Honey is culinary magic. It adds lush, subtle sweetness to roasted root vegetables and curry soups; it turns tea into medicine for winter’s sore throat; and just a drizzle over Roquefort brightens the simplest cheese plate. I whisk honey into vinaigrettes and brush it over pork or chicken for a light glaze.

And when flavored with herbs, ginger or citrus, honey also makes a quick and easy gift. Most of our local honey comes from bees that feast on sweet clover, sunflower, asters, goldenrod and alfalfa. It’s light as sunshine, delicate and faintly floral.

Honey is available generally in three ways: raw or unpasteurized and unfiltered; unpasteurized and filtered; and pasteurized. Raw, unfiltered honey often appears cloudy because it contains bits of honeycomb and bee pollen. It’s sold mostly on farms and at farmers markets and natural food co-ops.

Raw honey may be filtered so that it’s clear and less thick than filtered honey. Raw honey (filtered or not) may crystallize over time, but when gently warmed, it will run smooth again.

Pasteurized honey, unlike raw honey, is heated to 70 degrees and filtered so that it’s clear and won’t crystallize. This process alters the delicate taste and aromas that are contained in untreated honey.

Note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies under age 1 not eat raw honey because of the very rare possibility of being infected with the bacteria that causes botulism. If there are any concerns, by all means, use pasteurized honey in these and all recipes.

Honey is one of nature’s most versatile gifts and has served as a sweetener and medicine dating back to Pharaoh Tutankhamen of ancient Egypt. It’s said that Queen Cleopatra, noted for her beauty, bathed in milk and honey and snacked on honeyed nuts. Wisdom of the ages, just right for today.

 

Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.