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Country Gardens: Making herbal honey

With more time to concentrate on indoor fun, I have always wanted to make my own herbal honey. It is easy, and you can share with friends for gifts. What a wonderful addition to scones, muffins, toast and other breakfast goodies. Another reason to grow fresh herbs!

Use any combination of your favorite herbs, such as rosemary, mint, thyme or lavender. It must be fresh herbs so purchase them from your local grocery store or perhaps you have potted up some herbs for the winter months for culinary uses.

Take the leaves of the herbs and mash or squeeze them to release the oils.

Place one to two sprigs into a sterilized jelly jar. Put some honey in a saucepan and add a sprig of the herb. Heat the herb and honey for about two minutes.

Take tongs and grab the herbs from the honey and add them to the jar. Pour the honey in and seal with a lid. Let the flavors steep for 7-10 days before using. Keep it in the fridge. You can use as an alternative to syrups, jams or jellies or just put on your toast and bagels for a wonderful treat. Just pop the container into the microwave to heat through or let set in a pan of hot water to get it to thin.

Herbal syrups are a simple thing to make for pancakes, waffles or French toast.

Basic herbal syrup 3 cups water 1  cup fresh herbs or 1/2 cup dried herbs 2 cups sugar Make an infusion with the water and herbs by bringing the water to a boil and then pouring over the herbs that have been placed in a teapot or saucepan.  Cover and let herbs steep and infuse two to three hours. Strain the infusion. Then combine the liquid and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring until the sugar dissolves then continue to cook until the liquid thickens to a  syrup. This should be about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool then bottle. Keep refrigerated. Pop into the microwave or set in a pan of hot water to make it warm and thinner.

Rosemary and Orange Syrup Ingredients 1-1/2 cups water 1/4  cup rosemary 2-1/2 cups sugar 1-1/2 cups orange juice 2 tablespoons orange zest Bring the water to a boil and pour over rosemary and orange zest. Let steep for three hours. Strain and combine the rosemary infusion with the orange juice and sugar. Boil until thick, this should take 15-20 minutes. Pour into a bowl to cool and skim, then pour into sterilized bottles and store in the refrigerator.

Honey comes in many varieties, so it’s no wonder that honey works well with so many foods. Honey can be mild or spicy, fruity, herby, or woodsy, depending on which plants the bees lit upon while making the honey. Clover honey is one of the most common. Its flavor is light and neutral. Orange blossom honey is another common one and has the fragrance of — you guessed it — orange blossoms. Buckwheat honey has a bold, musky flavor. Honey can also become infused with the flavors of herbs, such as rosemary, thyme or sage. With so much flavor in honey, only a little bit can add a special touch to a piece of toast or a biscuit, a bowl of oatmeal, or a dish of yogurt or fruit.

Honey can also lend great flavor to cake frosting, salad dressings, custards, marinades, barbecue sauces and glazes for roasted meats. Herbal honeys are especially nice for glazing meats. Whatever your choice of honey flavor for your food, remember this general rule when buying honey: the darker the color, the stronger the flavor.

Health benefits of honey Honey contains vitamins, minerals and amino acids and is a wonderful beauty aid that nourishes the skin and hair. Honey acts as an antibacterial and antifungal agent and helps disinfect and speed the healing process in wounds, scrapes and burns.

If you have allergies, honey can be beneficial. If you eat honey from your local area it may prevent your seasonal allergies. Bees use pollen from local plants, and this will end up in your honey.

Honey is a good treatment of your ulcers.

The National Honey Institute claims that honey may be beneficial to athletes by reducing fatigue. It is also a good source of glucose and fructose.

Unprocessed or raw honey is really the best honey to use and can be found at health food stores or area coops. If this is not available then you can use store-bought honey but look for where it is manufactured and try to get one that is as close to you as possible.

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