Honey – A Connoisseur’s Guide with Recipes – A Book Review

As a honey enthusiast, you may be looking for more instructions and tips on how to best make use of the different floral honey varieties in cooking. Here’s a book which I personally have gained a lot of insights on the versatility of honey in cooking – Honey a Connoisseur’s Guide with Recipes. With 130 pages in all, it contains more than 80 delightful ways of using over 50 different floral varieties of honey in breads, muffins, fruits, veggies, desserts, toppings, pies, tarts, cakes and cookies, with occasional vibrant shots of the resulted foods. I am particularly attracted to the really simple recipes which require only minimal effort and easily accessible ingredients such as the Milk and Honey Loaf, Walnut Honey Bread, Fresh Blueberry Muffin, Refreshing fruit Smoothie, Sweet and Sour Cole Law, Honey Mustard Glaze, Pork Loin Roasted with Orange and Ginger, Fat Honey Cookies, and Italian Pine Nut Cookies. And if you like traditional Christmas cookies, there are quite a few recipes on these cookies in various styles such as German, Polish, and Swiss. But to prepare the relatively huge amount of European ingredients for some of these recipes, I personally find it quite a challenge for people like me who reside in Asia.

Its author Gene Opton not only passionately describes specifically the taste and character of each of the common honey varieties (Buckwheat, Blueberry, Pine, Sourwood, etc) she uses in her recipes and explains when to use dark colored honey and when to use a light colored one, she also goes on to classify honey into those that have a flavor so refined and subtle that is best appreciated by eating directed from a spoon – “silver spoon selection” and those that are so unique and distinctive and appeal a lot to the sophisticated palate – “connoisseur selection”. What I find especially enlightening is her vivid detailing on how the honey bees would choose a certain flower and concentrate on a single nectar source, and how one could explore the taste of a honey like a honey connoisseur by first appreciating the aroma of the honey in the jar, slowly using the front of the tongue to dissolve the honey, smacking your lips to discover the fullness of the flavor, and observing a lingering aftertaste in the mouth.

Gene Opton’s apparent passion and excitement in explaining the uses of honey varieties in cooking is very infectious and her clever innovations of honey recipes using herbs and spices such as cloves, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, mustard, chives, and garlic, very inspiring. She leaves me the impression that all the recipes in the book are a result of her painstaking efforts in researching and exploring the best ways to combine different floral types of honey with different textured and flavored foods to obtain the best tastes. Though following certain sections of the introduction that describe the technical process of harvesting, packaging and selling honey and the activities of the bee and honey hall which the author has visited can be rather dry, for those who are keen on learning to savor the nuances of flavor in honey and discover the creative uses of honey varieties in cooking, this book is still a valuable read.