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Enjoy Domestic Honey For Extra Sweet Taste
By Allison Matthews
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Old wives tales make great claims about honey's health benefits, but one undisputable aspect of Mother Nature's product is its pure-tasting sweetness.
Melissa Mixon, Extension nutrition specialist at Mississippi State University, said honey is useful to have handy when cooking, and it can often substitute for much of the sugar in recipes. Honey is up to twice as sweet as sugar. It gives food a golden quality, and many people's tastebuds can't get enough of it.
"I love honey, especially on warm cornbread or muffins," Mixon said. "Honey is a natural substance, and depending on its source, varies in color from a light transparent gold to a darker, stronger-tasting honey."
MSU dietetic intern Laura Mills offered tips for cooking with honey.
"Decrease the temperature by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning. When you're baking, add one-fourth teaspoon baking soda for every cup of honey used," Mills suggested.
For each cup of honey, reduce the total of other liquids by one-fourth cup and eliminate 1 1/4 cups sugar.
"Honey may help baked goods retain moisture and stay fresher longer, and it makes a wonderful glaze for ham, chicken or turkey," Mills said.
Dietetic intern Brooke Gavin said honey is a natural and safe food for adults and older children, but it absolutely should not be given to babies. Honey contains pollen and spores from the nectar bees collect to make honey. Infant immune systems are not advanced enough to fight off possible botulism spores that honey may contain. The risk is only a concern in babies less than 1 year old.
Doug Stone, an Oktibbeha County beekeeper and honey packer, said honey has a distinct taste. Many people who suffer with allergies testify that honey helps relieve their symptoms, although there is no scientific evidence to support that honey has any medicinal value.
"Many home remedies call for honey as an ingredient," Stone said.
Stone said the honey Mississippi beekeepers produce is a unique specialty product that is often hard for consumers to find locally produced. He maintains hives in four Mississippi counties and offers honey labeled to indicate which types of nectar were collected by the bees that made the honey.
Stone has utilized marketing suggestions from Extension's Food and Fiber Center at MSU. He sells honey gift packages, which include honey candy and two varieties of pure honey from different areas of the state. His packages bear the "Make Mine Mississippi" logo, which helps the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce promote state products.
Harry Fulton, Mississippi's state apiary (beehive) inspector and secretary and treasurer of the Mississippi Beekeepers Association, said there are about 75 beekeepers in the state who manage hives commercially. Mississippi produces about 1.5 million pounds of honey each year. Nationally, the United States produces about 220 million pounds, but domestic honey faces an economic battle with lower imported honey prices.
Fulton said the economic problems facing honey producers have been discouraging, but Mississippi beekeepers and other U.S. honey producers want consumers to know that their honey is better than imported honey because it is more likely to taste better.
"We want the consumers to support American honey. Our standards are better, and beekeepers are trying to push for a quality assurance program administered by the federal government," Stone said.
He said there is no standard on the honey imported from other countries, but producers in the United States want to guarantee their product as pure.
Fulton advised consumers to check labels on honey at local grocery stores to see if it is imported or domestic. He said the labels also should indicate whether or not it is pure.
Store honey in a tightly-sealed jar at room temperature to avoid crystallization. If crystallization occurs, remove the lid and place the honey jar in warm water.