I’ve always loved honey.
For as long as I can remember, honey has been one of my favorite flavors to bake with, to add to recipes and to use as a topping for breads and biscuits.
Honey is becoming more and more popular in recipe creation, so I wanted to learn more about the different varieties and how to use them. I was thrilled to be able to visit South Dakota and Iowa with the National Honey Board and to learn the story of honey.
First, we suited up in beekeeper outfits to keep us safe from bee stings, then we headed out to the apiary.
The honey hives are set out in the middle of large fields so the bees are able to gather nectar from the surrounding flowers.
With the suits on, we were able to walk right up to the hives and see the bees up close.
There was a smoker used to help keep the bees calm, but it was still a little unnerving to hear them buzzing all around us and to see them landing on us.
This bee landed on my arm and I was able to get a picture. You can see the pollen on its hind leg. So cool!
After we spent time with the bees, we headed over to the storage facility to see how the honey is removed from the combs. While the process is very similar to that used 150 years ago, the use of machines now makes the process faster and easier.
Blades slice off the sides of the honeycombs so that the honey can drip into the catch basins. The honey collected is then pumped into tanks or barrels for transport to the honey factory.
At the SueBee Honey Factory, we were able to see how honey is processed. Which is to say filtered, really, since not much else needs to be done to honey. In fact, the honey we buy in stores is actually 100% all-natural USA honey with nothing else included.
Because the honey can crystalize in the time it takes to transport to SueBee, it’s gently warmed in enormous ovens so it will pour out of the barrels more easily.
From that point, the honey is filtered through two separate processes to remove any impurities like bee wings, small pieces of honeycomb, pollen grains and air bubbles.
Once completely filtered, the honey is ready for packaging. We were able to see how the honey is bottled for stores and packaged in larger amounts for use in commercial products.
Here are some of the famous honey bears being filled.
The honey we saw collected and processed was clover honey, the variety that most of us are familiar with. But while clover honey is awesome and works well in countless recipes, there are actually over 300 varieties of honey in the United States. The honey flavor, color, and aroma come from the type of flower that bees gather nectar from.
I was able to try several different honey flavors, including orange blossom honey, buckwheat honey and tupelo honey.
I have to say – I can’t believe I’ve lived this long without ever having tried tupelo honey. It’s amazing!
In addition to adding wonderful flavors to recipes, honey has other helpful properties that can enhance foods. It acts as a binder and thickener sauces, dressings, dips and marinades, enhances and balances other flavors, and even helps retain moisture in dishes so it can extend the shelf life of baked goods.
The addition of honey flavor was amazing in this Honey Crème Brûlée.
I’m looking forward to using honey in ways I might not have considered before, like in this amazing Honey and Orange Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes and Green Olives. The recipe was one of many amazing dishes we were able to try that were created by award-winning cookbook and Bon Appetit author Marie Simmons.
You can find lots of wonderful honey recipes in Marie’s cookbook Taste of Honey: The Definitive Guide to Tasting and Cooking with 40 Varietals.
I had the most wonderful time on my trip and look forward to using honey in lots of new ways in the future!
Be sure to head over to Honey.com to find a varietal honey near you!
Learn more about honey:
This is a partnered post with The Motherhood and the National Honey Board. All opinions are my own.