Thursday, January 19, 2012

Honey, to Find.

I cannot resist sharing with you another piece of advice from Sir Frederick Galton’s The Art of Travel: or Shifts and Contrivances available in Wild Countries (1872.) This gem gives a whole new meaning to the idea of cooking (provisioning) from scratch. If you want honey - first catch your bee.

Honey, to find, when Bees are seen.
Dredge as many bees as you can, with flour from a pepper-box; or else catch one of them, tie a feather or a straw to his leg, which can easily be done (natives thrust it up into his body), throw him into the air, and follow him as he flies slowly to his hive; or catch two bees, and turning them loose at some distance apart, search the place towards which their flights converge. But if bees are too scarce for either of these methods, choose an open place, and lay in it a plate of syrup as a bait for the bees; after one has fed and flown away again, remove the plate 200 yards in the direction in which he flew; and proceed in the same sort of way, until the nest is found.

I am delighted to have found this little story, as I do not think I have given honey sufficient space in this blog to date. Today’s recipe source is a twenty page pamphlet from the Canada Department of Agriculture, Honey and Some of the Ways in Which it May be Used, (Ottowa, 1936.) The pamphlet was written for ‘the country housewife, especially those who produce their own honey’, and who pose the question ‘Can we use the honey we produce, but cannot sell, in place of sugar, which we have to buy?’

The pamphlet gives some general rules by which any recipe may be adapted to the use of honey.

1.      Measure honey always in the liquid form. If it is granulated, heat over warm water until liquid.
2.      For every cup of honey used, reduce the liquid called for in the recipe by one-fifth.
3.      One cup of honey is as great in sweetening power as one cup of sugar.
4.      Use ¼ to ½ teaspoon of soda to each cup of honey.
5.      Increase the amount of salt by ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon.
6.      When substituting honey for sugar in cake, reduce the liquid of the recipe by one-fifth and use half honey and half sugar. Fruit cake is an exception to the rule and all honey may be used.
7.      In milk puddings, pie fillings, etc., add the honey with the thickening agent – eg flour, cornstarch etc.

Sir Frederick does not provide recipes as such, in his book, so I have no idea how he would have used the honey – probably to sweeten tea, or perhaps to spread on bread, but almost certainly not in recipes like the following, taken from the Canadian pamphlet.

Honey Snaps.
½ cup honey
1 cup sifted pastry flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup butter
⅔ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt.
Heat the honey to boiling point, add the butter and let it melt. Carefully add the mixed and sifted dry ingredients, combining so that there are no lumps, add flavouring and drop from a teaspoon onto a well-buttered baking sheet. Bake in a slow oven, 300 degrees Fahrenheit, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until thin and bubbly and nicely browned.
Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little, just enough that the wafers may be pulled from the baking sheet, and roll with the top side out. If the wafers become too hard to roll, place the baking sheet in the oven for a few minutes.

Quotation for the Day.

Bees sip honey from flowers and hum their thanks when they leave.
Rabindrath Tagore.


Liz + Louka said...

Wow, I'm glad I don't have to tie a feather to a bee's leg to find honey. Also, when was it known that foraging bees are female?

Piet said...

It's possible that he searched for honey as an addition to his medical kit. Honey used to be used as a dressing for open wounds, because it is antiseptic and aided in healing. I believe the antiseptic property is partly due to its acidity -- the reason for adding soda to recipes where it has substituted for sugar.