One of America’s Favorites – Honey

July 29, 2013 at 8:18 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | 1 Comment
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Honey /ˈhʌni/ is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees (the genus Apis) is the one

A jar of honey with honey dipper

A jar of honey with honey dipper

most commonly referred to, as it is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans. Honey produced by other bees and insects has distinctly different properties.
Honey bees transform nectar into honey by a process of regurgitation and evaporation. They store it as a primary food source in wax honeycombs inside the beehive.
Honey gets its sweetness from the monosaccharides fructose and glucose, and has approximately the same relative sweetness as that of granulated sugar.[1][2] It has attractive chemical properties for baking and a distinctive flavor that leads some people to prefer it over sugar and other sweeteners. Most microorganisms do not grow in honey because of its low water activity of 0.6. However, honey sometimes contains dormant endospores of the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can be dangerous to infants, as the endospores can transform into toxin-producing bacteria in infants’ immature intestinal tracts, leading to illness and even death.
Honey has a long history of human consumption, and is used in various foods and beverages as a sweetener and flavoring. It also has a role in religion and symbolism. Flavors of honey vary based on the nectar source, and various types and grades of honey are available. It is also used in various medicinal traditions to treat ailments. The study of pollens and spores in raw honey (melissopalynology) can determine floral sources of honey. Bees carry an electrostatic charge whereby they attract other particles in addition to pollen, which become incorporated into their honey; the honey can be analysed by the techniques of melissopalynology in area environmental studies of radioactive particles, dust and particulate pollution.

 

 

 

Honey’s natural sugars are dehydrated, which prevents fermentation, with added enzymes to modify and transform their chemical composition and pH. Invertases and digestive acids hydrolyze sucrose to give the monosaccharides glucose and fructose. The invertase is one of these enzymes synthesized by the body of the insect.
Honey bees transform saccharides into honey by a process of regurgitation, a number of times, until it is partially digested. The bees do the regurgitation and digestion as a group. After the last regurgitation, the aqueous solution is still high in water, so the process continues by evaporation of much of the water and enzymatic transformation.
Honey is produced by bees as a food source. In cold weather or when fresh food sources are scarce, bees use their stored honey as their source of energy. By contriving for bee swarms to nest in artificial hives, people have been able to semidomesticate the insects, and harvest excess honey. In the hive (or in a wild nest), there are three types of bees:
* a single female queen bee
* a seasonally variable number of male drone bees to fertilize new queens
* some 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees.
The worker bees raise larvae and collect the nectar that will become honey in the hive. Leaving the hive, they collect sugar-rich flower nectar and return.
In the hive, the bees use their “honey stomachs” to ingest and regurgitate the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested. Invertase synthesized by the bees and digestive acids hydrolyze sucrose to give the same mixture of glucose and fructose. The bees work together as a group with the regurgitation and digestion until the product reaches a desired quality. It is then stored in honeycomb cells. After the final regurgitation, the honeycomb is left unsealed. However, the nectar is still high in both water content and natural yeasts, which, unchecked, would cause the sugars in the nectar to ferment. The process continues as bees inside the hive fan their wings, creating a strong draft across the honeycomb, which enhances evaporation of much of the water from the nectar. This reduction in water content raises the sugar concentration and prevents fermentation. Ripe honey, as removed from the hive by a beekeeper, has a long shelf life, and will not ferment if properly sealed.

 

A honey bee on calyx of goldenrod

A honey bee on calyx of goldenrod

 

Honey is collected from wild bee colonies, or from domesticated beehives. Wild bee nests are sometimes located by following a honeyguide bird. Collecting honey is typically achieved by using smoke from a bee smoker to pacify the bees; this causes the bees to attempt to save the resources of the hive from a possible forest fire, and makes them far less aggressive. The honeycomb is removed from the hive and the honey is extracted from that, often using a honey extractor. The honey is then filtered.

 

 

 

The main uses of honey are in cooking, baking, as a spread on bread, and as an addition to various beverages, such as tea, and as a sweetener in some commercial beverages. According to the The National Honey Board (a USDA-overseen organization), “honey stipulates a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance…this includes, but is not limited to, water or other sweeteners”. Honey barbecue and honey mustard are common and popular sauce flavors.
Honey is the main ingredient in the alcoholic beverage mead, which is also known as “honey wine” or “honey beer”. Historically, the ferment for mead was honey’s naturally occurring yeast. Honey is also used as an adjunct in some beers.
Honey wine, or mead, is typically (modern era) made with a honey and water mixture with a pack of yeast added for fermentation. Primary fermentation usually takes 40 days, after which the must needs to be racked into a secondary fermentation vessel and left to sit about 35–40 more days. If done properly, fermentation will be finished by this point (though if a sparkling mead is desired, fermentation can be restarted after bottling by the addition of a small amount of sugar), but most meads require aging for 6–9 months or more in order to be palatable.

 

 

 

Classification

A variety of honey flavors and container sizes and styles from the 2008 Texas State Fair

A variety of honey flavors and container sizes and styles from the 2008 Texas State Fair

Honey is classified by its floral source, and there are also divisions according to the packaging and processing used. There are also regional honeys. Honey is also graded on its color and optical density by USDA standards, graded on a scale called the Pfund scale, which ranges from 0 for “water white” honey to more than 114 for “dark amber” honey.
* Floral source
Generally, honey is classified by the floral source of the nectar from which it was made. Honeys can be from specific types of flower nectars or can be blended after collection. The pollen in honey is traceable to floral source and therefore region of origin. The rheological & mellisopalynological properties of honey can be used to identify the major plant nectar source used in its production.
* Blended
Most commercially available honey is blended, meaning it is a mixture of two or more honeys differing in floral source, color, flavor, density or geographic origin.
* Polyfloral
Polyfloral honey, also known as wildflower honey, is derived from the nectar of many types of flowers.
The taste may vary from year to year, and the aroma and the flavor can be more or less intense, depending on which bloomings are prevalent.
* Monofloral
Monofloral honey is made primarily from the nectar of one type of flower. Different monofloral honeys have a distinctive flavor and color because of differences between their principal nectar sources. To produce monofloral honey, beekeepers keep beehives in an area where the bees have access to only one type of flower. In practice, because of the difficulties in containing bees, a small proportion of any honey will be from additional nectar from other flower types. Typical examples of North American monofloral honeys are clover, orange blossom, blueberry, sage, tupelo, buckwheat, fireweed, mesquite and sourwood. Some typical European examples include thyme, thistle, heather, acacia, dandelion, sunflower, honeysuckle, and varieties from lime and chestnut trees.[citation needed] In North Africa (e.g. Egypt) examples include clover, cotton, and citrus (mainly orange blossoms).
* Honeydew honey
Instead of taking nectar, bees can take honeydew, the sweet secretions of aphids or other plant sap-sucking insects. Honeydew honey is very dark brown in color, with a rich fragrance of stewed fruit or fig jam, and is not as sweet as nectar honeys. Germany’s Black Forest is a well known source of honeydew-based honeys, as well as some regions in Bulgaria, Tara (mountain) in Serbia and Northern California in the United States. In Greece, pine honey (a type of honeydew honey) constitutes 60–65% of the annual honey production. Honeydew honey is popular in some areas, but in other areas beekeepers have difficulty selling the stronger flavored product.
The production of honeydew honey has some complications and dangers. The honey has a much larger proportion of indigestibles than light floral honeys, thus causing dysentery to the bees, resulting in the death of colonies in areas with cold winters. Good beekeeping management requires the removal of honeydew prior to winter in colder areas. Bees collecting this resource also have to be fed protein supplements, as honeydew lacks the protein-rich pollen accompaniment gathered from flowers.

 

 

 

To find out all about Honey along with tips and recipes check out the National Honey Board web site!

 
http://www.honey.com/

 

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