online.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wild Texas Guajillo Honey

A few years ago I visited my friends Robert and Monique in Houston, Texas and while I was there I picked up some wild Texas Guajillo (gwah-HEE-yoh) honey. I had no idea what kind of plant Guajillo is. A quick look online and I found out it is a wild desert bush (described as a medium sized shrub that can grow larger in some cases) with prickles that is a member of the acacia plant family, and is native to Southwestern Texas and Northern Mexico. It has white flowers that bloom from November to April, but mostly in March and April.

Apparently settlers in Uvalde County (southwest of Austin) in the 1870s discovered caves and hollow trees full of this honey. They capitalized on their find and soon became famous for producing and shipping honey all over the world. In 1900 (a good year for the settlers come apiculturalists), Uvalde County produced over 160,000 pounds of Guajillo honey and took first place at the Paris World's Fair (presumably for honey). In the region honey now figures in their folklore- with tales of bee-caves guarded by rattlesnakes and ghosts that have rooms filled with honey in pure white combs that are thirty feet thick. Wow. This I would like to see. Uvalde County seems like my kind of place. I'm surprised I've never heard of it before.

One site I found that sells Guajillo honey warns that: 'Guajillo honey is a light golden color. It it's dark... it ain't true Guajillo.' Consider yourself warned and be wary of all those who claim that their dark honey is the real thing.

The Guajillo honey I have is indeed a light golden color (so far, so good). And it comes in a very nice glass jar. Native Nectar out of San Antonio packages the honey I have. The site says that the honey is "bottled in a one pound Italian green glass jar, which is in the shape of an ancient Etruscan olive oil vessel." I'll give them this- the jar and presentation are one of the best I've seen for honey (and I've seen a lot of honey). Texans don't do things half way.

My honey has crystallized a little in the few years that I've had it but it still retains it light, golden color. The smell has an undertone of caramel. It is a very clear, runny honey in its liquid form. It has a very simple, light and delicate flavor with a very subtle (very subtle) flowery undertone. It is sweet but not overly sweet and has no hint of bitterness or any other strong flavor. The after taste is no different from the first taste. I think I was expecting something different- what with the green, glass jar in the shape of an ancient Etruscan olive oil vessel and the story of bee-caves guarded by ghosts (and having won first place at the 1900 Paris World's Fair). I think I was expecting something really unusual. This is not to say it isn't a good honey- it has a nice, simple flavor and a good, clear, smooth texture. It would be very nice in tea.

If anyone is interested and you are too far from Texas to get some locally, I found it for sale online at this site, but I think there is a typo in the price:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Heather Honey, Portugal

I've never been to Portugal but having read a little about their honey production, I think they are due a visit. Portugal, like many other European countries, produces a lot of varieties of honey. Bee keeping, as one site I viewed claimed, is a 'traditional practice well implanted in several regions.'

Portugal's climate is considered to be Mediterranean, but the geography of the country is diverse with many micro-climate systems. It has plateaus, river valleys, mountains, and rolling plains. On average, though, it is sunny and hot and has the distinction of being the warmest European country.

It seems that honey is produced everywhere, even on the islands off the coast (the Madeira and Azores archipelagos). I would suspect though, since heather is likely to be in the mountains, that my heather honey came from somewhere in the interior of the country. Unfortunately, the label doesn't say.

A quick search online didn't bring up much about my honey. It is distributed by, which seems to distribute a lot of food goods (honeys, teas, vinigrettes, etc.). Of note, though, I did see that there is a lot of research related to Portuguese honey having to do with nutrients, pesticide residues and flavonoids. Yes, there are pesticide residues in honey. No, they aren't at levels that are concerning (in case you were wondering).

The heather honey I have is very dark brown and thick. At room temperature it is mostly liquid but just starting to crystallize around the upper rim of the jar.
I'll say up front that this honey is not for everyone. It is very strong and slightly bitter, with undertones of molasses and something else, something herby in a bitter way. It tastes a little like medicine. It isn't very sweet. It isn't complicated in that it doesn't have many subtle flavors- the flavor stays true from beginning to end with a slightly more bitter after taste, but it is very unusual. If you like robust flavors that are bitter, this is the honey for you. I like it but I wouldn't bake with it or use it in a tea- it would change the flavor too much. I would gladly have it on hot, buttered bread though.

I can't say where you can find this Heather honey from Quinta de Jugais. I got it (of all places) at TJMaxx. I've mentioned before that TJMaxx sometimes has the strangest things- and odd (international) honey is one of them. You just may need to visit Portugal if you want some.

Monday, October 4, 2010

(Wildflower Blossom) Kauai Island Honey, Kilauea, Hawaii

A jar of Kauai Island Honey from Hawaii came to me a few years ago from a friend who was visiting Honolulu for the summer. It is produced by Danbury apiaries. A quick search online to find out more about them landed me a great article about Chester Danbury, the apiculturist and owner of Danbury apiaries; His operation has over 400 working hives and produces more than 50,000 pounds of honey a year, and is regarded as one of the larger honey operations in Hawaii. It seems that Hawaii's tropical climate produces 4 or 5 harvesting seasons; Bees don't need to rely so much on honey to carry them through the year so honey can be harvested more frequently. Peak harvest months are June through October.

I also found out that Danbury's bees are home grown. He didn't buy them (as is common) but caught them all. Can you imagine? I wish I lived closer to Kauai Island because I think I'd like to meet this guy.

If you want to learn more about honey production on Kauai Island here is the link to the article:

I had to google Kauai Island to find out exactly where it is. The official tourist website claims it is 'a tropical garden island paradise' that is 20 minutes by air from Honolulu. It is 550 square miles and the northernmost of the main Hawaiian islands. From the site it does sound like Paradise. There are places like 'coconut coast' where you can kayak. Or, if you'd rather, you can sun on endless white sand beaches, or see spectacular cliffs, or snorkel, or see natural lava tube formations, or visit freshwater lagoons or wildlife sanctuaries. You pick. It sure beats lugging groceries home from Stop & Shop on a windy, rainy, October day in New England. But I digress.

Of note, Kauai Island is also known as the first place Captain James Cook landed in Hawaii, at Waimea on the west side of the island in 1778 (why he ever left is mystery to me), and Lumahai Beach on the North shore is where Mitzi Gaynor 'washed that man right out of her hair' in the movie South Pacific.

The honey I have say's 'wildflower blossom' on the label. Not sure what wildflowers they are talking about, but likely a blend. From the article they mentioned 'Christmasberry honey' from Christmasberry bushes and described them as a delicacy. I've never heard of this bush but honey from them is reputed to also have medicinal properties. I have to say that having read about Christmasberry honey, I'm a little sad to have only wildflower blossom honey.

This honey has been sitting in my pantry for a few years and in that time it has started to crystallize. I notice that not all honey crystallizes in the same way. This Kauai Island honey crystallized in a layer at the top of the jar and in a layer at the bottom of the jar, with a layer of liquid honey between them. In its liquid state it is a dark, deep brown honey. It smells like molasses. The top crystals are very fine and make a smooth cloudy sheet. On first taste the top crystals' texture is very interesting. The honey crystals stay together in a gummy mass but as they melt there is a burst of mintiness followed by a molasses taste. Very interesting! The liquid honey is very thin and runny, and in small quantities is golden brown. It has a strong molasses taste from beginning to end. The bottom crystals are much more granular, but also have that molasses taste. Wow! If this is their run of the mill wildflower blossom honey, I wonder what Christmasberry honey taste like? I just might have to fly over to Kauai Island and find out (and also meet Mr. Danbury and find out what kind of man catches his own bees)!