How to use the darkest varietals of honey

Honey can vary greatly in colour and flavour, and each has a wide range of culinary applications. Jodie Goldsworthy, founder of Beechworth Honey, explains how to use the darker, stronger varietals.

Bees make honey by gathering the nectar of plants. In Australia we have a wonderfully diverse range of native flora, including over 780 species of eucalypts, from which bees produce honey. Some of these honeys are very light in colour, while others are very dark, sometimes almost black. These colour variations are characterised by the various single-varietal flora that bees work.

Higher altitude mountain areas tend to produce honey that is darker. Generally speaking, the darker the honey, the stronger the flavour. We classify most of these stronger flavoured honeys as “bold”. Every honey is unique, even the same varietal can vary depending on the weather, the soil and the season.

These bold varietals come from native plants such as banksias, tea trees, snow gums, buckwheat, messmate, peppermint and leatherwood.

Messmate honey, for example, has a strong woody, roasted-hazelnut flavour, and is a punchy alternative to sugar in coffee. Honey from a peppermint plant does not taste like mint, but has a warm spice that lingers in the back of your throat. It has hints of cloves and molasses that pair well with ginger and chilli. Snow gum and Tasmanian leatherwood honeys are less sweet than most varietals and are best in savoury dishes, such as in a marinade for lamb or pork. Leatherwood honey also complements a rich tomato-based sauce.

We love using dark honeys in baking where you want to really taste the honey. It’s also fabulous paired with cheese, especially a strong blue cheese.

This article was first published in foodservice's February 2019 issue. To subscribe to foodservice's monthly print magazine, click here.