When looking for another wrinkle to add to your dishes, add some buzz to your desserts or sweetness to the meals you make in your hive, go for the honey.

Honey has been part of the culinary world for thousands of years. It has been used as a preservative, sweetener, cure-all and at times; as embalming fluid.

The health benefits of honey are endless. Certainly the effect on seasonal allergies is top on the list. But, it is also a natural remedy for ulcers, insomnia, infections, digestive health, weight loss, eczema, bone health and sore throats to name a few. You can also use it to give you more energy, make your hair healthy, speed the healing of a cut, used on the face to prevent acne and slow the aging process.

When buying your honey, you usually have a choice of raw or pasteurized. If you are looking to get the best health benefits, buy raw. And the more local the honey is, the better the health benefits, especially in allergy relief.

Commercial honeys are usually pasteurized and filtered, so much of the health applying properties are removed. Beware as some honeys are extended with corn syrup and water -- always read the ingredients. Honey never goes bad or grows mold. Honey that has been found in pyramids is still edible. So, if you see mold in your honey…you got ripped off.

You will get the most health benefits from raw honey, if it is not heated. There are still tasty benefits for using honey in dishes put in the oven or on the grill. Honey adds other dimensions in your baking or cooking. When using for broiling or grilling, it will enhance browning and promote umami flavors as well as crispiness. It is a flavor enhancer that brings out the flavor in meats, teas, fruits and vegetables.

Honey’s properties are able to retain moisture, so that it makes cakes and other baked goods stay moist. It creates a more silky texture and tender crumb in cakes and pastries. As baking is precise, there are some rules to follow when replacing sugar with honey in your baked goods. Honey has a higher concentration of sweetness, so it cooks faster. Honey has nearly twice the sweetness of sugar. When substituting honey in baking, lower the temperature of the recipe by 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this concentration, for every one cup of sugar, use 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup honey. Honey adds liquid to the recipe, so reduce your liquid measurement by 25%. Because honey is acidic, you may need to add a little baking soda to counter balance that to keep the levity of the bake good. Use about ¼ teaspoon for every cup of honey used in the recipe.

You may be hard pressed to find local honey is some supermarkets. But, you can always find some at your farmers markets and specialty stores like Backyard Gardens Market in Ohiopyle, Triple B Farms and Duda’s. Local apiaries that provide honey to these markets are: Bedillion Honey Farm (Hickory), Pennsylvania Honey House (Charleroi), Huckle Bee Farms (Ligonier), BumbleberryFarms (Somerset), Duda’s (New Salem) and Alvin Leslie Honey (Fort Hill).

So get out there, get some and sweeten up your kitchen.

Note: Honey (both raw and pasteurized) has been found to contain pathogens that affect infants, so do not give to infant children. After a year or so, the human digestive system has developed the flora to deal with any pathogens in honey.

Honey Orange Cannoli

1 ½ cup ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons honey

Zest of small orange

¼ cup mini chocolate chips

6 cannoli shells

¼ cup chopped pistachios (optional)

In a bowl, mix ricotta, honey, orange zest and chips. Using pastry bag or spoon, fill cannoli shell. Dip side of finished cannoli in chopped pistachios if desired.

Honey Grilled Salmon

Side of salmon (1½ pounds) or 4 salmon filets.

3 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon dill

1 teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper

Heat up grill. Whisk oil, honey and dill and brush on salmon. Season salmon with salt and pepper. Let sit 20 minutes. Place on grill honey side down on hot grill for around 6 minutes. Turn salmon over and grill to desired doneness

Honey Cake

1 cup honey

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup)

3 eggs

½ cup yogurt or sour cream

2 cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a mixing bowl, beat honey and butter until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add yogurt. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients. Fold dry ingredients into honey mix. Pour into 9 inch greased cake pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes. Top with fruit, drizzled honey or cream cheese frosting.

Chef Joe Carei has been an award-winning chef in Fayette County nearly half of his life. The former PA Restaurateur of the Year now operates Ellie Mae’s Catering and Food Clubs. He can be reached at joe@elliemaescatering.com.

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