Chances are good there's a jar of honey somewhere in the back of your pantry. If stored properly in a sealed container, honey will never go bad. It can be kept for a lifetime or even longer.
Bees make honey by foraging for nectar in nearby blossoms. Upon returning to the hive, they add enzymes to the nectar to break down the sugars, and then fan their wings to reduce moisture. The resulting honey gets deposited in a hexagonal honeycomb, which is then capped and sealed with a top layer of wax.
There are two ways we humans harvest honey. Either the honeycomb gets crushed, or the honey is extracted by centrifugal force and the comb structure remains intact. Raw, unfiltered honey tends to be a little foggy due to stray particles of pollen and wax, and is worth seeking out for its unique character. Don't worry if you come across honey that has crystallized. Cool temperatures cause syrupy honey to harden. Simply submerge the jar in a pot of simmering water until the honey flows freely.
Most commercial honey is a blend of various honeys. Single source or monofloral honey, on the other hand, comes from the nectar of only one type of blossom and can range in color from pale goldenrod to burnt amber, depending on the blossom. In California, you'll find avocado honey, imbued with a distinct dark, buttery richness, and orange blossom honey, with its delicate and citrus-y aroma. Across the southeastern United States, tupelo honey is prized for its mild floral flavor. Buckwheat honey is a favorite of mine. It's strong and smoky, and stands up well in barbecue sauces. Eucalyptus honey has a noticeable minerality, an astringent medicinal flavor that I crave during the cold season.
I love the idea of buying honey while traveling and gifting it as a real taste of some distant land. Blueberry honey from Maine must have an interesting flavor. I'll never be able to forget the intense, roasted, woody funk of chestnut honey from the northern province of Italy, where I lived years ago. For now, I'll gladly get to know the many different plants that the New York bees have been visiting all spring and summer long.
Honey-Glazed Apple Galette
This crisp, flaky-bottomed galette is best served straight out of the oven. I usually make the dough ahead of time and bake the galette during dinner so that it is ready precisely when we are.
1 large egg
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon sea salt
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1½ pounds firm, tart apples (such as Granny Smith, Gala, Pink Lady, or Jonagold)
2 ounces almond paste
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup plus ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons honey
Crack the egg into a liquid measuring cup, and beat it with a fork. Add enough cold water to make 1/3 cup.
In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Using your fingertips, quickly rub the butter into the flour mixture until there are no pieces larger than a pea. Pour in the egg mixture and mix quickly until a shaggy ball of dough forms. Wrap the dough in plastic and place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to a 1-inch-thick circle. Fold it in half, as if you were closing a book, then fold it in half again to create a layered wedge of dough. Roll the dough out to just under ¼ inch thick. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, then place in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the apples.
Peel the apples and cut them crosswise into ¼-inch-thick slices. Discard the seeds.
Remove the dough from the freezer. Crumble the almond paste evenly over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange the apple slices on top of the almond paste. Sprinkle the cinnamon and ¼ cup of sugar evenly over the apples, then fold the edges of the dough in to form a crust. Sprinkle the remaining ½ tablespoon sugar over the crust.
Bake for 50 minutes, until golden brown and crisp on the bottom.
While the galette bakes, combine the honey and 1 tablespoon of water in a small pot over medium heat. Stir just until the honey and water combine completely, then remove from the heat.
As soon as you take the galette out of the oven, brush the honey glaze over the apples (not the crust), then cut into wedges and serve promptly.