One of my favorite ways to preserve edible flowers and herbs from the garden is to infuse them in honey.
Herbal Infused Honeys to Make Yourself
By Teresa O’Connor
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These homemade, infused honeys are delicious and healthy treats for hot beverages and baked items like muffins and cakes.
Use your imagination when selecting ingredients for your infused honeys. Consider edible flowers like roses or lavender. Or, experiment with herbs like mint or lemon balm. I like a teaspoon of rose honey in my black tea, and I’ll drizzle peppermint honey over a fresh fruit salad.
For something different, try a few slivers of hot chili peppers and lime peel to spice up honey in a special way. The honey has a kick, and makes a nice grilling sauce for pork chops or sausages. Many herbs have proven antiseptic, antioxidant and antiviral properties, so they add health benefits – plus taste – to the honey too. Roses have long been cherished for their beauty, taste and nutritional benefits. Recent science shows roses (particularly the hips) are higher in Vitamin C pound-for-pound than oranges. Peppermint contains menthol, a plant component that helps relieve bronchial congestion and stomach indigestion.
Thyme features the phytochemical thymol, found in many mouthwashes and cough medicines. And lavender has long been used for relaxation, insomnia and headaches. Needless to say, all of these herbs –and more—would make wonderful infused honeys, especially when mixed with lemon and lime peels, or spices like cinnamon or cardamom.
When selecting honey, look for a high quality, local, raw honey (not pasteurized) from your local Co-op, health food store or farmer’s market. This honey is unstrained, unheated and unprocessed, so it contains healthy live enzymes and pollen. Most store brand honeys have all their pollen removed, unfortunately. If you can’t find raw honey, try an organic honey harvested without pesticides or pollutants.
Whatever honey you select, only use edible flowers and herbs not sprayed with pesticides or fungicides. Pick from the garden early in the morning, when they are freshest. Or, try your local farmer’s market or grocery store. For best results, pick plants that are unblemished and healthy looking.
Making Infused Honeys
There are two methods for making infused honeys. One works rather quickly. The other takes more time and patience, but delivers wonderful results. Let’s start with the slower way to make infused honey.
The Slow Way
1. Fill a clean, wide mouth, glass Mason jar with herbs or petals. (If you are using lavender, where a little goes a long way, fill ¼ of jar with petals. For hot chili peppers and lime peels, use just a few strips of each. For rose petals or herbs like peppermint, fill the jar.)
2. Add local, raw or organic honey to reach the lid rings on the Mason jar.
3. Mix well. Pop any air bubbles. Add a bit more honey, if necessary, so herbs are covered.
4. Close lid tightly, and clean sides with a wet cloth to remove any honey drops.
5. Label jars, so you’ll know their contents.
6. Let honey infuse in a warm, sunny spot for 2 to 3 weeks. (If you are using hot chili peppers, test honey after a couple of days. It may be hot enough!)
7. Turn jars upside down to stir honey every day.
8. When ready, strain honey through a fine mesh strainer. Discard solids.
9. Store strained honey in a tightly closed glass jar in a dark, cool place.
10. This honey should stay fresh for a couple years ... if it lasts that long around your house. Ours never does.
In a Hurry? Here’s a Faster Way
1. On very low heat, simmer 2 cups of honey and ¼ to ½ cups of herbs and flowers slowly in a cast iron or heavy bottomed pan. Gently bring it to almost a boil, and then remove it immediately from the heat. Be careful that you don’t allow your honey to boil, or you’ll lose the taste and health benefits.
2. Allow honey mixture to cool. For more flavor, repeat the first step again carefully. But do not overcook.
3. Strain honey using cheese cloth or a fine mesh screen. Then, pour honey into clean, glass jars with tight lids. Store in a dark, cool place away from direct sunlight.
Some Favorite Combinations to Try
Rose Petal Honey: Try alone, or with a sprig of mint. Infuse with entire jar of unsprayed rose petals.
Peppermint Lemon Honey: Made with peppermint leaves and a sliver of lemon peel (optional); remove the white part of peel. Fill an entire jar with herb leaves and a few slivers of lemon peel.
Hot Chili Honey: Infuse honey with 2 to 3 slivers of hot peppers and lime peel for a week. Start testing after a few days, so it doesn’t get too spicy. Drizzle over crackers with goat cheese, or on pork chops and grilled sausages.
Lavender Honey: Only fill ¼ of jar with lavender. Too much lavender can taste soapy. Delicious in hot teas, or when used in baking scones or cookies.
To make these honey labels, here’s a free source of printable mason jar labels. Have fun!