Honey is a powerful antibacterial agent. It's so powerful that Alexander the Great was entombed in a coffin filled with honey to preserve his corpse. That makes it a stable and pretty safe base for experimentation. If you make barbecue sauce and want a hot, peppery, sweet honey to add to your grilling, make up a batch of hot pepper honey with a few peppercorns thrown in. You get the idea, I'm sure. Once you understand the basic technique, coming up with ideas for flavored honey is simple.
Making Lavender Honey Is a Project You Can Afford
Honey can get expensive, but making flavored honey gifts is still doable on a small budget. I just purchased three pounds of clover honey at my local discount market for a little less than $9. Once made up, I pour my flavored honey into small (around 3.5 ounce) jars for gift giving and keep a large container to give away or use later. At that rate, three pounds of honey goes a long way.
You'll see recipe videos around the web that recommend cold infusion for lavender honey -- that involves adding the lavender buds directly to the honey and letting them release their flavor essence over a period of days or weeks. This technique works, but it takes a while and uses a lot of lavender (up to a cup for each cup of honey). Instead, I like to heat my honey. That way the infusion process is faster and I can get away with using three tablespoons of lavender buds per eight ounces of honey.
I usually use fresh or home dried lavender, but if I'm making up a recipe after the first frost in fall, I use purchased, dried lavender. (A half-pound of food grade lavender buds sells for around $7 online and will last through many projects.)
Lavender Honey Recipe
- 8 ounces clover honey (you can use other varieties, but keep the honey light and neutral)
- 3 tablespoons dried lavender buds
- Double boiler
- 2 lengths of cheesecloth (about 6" x 9" each)
- Glass jar with a lid
- Decorative gift giving jars
Measure the lavender into two lengths of folded cheesecloth (fold each piece in half) and tie with twine. (You can add the lavender directly to the honey, but this method is less messy and almost as effective.
If any bits get out -- some do -- you can strain them through more cheese cloth after you've finished the infusion.)
Place the honey in a double boiler and add the lavender packets. Tie the twine ends to the handle of the pan to make it easier to remove the lavender later. (Keep the twine away from your heat source).
Heat the mixture for 40 minutes on a low to medium flame (The water in the double boiler should be at a light simmer, not a rolling boil). Stir every few minutes.
Remove the lavender, and pour the honey into a decorative jar (or jars). You may need a funnel for this. If there are lots of suspended lavender bits, strain them through three lengths of cheese cloth or a fine mesh strainer.
For extra flavor, retain one lavender bag with the mixture, place the batch in a glass jar, cap it and place it in a sunny window for a couple of days. The more time you cook or season the honey with the lavender in place, the stronger the flavor will be. If you'll be using the flavored honey mostly in cooking, stronger is better. As a sweetener or condiment, the minimum cooking time and no extra curing usually works best.
Lavender honey doesn't need refrigeration. It will last up to a year in your cupboard.
Lavender Honey Tips:
- A few serving suggestions: Tasty on muffins, biscuits, and ice cream, lavender honey is also a great ingredient in lemon pound cake, oatmeal cookies, pumpkin bread, candied yams and gingersnaps.
- You can triple the batch without any problems. More can sometimes be easier, especially if you have a large double boiler. If you want to cook smaller batches in a tinier pan, you can always suspend a small stainless steel mixing bowl in a larger pan. It works for me.
- To make the most of your efforts: After cooking, squeeze the lavender packet gently to get as much honey out as possible.
- Stirring frequently through the cooking process distributes the lavender flavor, so don't forget.
- If your honey crystalizes over time, heat the jar in water until the crystals dissolve.