Edible Gifts: Infused Honey (Walnut Cinnamon, Lemon Vanilla, Gianduja)

This post is made in collaboration with MCM Emballages who provided the super pretty Weck Jars, and www.valdiverdura.com who provided the most delicious citrus fruits.

Italy loves its honey. When I first came to the US, I was surprised at how uncommon honey was in supermarket shelves, or about how there was only one variety to be found.

In the spring and summer, our fields are livened up by the constant buzzing of hundreds and hundreds of bees dancing through the flowers. I could list at list 10 local, organic honey small producers in the radius of 10 miles – one set his bee hives in a free patch amongst our olive trees and gifted us 10 large jars of delicious honey. Italian varieties are countless: acacia, millefiori, sulla, orange, eucalyptus, bosco, and the most precious melata are just a few I can remember off the top of my head, but the list goes on.

Edible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural CookingEdible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural CookingEdible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural Cooking

There is a small producer who has a few hives amongst our olive trees, and who produced the most delicious, fresh millefiori honey this year. This is how we found ourselves with something like 8 large jars of honey in the pantry.
Lucky availability aside, flavored honey (or other liquid sweetener, if you prefer) is an easy, quick and versatile gift idea. Make sure you source organic, local honey, and avoid cheap mass-produced honey if you can. In Italy, fresh honey from small producers have the advantage of being almost always raw and unpasturized, which has the added benefit of being home to many active bacteria which are extremely beneficial for the intestine. But, for the purpose of these homemade gifts (or favors, or place holders, why not) just pick a good quality runny honey.

 

How to use flavored honeys?

Add them to yogurts. Spread them on toast. Use them to sweeten tea or coffee. Use them to make glazes. Drizzle over pancakes or granola. Drizzle over cheese or roasted potatoes. Or use them just like you would any sweetener. In a week’s time, the flavors will be intense and concentrated and wonderful over so many things.

 

Making flavored honeys

It’s super easy. Here is how:

~ Use dried ingredients (herbs, spices…) add them up to a little over 1/3 of the jar, then pour the honey on top. Warming it ever so slightly makes for a runner honey that is easier to manage, and the heat will infuse the flavors a lot quicker. Store your flavored honeys at room temperature, and they will keep for quite a while.

~ If using ingredients that have some water content (fresh fruit, fresh spices…) keep the flavored honey in the fridge, and strain it after about one week (but you can start using it the day after). The honey will pull out the essential oils and water from the add-ins, and will get a  lot runnier. Consume it within 3-4 weeks, and make sure it does not ferment or go moldy.

~ Whatever you add to the honey will float on top. No problem: just push it back down and give it a stir before using it.

~ If using nuts, which are delicious combined with honey, roast them and get rid of the skins first.

Try out your favorite flavors and experiment. You will very likely love any outcome.
These recipes are my 3 favorite flavors combinations. If you have a favorite combo, let me know in the comments!

Edible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural CookingEdible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural CookingEdible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural Cooking

CINNAMON HONEY WITH WALNUTS (AND ORANGE)

The perfect topper for plain yogurt  or vanilla ice cream – add a couple honey-drenched walnuts and some more cinnamon to taste.

(makes one 8 fl.oz /220 ml jar)

6 large walnuts, shelled and broken in half
A 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
1/2 cup runny honey, or enough to cover

Roast the walnuts in a 390F˚/ 200 C˚ oven for just a few minutes, until they smell fragrant and start turning slightly golden. Take them out, reverse them in a clean kitchen towel and let cool. Once cooled, rub them very delicately with the towel to remove nay skins that come off. Do not bother with those that stay stuck.
Slightly warm the honey over a bain-marie or in the microwave. It should not get hot, just a little looser, so do not get it beyond lukewarm.
Add the walnuts to the jar with the cinnamon stick, and pour over the honey, making sure the cinnamon stick stays submerged.
Close the lid and let the honey sit for several hours. The walnuts will likely float to the surface. If necessary, add a little more honey to fully cover everything.
This honey has a long shelf life. If the cinnamon gets a little overpowering, remove the stick after a few days.
If you have some dried orange peel or some candied oranges on hand, they make a wonderful addition.

Edible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural Cooking

LEMON VANILLA HONEY

Makes a killer sore-throat remedy and a most wonderful addition to teas and milks. 

(makes one 8 fl.oz /220 ml jar)

1 medium flavorful organic lemon (you might actually need 3/4)
Half a vanilla bean
1/2 cup runny honey, or enough to cover

Slice the lemon crosswise quite thinly, about 1/4 inch. Split half a vanilla bean in half. Warm the honey just like for the cinnamon walnut honey. Add a little honey to the bottom, Layer the lemon slices until you get to about halfway, add the vanilla bean and cover with more honey. Add more slices, pushing them down with the back of a spoon, until you get to 3/4. Cover the slices with honey.
Keep the jars in a cool place where you’ll remember to check them (best of all is out the window, on the window sill), as you will have to push the lemons down under the honey every day for a week. The honey will get more runny and liquid as it sits.
Gift it with the slices still in for the prettiest (and most practical) result. After a few more days, the honey will need to be strained into a clean jar. Store the honey in the fridge, or it will go bad easily.
Do not toss the discarded slices! They can be boiled with ginger to make a great anti-flu tea, chopped finely and added to custards or as a dessert topping, or even added to salads. Get creative!

BONUS: GIANDUJA HONEY

I made this one specifically for MCM Emballages’s new year calendar, so I will have to share it later (probably on Steller). But it’s super easy: roast some hazelnuts and add them to a jar, add some hazelnut chocolate spread and top with honey. Give it a good stir before using. It’s my new obsession. Seriously.

If you’d like to keep your gifts vegan, try other liquid sweeteners instead of honey. I’m sure they would work all the same.

 

What will you be gifting this year?

 

Edible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural CookingEdible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural CookingEdible Gifts: How to Make Infused Honey | Hortus Natural Cooking

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