Monday, September 27, 2010

Honey Caramels

Honey is good for you.
Well... in appropriate doses it is. Too much of anything can be bad, of course (any sugar, any fat... and there's even such a thing as drinking too much water).
AND, honey isn't good for anyone under a year old since it can cause a form of food poisoning. Because of babies' immature digestive system, they aren't able to fight off the botulinum spores that are present in honey. So, the spores multiply and produce the toxin that causes botulism. It's a very good reason not to give babies honey.

If you are going to use honey, you don't need as much of it to sweeten something (as compared to sugar) since it's sweeter and more dense.

And unlike sugar, honey will help keep baked goods moist instead of drying out since it absorbs moisture from the air.

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But other than adding sweetness to things, honey is also good at helping to fight allergies.
Raw and unfiltered honey contains pollen (but it's a good thing).
Using honey raw, and having honey that is harvested from an area close to you (within a 50-mile radius), or from and area with vegetation similar to that which surrounds you, will help with this.

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It's sort of like an injection- you get an inoculation and a small amount of a virus (such as measles) is present in your bloodstream. Your body is (normally) able to fight this bit off and you develop an immunity to it. This doesn't always happen though... I was "lucky" enough to develop measles from my MMR booster, and some people become very sick from flu shots.

Most of the people who read this are old enough to have had chicken pox. Whether you would have taken it or not, a vaccine was unavailable for most of those who might read this. If you've had a virus once, you're usually immune that specific virus rest of your life... your body recognizes it and knows how to fight it, it's no longer a threat.

It's similar to the way we have math formulas and theorems drilled into our brains... Pythagorean theorem, pi, sine, cosine, tangent... but once they're there you OWN them. Triangles are no longer a threat. I'd be willing to bet most of us could still recite them, but actually using them effectively may be a different story.

You can inoculate yourself against local allergies with the same idea as with a vaccine. A little bit of honey each day will help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.
This is just how I imagine one might develop an immunity to iocaine powder

There are many ways to use honey in cooking, but it can be used raw in a vinaigrette, on oatmeal, toast, on plain yogurt, in a smoothie, with some cheeses...

Honey and propolis have antibacterial qualities and were used to help heal wounds a LONG time ago... and they're being used once again.

A little disclaimer here: these caramels aren't for everyone. They're stronger, more assertive caramels than what might be expected. They're sightly smokey and have a bit of a flowery/pollen-y taste. They're not bad by any means, just different.

Be careful when dealing with melted sugar since it can cause a bad burn. It doesn't just fall off when you shake your hand a little- it sticks.

You want to make sure to use a lighter honey here. It'll caramelize and get darker (I'm thinking honey caramelizes faster because of the type of sugar it is, but I honestly don't know...).
A darker one might become TOO dark and extremely assertive. This is another reason you want to make sure not to cook it too long! It can become burnt-tasting.

Once they're ready, you can eat the caramels as they are or dress them up a bit. Sprinkle them with salt, dip them in melted chocolate, add almonds, pecans, or walnuts...

Honey Caramels
adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

2 c sugar
1/2 c light corn syrup
1/3 c plus 2 T light honey
scant 1/2 t salt
3 T butter, cut into pieces
2 c heavy cream
1 T plus 1 t vanilla extract.

Grease a piece of aluminum foil and line a 9x9 inch baking pan with it.
Heat sugar, honey, corn syrup, and salt in a heavy saucepan that will hold at least 4 qts (this helps protect you when the hot sugars boil). Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula until the mixture simmers a little around the edges. Wash the sugar down from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook 3 minutes (rinse spatula or spoon so no sugar is left on it). Uncover the pan and wash down the sides again using the wet pastry brush. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan (don't let it touch the bottom!) and cook, uncovered, without stirring until the mixture reaches 305 degrees F.
While the sugars cook, heat the cream in a saucepan until tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover to keep the cream hot.
When the sugars reach 305, turn off the heat and stir in the butter until it's incorporated. Slowly stir in the hot cream, it will bubble and steam dramatically (don't get burned!). Turn the burner back on and adjust the heat so the caramel boils energetically but not violently. Stir until smooth and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until it reaches 245 degrees F. Cook, stirring constantly until the temperature reaches 250 degrees F. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set at least 5 hours or overnight.
When firm invert the pan onto a piece of parchment paper and peel the foil off.
Cut the caramels with an oiled knife into desired shape and size. Wrap each individually in waxed paper.


  1. Pediatricians generally say a child of 2 yrs can have honey.

  2. Oooh, those candies w/ nuts look GOOD!

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  4. Natalie, I thought you were already immune to iocaine powder.

    Looks god. did I tell you that I made grandma's caramels with lavender EO & sea salt instead of vanilla for a Passover gift? Very tasty. I'll try this. If I go to the grocery again, I'll get to use the motorized scooter cart again!

  5. Not yet.
    I would like to try them- make them for me!
    Are you proud of this motorized grocery cart business?

  6. Very much so.

    and I will make the lavender caramels. Patrick can take me to the grocery to get the ingredients. Then I can ride the motor grocery cart again!

  7. I love the picture of the pink zinnia---I so think zinnias are great -albeit informal sort of flowers.