Eat Good Food

Use + History: Honey and Honeycomb

honey honeycomb uses

The wonderful gifts of honey and honeycomb have uses are as long and varied as human existence.

From stirring chopped honeycomb into yogurt or ice cream to drizzling raw honey collected by our apiarist DeWitt Barker atop pancakes and waffles, there’s almost no way we don’t like to eat it.

Read on to learn more about how honey is produced, along with the history and uses of this precious gift from bees.

History

  • Modern honeybees likely originated in India or Southeast Asia, where they spread to Europe and Africa.
  • A rock painting in a cave in Spain from the Neolithic era documents a person collecting wild honey.
  • Ancient Romans kept coins in terra cotta vessels that resembled beehives. These savings banks were often given as New Year’s gifts during the Roman Empire.
  • Modern Western beekeeping began in the 19th century, with the introduction of smokers and hives with movable frames.

Tidbits and Terminology

  • For every pound of honey gathered by humans, bees need to make and consume an additional eight pounds. After all, honey is what allows the hive to survive cold winters and other periods of low resources.
  • Mead, also known as honey wine, is made from fermenting honey with water.
  • Honey is made up of two types of sugar: glucose and fructose. Honey varieties high in fructose rarely crystallize, while those that are high in glucose are more likely to crystallize over time.
  • According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about one-third of the human diet comes from insect-pollinated plants, and the honeybee is responsible for 80 percent of that pollination.

Cultivation and Harvest

  • Honeybees turn nectar into honey by first carrying it back to the hive. There it is passed to worker bees who digest the nectar by mixing it with enzymes to break down complex sugars into simple sugars.
  • Honeycomb is made from the waxy secretions of worker bees. As these forms are filled with honey, they are capped with another layer of wax.
  • In North America, honey is generally harvested starting in late July through mid-September.
  • Colony collapse disorder (CCD), a threat to bee populations worldwide, is a devastating disease thought by many to be caused by a neonicotinoid pesticide called clothianidin.
  • In large-scale industrial honey production, little honey is left for the bees to consume in the winter. Instead, they are often fed sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Nutritional Information
Honey is composed of mostly fructose and glucose, with a small amount of sucrose and other carbohydrates. While honey has been anecdotally reported to lessen symptoms in people with seasonal allergies, these results have not been consistently duplicated in clinical studies. Hydrogen peroxide, naturally present in honey, is partially responsible for its antimicrobial properties.

Honey: A Buying Guide

Raw honey is what bees produce in the hive: natural, unpasteurized honey, nothing added or taken away. It is ready to eat after it has been extracted and filtered through a fine sieve to remove foreign particles that may have found their way into the honey in the extracting process (such as bee parts, pollen and wax). Pasteurized honey is heated and filtered and does not have the same enzymes and health benefits of unpasteurized honey.

There are many supermarket honeys that have been adulterated with additives and are not 100% pure honey, so it’s best to procure your honey from a local beekeeper or known source.
Pure creamed honey is made by mixing crystalized honey that has been powdered into fine granules with liquid honey.

Storage

Store honey in a cool, dark place indefinitely. If it becomes crystallized, heat briefly in a glass container in a pot of warm water.

Cooking Tips

  • Honey pairs well with strong cheeses. Try drizzling over Brie, sharp cheddar, or gorgonzola.
  • Top a salad with crumbled goat cheese and honeycomb, or make a baguette sandwich with Brie.
  • Add to tea or coffee for a natural sweetener.
  • Also consider using honeycomb in chili to balance spicy flavors.

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Introducing the SHED Pantry Line

We’re excited to announce the launch of the SHED pantry line, featuring a proprietary collection of powders, salt blends, herbs and spices, preserves, pickles, and Shrub concentrates drawn from the best ingredients prepared just as we do in our Healdsburg café.

Coming to fruition under the direction of SHED chef Perry Hoffman, plans for the Pantry Line predate SHED and its café. SHED co-owner Cindy Daniel knew that she wanted to do this before our doors even opened.

“It’s always been a dream of Cindy’s and really, it just makes so much sense,” Perry says. “It really came from the concept of utilizing the pantry that we use to cook from in the café.”

SHED Powders

A distillation of flavor, the SHED powders are a unique finishing touch that pack a punch. Available in one-ounce bottles, they are the essential taste of the vegetables from which they’re made.

Dehydrated in our own kitchens and then pulverized before being mixed with Jacobsen Salt, these powders are intended to be used just before serving to add a strong note to your good fresh food.

“I’ve been using powders for 16 years,” Perry says. “The tradition really comes from fine dining. They’re amazing flavor enhancers. When you dehydrate produce, you concentrated the flavor of that element.”

Perry likes the Charred Eggplant Powder sprinkled atop a bowl of yogurt with fresh chopped mint. He mixes it into vinaigrettes, and hails it as his “love letter” to the baba ganoush dip he adored as a child.

The Tarragon Caper Powder is a nod to traditional French cuisine, adding a note of elegance perfect for using to finish sauces. “Capers and tarragon are two ingredients that are made for each other,” Perry says.

The Niçoise Olive Powder is purposefully not powdered entirely. “We leave this a bit chunkier and just smash them into little crumbles because we love those little bits of dried olives,” Perry says.

The Shiitake Mushroom Powder is a “flavor builder,” Perry says, referring to its role adding umami to any dish. “Add it to a little bit of chicken stock and soy sauce and you’ve got this amazing stock that will add flavor to anything. It’s all about intensifying flavors.”

One in every 100 Padron peppers is hot, so eating them has an element of chance. Dehydrating and then powdering them for our Padron Pepper Powder guarantees that its sweetness will be tempered by a bit of heat. “When you combine them,” Perry says, “you get an incredibly wonderful, earthy powder.”

The Smoked Onion Powder features sweet onions and adds a gorgeous element of onion flavor to everything it touches. “Mix it into sour cream,” Perry suggests, “and you have a dip.”

SHED Salt Blends

SHED’s blends use Jacobsen Salt as a base and add unusual flavors to create finishing salts you’ll always want to reach for.

An incredibly versatile and popular offering, Lemon Salt can be sprinkled liberally atop roasted potatoes and fish. For dessert, try a pinch with vanilla ice cream.

Utilizing an increasingly popular Japanese culinary herb, our Red Shiso Salt is perfect for bringing a fresh taste to a salad before serving or for sprinkling upon fish.

“As a chef, you have the opportunity to cook this way because you have Shiso and you have salt,” Perry explains. “Home cooks don’t necessarily have that option. This is a way of being able to capture those flavors in a jar and be close to the same outcome.”

Made for chicken and perfect for lamb, pork loin, and other roasts, the Rosemary and Wild Fennel Salt is, Perry says simply, “a natural love affair.”

Normally not one to play favorites, Perry confesses that his favorite of the new line is the Black Lime Salt, which has a distinctly Californian take on a traditional Middle Eastern flavor profile. Limes are salted and soaked before being dried and pulverized, bringing an intensity to this salt.

“The wonderful aromatic flavors of lime are very dominant, so this becomes a umami flavor enhancer,” Perry says. He suggests pairing the Black Lime Salt with the Shitake Powder for a umami powerhouse. “If you were to add those two to your broth, it would be very full-bodied.”

SHED Shrubs

A drinking vinegar born from the need to use all of the harvest, the Shrub has recently come back into favor. And thank goodness for that.

Shrubs are the centerpiece of the Fermentation Bar in our Healdsburg store and our flavors always change to match the season. This new collection of essential Shrub flavors is just the start; we’ll be certain to add more as the harvest wanes and new herbs, fruits, and flowers become available.

Available in 12-ounce bottles, SHED Shrub concentrates form the base for a refreshing non-alcoholic drink but can just as easily be made with Prosecco or other lightly bubbly wines.

Whether Quince, Apple, Beet, or Grape — each SHED Shrub concentrate is made from organic ingredients raised by farmers we know or even foraged by Chef Perry himself.

What’s more, his technique for creating this concentrate hasn’t change. For a few hundred years. “We do this just as they would have in the 1800s,” Perry says.

Preserves and Honey

Having fresh jam made with local fruit is a hallmark of the SHED café and our pantry. A devoted home cook, Cindy has always spent part of her summer putting up preserves. Now you can share in some of our good fortune and bounty. Each jar is made of pure organic or even foraged fruit set with cane sugar and a good squeeze of lemon juice. That’s all.

SHED honey is raised in Sonoma County by beekeepers who respect their hives and the hard-working insects inside of them. SHED subscribes to the idea that we don’t keep bees — the bees keep us, as one-third of all the food that we eat is made possible by pollinators.

Pickled Vegetables

Fermentation is a core value at SHED. “We pickle everything. It was so hard to even choose what to put in the jar,” Perry says.

Perry loves eggplant but it doesn’t pickle well, so he made a gorgeous chunky Roasted Eggplant Conserva from it. He encourages us to use it as a chutney. “Yogurt is the most wonderful platform for it,” he enthuses. “It’s such a match made in heaven.”

Packed like the Conserva in 13.5-ounce jars, our Pickled Carrots are flavored with dill leaves, jalapeños, and black peppercorns; the Pickled Turnips with bay leaf, beets, and garlic. Both of them are perfect additions to supper, laid out on a relish plate to contribute bite and interest to a simple meal.

Also jarred up for a pre-dinner pickle plate are our Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, Roasted Eggplant Conserva, and Turmeric Pickled Turnips.

Herbs & Spices

With this Pantry line-up, SHED is also proud to release its own line of herbs and spices, adding traditional everyday spices like cinnamon to a line-up of offerings that include the Middle Eastern flavors of Harissa, Zahtar, and Vadouvan. We have other unusual mixes like Shichimi Togarashi, Japanese Curry Powder, and Chinese Five Spice. Our own line of Dukka is already a best-selling staple. We even have six kinds of peppercorn!

Just the Start

SHED’s Pantry line is an effort to preserve the peak flavors of the season by pickling, preserving, fermenting, smoking, and drying ingredients to make jams, pickles, shrubs, spice blends, and powders.  It’s an attempt to better tell the story of good farming, good cooking, and good eating.

“We want to take all of the behind-the-scenes things that we make and showcase them,” Perry says.

“There are so many things that we have to make to stock our own pantry. The powders are a perfect example of that.  We want to show what we make, and how we use these products to flavor and enhance our cooking,” he says.

“And how you might share in that.”

Meet the Makers

Meet Our Apiarist

What drives a man to abandon an ordinary career and become an apiarist? Sounds like a crazy decision until you meet DeWitt Barker, and suddenly it seems like the most reasonable crazy decision in the world. (more…)