Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

How much honey is too much, asks Les­lie Ged­des-brown

IDID a count the other day and, in the larder and on the kitchen shelves, I have 38 jars of honey. Yes, 38. I have six bot­tles of Ital­ian honey: lime flower, mille­fiori, chest­nut, wild thyme,

del bosco (wood­land) and orange blos­som. I have straw­berry-tree honey from Spain. There are jars from York­shire, Nor­folk, Suf­folk as well as ones from such grand flo­ral places as Wind­sor Great Park, Rich­mond Park and San­dring­ham. There is a small pot of sea-laven­der honey, which is ex­tremely rare. The 38 don’t in­clude a pot each of damsons and cher­ries in honey.

They take up quite a lot of space and date back a decade or two, but, as bee­keep­ers tell me, 4,000-year-old honey from buri­als in the pyra­mids proved per­fectly edi­ble, so I’m not wor­ried about their point­less ‘best be­fore’ dates.

I am a honey hoarder. There are two ex­pla­na­tions. The first is that, when­ever I pass one of those se­duc­tive road­side stalls with their ap­peal­ing hon­esty boxes, I have to buy some­thing, hence I prob­a­bly have as many jars of ex­otic mar­malades, pick­les and curds as I do honey. Is it a pe­cu­liarly British thing?

The sec­ond is that I was brought up with post-sec­ond World War ra­tion­ing, when even onions were trea­sured and sold un­der the counter only to the favoured few. My au­to­matic re­ac­tion when I see any food for sale is to squir­rel away sev­eral—or half a dozen—in the un­likely event that I’ll never again be able to buy lemon curd or quince jelly.

I put this com­pul­sion down to a deep-seated neu­ro­sis brought on by Sir Stafford Cripps (who en­forced ra­tion­ing). This ra­tio­nale is sup­posed to make me, in my hus­band’s eyes, a poor neu­rotic ob­ses­sive and not an in­fan­tile shop­per who can’t re­sist temp­ta­tion. As you might guess, my protests don’t work en­tirely.

When he saw my honey jars ar­rayed in rows for sort­ing and wip­ing down, he looked dis­sat­is­fied—to put it mildly. ‘We’d bet­ter eat some of these,’ he says as the larder shelf creaks omin­iously. And I agree. Luck­ily, I have a recipe book de­voted en­tirely to honey along with help­ful de­tails about bees, how honey is made and what va­ri­eties there are.

You might like to try Aus­tralian Black­butt, for ex­am­ple, or Cat­claw from Ari­zona if you’re pass­ing. Po­hutukawa, from New Zealand, is a fine tongue-twis­ter.

The book is called Honey and is by Hat­tie El­lis (a shame it’s not by Bee Wil­son, an­other ace recipe writer, but that would be too neat). The trou­ble with Honey the book, how­ever, is that it’s more in­ter­ested in sweet dishes and I want savoury ones. There seems to be a limit on the num­ber of meats, fish and veg­eta­bles you can souse with honey to good ef­fect. Es­pe­cially as I’m cur­rently into us­ing maple syrup as a meat ac­ces­sory (don’t worry, I only have five bot­tles of this plus a rather fetch­ing tin show­ing a lit­tle snow-cov­ered log cabin in the Cana­dian woods with a horse and buggy and bark­ing dog).

How­ever, I do rec­om­mend her dish of Am­brosial Apri­cots with Thyme and also sticky sesame sausages. Roast­ing root veg­eta­bles such as parsnips, beet­roots, squash and car­rots with honey spooned over them is per­fect in these glum grey days. Try the pur­ple car­rots just out.

That’s used up at least one jar of honey. I’m also think­ing of hid­ing the mar­malade jars (only eight at the present count) and of­fer­ing honey on toast for break­fast. A honey afi­cionado adds that runny honey works bet­ter on crum­pets in that it makes its way neatly into all those lit­tle de­pres­sions.

Even if I de­clare a mora­to­rium on buy­ing fur­ther jars, I fully ex­pect my ex­ecu­tors to have to deal with a score of va­ri­eties still lurk­ing in the larder. How­ever, even if it takes 4,000 years to use them, I’ll know they’re within their sell-by pe­riod.

‘When I see food for sale, I squir­rel away a half dozen

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