Though known as the Beehive State, Utah produces less honey than its neighbors with North and South Dakotas pouring it on. What Utah does have is honey especially suited for storage, explains Maleesa Jacobsen of Cox Honey, a producer and distributor of honey in Utah for more than a century.
“We are a dry desert state; it’s low moisture so our honey stores well and it crystallizes so you can use it for long-term storage. So, like, honey producers on the east coast or in high humidity areas, they actually have to dry their honey before they bottle it or it could ferment on them and spoil. That’s why a lot of people like buying honey through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana--because we’re kind of this drier region and it stores a lot longer.”
And when we say long-term storage, we mean long-term storage. Bacteria cannot survive in honey’s acidic, low-moisture environment. Modern archeologists discovered pots of honey 3,000 years old in ancient pyramids. The contents were unspoiled.
Jacobsen: “Honey does last indefinitely for a shelf life if it’s pure, raw honey. So, if nothing’s been added to it ... It will get darker over time if it’s exposed to cool and heat changes. And so, like they say they pull it out of Egyptian tombs. But, you know, it’s black. It’s really dark; but, you can still eat it as long as it’s been stored properly.”
While we may not be eager to go on a tomb taste-testing tour, we can sample honey diversity. The flavor, color and aroma of honey depend on its floral source. Orange blossom honey from Florida carries a fruity tang perfect in sauces and marinades. Though some floral sources may not be so appealing, explains Jacobsen. When her sister lived in southeast Texas, just more than a mile from the bayou, her honey took on a slightly swampy essence.
Even honey produced at either end of the state of Utah offer different flavors. Bees in the agricultural regions of northern Utah collect nectar from clover and alfalfa, creating a mild and sweet honey popular in the pantry and for baking, while bees in the southern part of the state gather from desert flowers, including sagebrush and cactus, producing an effect that is less sweet, with a bit of a bite.
Color can serve as a clue to flavor, according to Jacobsen. Generally, the lighter the honey, the milder the flavor. The darker the honey, the stronger the flavor. Also, since honey is twice as sweet as sugar, when you use it in baking or cooking you only need half as much. Recipes may need adjustment for lower heat, but a honey cookie can serve up a softer crumb with a layered profile.
Finally, for Utahns suffering from seasonal allergies, Jacobsen recommends finding raw honey that contains pollens from your region: a spoonful a day may keep the sniffles away. That’s buying local. And, it’s a pretty sweet prescription.