Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Honey Ice Cream

Forgive the pictures, I couldn't get the blogger software to work right and now the eaten picture is the first one you see. It is completely out of chronological order.

I thought I would sneak in one last posting about sugar. There are natural sources of sugar of course, rather than processed corn and refined cane. Maple syrup is a staple in our house to sweeten oatmeal and yogurt, and of course, there is honey.

Honey comes from bees. Duh. Worker bees have a special 'honey stomach' in which they store sugary flower nectar. Upon returning to the hive they regurgitate and re-ingest the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested. The bees work together in this process until the honey is of the desired quality. If that grosses you out, well, more honey for me!

I had heard most of that, but I did not know that honey is particularly low in water content. It's shelf life can be measured in decades (sometimes centuries). When it is fresh in the hive, the liquid nectar is still high in water and yeast, which would make it ferment if left unchecked. The bees actually flap their wings inside the hive creating a strong draft that helps the water evaporate. This removes the water and prevents fermentation. Speaking of fermentation, honey does still contain some natural yeast and it is the main ingredient in mead. Now my brother makes beer in his home (really good beer I might add) so I bet I could find out a way to make mead. Hmmmmm.....I am going to have to look into that.

Some honey facts (because you know I love incidental information):

The sugar profile of honey is closest to that of high-fructose corn syrup in that honey is liquid at room temperature. Typically honey is 38.2% fructose, 31.3% glucose, 1.3% sucrose, 7.1% maltose, 17.2% water and 1.5% higher sugars. Honey tastes about as sweet as table sugar.

Humans began hunting for honey at least 10,000 years ago as evidenced by cave painting in Valencia, Spain. The paintings show two women carrying baskets and using a long wobbly ladder to reach the wild nest.

The Maya regard the bee as sacred.

In some parts of post-classical Greece it was formerly the custom for a bride to dip her fingers in honey and make the sign of the cross before entering her new home.

In Jewish tradition, honey is a symbol for the new year, Rosh Hashana. The traditional new year dinner includes apple slices dipped in honey to bring in a sweet new year.

Excessive heat can have negative effects on the nutritional value of honey. At around 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit much of the antibacterial properties and enzymes are destroyed. Around 120 degrees Fahrenheit the honey sugars caramelize. Apparently you can make caramel sauce from honey. I saw it done on one of those shows where families try to eat locally for 90 days or such.

Well, I wanted to make some ice cream this weekend. And I thought it would be fitting to make ice cream with honey rather than sugar. I bought cream from Milk Thistle as well as milk. I used 2% milk but you could use whole milk or even half and half (which is really just half cream and half whole milk). And I also got my eggs from the farmer's market and I bought my honey at our Farmer's Market from a place called Nature's Way Farm. I bought the most amazing wildflower honey for $5.50 for a one pound glass jar. They have several varieties though. The only thing that wasn't local about my ice cream was the vanilla and the cinnamon.

The recipe I used here I altered from an amazing basic vanilla recipe that I found at the Food Network Website. It is from Chef Gale Gand of Chicago. It is a great basic recipe that is just ripe for the addition of flavors. The egg yolks are essential for that custardy flavor. A lot of recipes omit them, but I find it has a real homemade flavor because of them.

Honey Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk or half and half
9 egg yolks
3/4 of a cup of honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
A couple of shakes of cinnamon

Put a large mixing bowl in the freezer to chill. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk and cream to a simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, honey, vanilla and cinnamon. When the cream mixture reaches a fast simmer turn it off, do not let it boil! In a thin stream, whisk half of it into the egg yolk mixture. Then pour the egg-cream mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the cream mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. At 160 degrees, the mixture will give off a puff of steam. When the mixture reaches 180 degrees, it will be thickened and creamy, like eggnog. If you don't have a thermometer, test it by dipping a wooden spoon into the mixture. Run your finger down the back of the spoon. If the stripe remains clear, the mixture is ready, if the edges blur, it is not quite thick enough yet. When it is ready, quickly remove from the heat. Meanwhile, remove the bowl from the freezer, put 4 handfuls of ice cubes in the bottom, and add cold water to cover. Rest a smaller bowl in the ice water.
Strain the cream mixture through a fine sieve to remove any pieces of cooked egg, into a smaller bowl. Chill 3 hours, then freeze according to the directions for your ice cream maker.

It was nice to know that my ice cream was local. And this recipe made about a liter and a half of ice cream. I used my super premium milk and so total the 3 pints of ice cream cost me about $16 for the ingredients used. That is more than a half gallon of Bryer's, but I think about even to three individually purchased pints of Haagen Dazs.

It was delicious. It will be equally delicious every night this week. Michael Pollan in In Defense of Food says that we should be able to eat as many high fat foods as we are willing to make at home. Now yogurt has been easy to make, and I have been making that every week since I wrote about it. But ice cream really requires you to be standing over the pot for the whole time it cooks. That doesn't work for me. I will make ice cream once in a while, but I think it is more likely that we will just eat it less, maybe once a month instead of every week.
Honey. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. http://www.wikipedia.org/ 18 June 2010.


  1. This sounds amazing. Just put an ice-cream maker on my wish list. Honey is so fascinating. If you're ever out of neosporin, use honey. (can't say that about any other condiment.)

  2. I had no idea!!! Where did you find that??

  3. Here's a source that explains it, but I know from reading about ancient embalming practices.