Search This Blog

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Miel des Savoies Tilleul (Linden Tree), France

This honey comes to me courtesy of my aunt Stephane (thank you Stephane!). It is Tilleul (Linden tree) honey from the Savoie, Rhône-Alpes region of France, a region I might add, that takes their honey seriously. Don't believe me? Check out the Honey Competition put on by the Syndicat d'Apiculture de la Savoie fondé à Albertville en 1893. The honey goes through rigorous analysis, including chemical analyses. In the most recently posted competition results (2010), 48 judges rated 43 valley honeys and 129 mountain honeys (it is a mountainous region after all) and came to the conclusion that given the exceptional summer they had had, ALL the honeys were of an irreproachable quality and had exceptional taste ("tous les miels présentés étaient d’une qualité irréprochable et d’un goût exceptionnel"). This is the type of competition I like to see: all winners. Well, sort of. In the end they did make further distinctions and gave out gold, silver and bronze medals to those apiarists who were the top of the top. I guess the take home message, though, is that you can't go wrong with a honey from Savoie.

If you'd like more information about the competition and the gold, silver and bronze medalists, here is the link:

But back to the Linden tree honey that I have (which doesn't list the apiarist, so I don't think it was a medalist). Linden trees, as you may know, produce fragrant and nectar-producing flowers, and the honey produced from these flowers has a creamy, pale yellow color (like whipped honey) and a grainy, sweet floral, woody smell. In fact the honey smells a little like Linden flowers. As an aside, Linden flowers are also used for herbal teas. It is a relatively thick honey so you can get a nice twirl of it with a toothpick. The twirl takes a little time to melt in your mouth, but as it is melting it has a mellow, subtle sweetness, followed by a burst of sweetness with a floral undertone. Overall, it isn't a very complicated honey, no unusual, unexpected flavors or radical change in taste as it melts. I think it would be great in baking and in teas, maybe less interesting on hot, buttered toast. In fact, I came across a Linden Honey Apple Pie recipe (that I can't seem to find now) that looks quite nice.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Miel de Sapin (Pine tree honey), Scherwiller, France

We spent a brief visit in Alsace, France this summer, and although not long enough to really explore the region, I had enough time to look for local honey in a small, convenience store in the village of Scherwiller (just north of Colmar and west of Selestat). That is where I found this 'miel de sapin' (pine tree honey). Miel de sapin is one of the specialties of the region. It is used, in fact, to make a traditional gingerbread cake that is eaten at Christmas.

But before I get into the honey, let me tell you how beautiful the region is. We drove down the 'route des vins' (wine road) from Mount St. Odile (a mountain top monastery with incredible views of the surrounding landscape) to Scherwiller (a small town in the verdant wine growing valley). We passed through many small villages along the way, each with the status of 'villages fleuri' (flowered village) and it was easy to see why. Each had timber exposed buildings lining the road with flower boxes full of colorful flowers, mostly geraniums in pinks and reds.

Scherwiller, as mentioned, is in wine country and the small village has a number of 'caves' to visit. It is especially known for its Reisling wine. From Scherwiller you can see the ruins of two medieval castles on the hills above it (Ramstein and the Ortenbourg). They can only be accessed on foot and although I would have loved to hike up to them, we didn't have enough time (my excuse to return to the area!). From what I could see, the vineyards occupied the gentle rolling hills adjacent to the Voges mountains (with some vineyards in town) and the flatter valley plains. The mountains themselves were covered in forests and in these forests were, among other trees, pine trees.

The miel de sapin that I have was produced in the Scherwiller area by Mr. Jean-Luc Schueller. It is a very dark brown honey that is rather thick. It has a subtle malted flavor, is only slightly sweet, and has a brief smoky/herby after taste. Very unusual. I can see how it might be very tasty in gingerbread. I think it would also be quite good in yogurt, tea or just on buttered toast. Eating it right out of the jar works too. Next time I'm back in Alsace, apart from hiking to Ramstein and the Ortenbourg, I know I'll be picking up another jar of this honey (maybe a very large jar).