Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nectar of the Gods

I love the taste of honey. Not the corporate, flavorless honey farm stuff you buy from the grocery store in a bear shaped or mundane bottle either. I like the honey you can purchase from independent bee keepers who put up their own sweet stuff. I like that you can, if you pay attention, taste where the bees have been and exactly where they've harvested nectar. My last supervisor kept bees and put up her own honey as a hobby. She and her bees lived near peach and apple orchards. The honey from her bees was quite simply, stupendous. She lost a lot of bees in the beginning but ultimately got what she was after: the nectar of the Gods.

My grandmother Irma, the Belgian immigrant, made the best batter bread with honey as the star ingredient. Sunday, I baked some of this bread from honey bottled in Missouri and purchased from Detroit's Eastern Market. It has a tart, almost lemony tang to it. (When I googled the city in Missouri that this honey comes from, I found all kinds of ads for berry farms. I don't really appreciate berry flavoring in it though.) I'll share my grannie's recipe in case I've sparked some interest. Usually, this treat is something our family makes around Christmas and definitely eats on Christmas morning. The best way to eat this treat is served warm and slathered with butter:

Irma's Honey Bread
Warning: you need a deep, large bowl. If you need to convert our archaic U.S. measurements, go here.

3 large eggs, beaten 2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 cup honey 1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups of warm milk 1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons of baking soda 5 cups of all purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Blend eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt together. Add milk, honey and baking soda. Mix well. Blend in the flour a little at a time. Mix for 10 minutes on high speed. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour in greased loaf pans. A knife, inserted in the center of the loaf should come out clean.

Now, I've never fluctuated once from this recipe-even the beating for 10 minutes part. I just set my Kitchen Aid mixer to high and do other things like grease the pans while the machine helps the ingredients develop into a heavenly concoction.  I recommend making this just as instructed. Don't overfill your loaf pans either-this bread will rise up in the center while baking. You don't want the smell of charred bread baking on the floor of your oven to spoil the moment. Incidentally, my friends are always happy to get a loaf of this bread as a holiday gift. It bakes up well in those disposable loaf pans and you don't have to worry about when you'll get your pan back. It also freezes well. If you've found yourself addicted to honey bread and you are eating a lot of it, go here.

The next family secret I'll share is my Auntie Tina's walnut bread. You will think you died and went to heaven when you eat this. I'm going to start making those gifts next month to give to my family and friends. It's OK to share this family secret-Auntie Tina is gone from us now. There isn't any reason her legacy shouldn't be shared.

Since I've spilled some family secrets here today, what about divulging one of yours? I'm willing to give it a whirl in my kitchen. What's your favorite top secret family recipe?


laurie said...

i read (on a blog, some time ago) that local honey helps combat seasonal allergies. i don't know if it's true or not, but now when i start sneezing i take a big spoonful of honey. yum. who cares if it works; it's tasty.

my mom's special recipe is oxtail soup. i think i remember it but i should probably look it up for you. it involve roasting the oxtails slowly for hours, with sliced onion; then dumping it all into a kettle or a crockpot and adding stewed tomatoes and water and Kitchen bouquet and salt and mmm not sure what else.

serve over hot buttered noodles. the oxtails have such a great flavor.

Brenda said...

Thanks for sharing your family recipe. I will save it and try to make it sometime. I don't have a kitchen aid though.
Most of my family recipes are just memories. My family didn't cook with recipes. Just a little of this and that. The memories of their own concoctions are good ones though. Everyone had their own specialty so to speak. They were all mostly country lard fried stuff. Ha My relatives lived into their 80's and 90's having eaten that way though. Go figure. Have a great day!

Betty Flocken said...

Thanks for this Rudee! I'm going to have to try it! The only family secret I'd share would be My Mother in Law's famous Potato Pancakes! BUT she didn't give me the recipe right.. SHE didn't want to divulge HER secret! :)

Anonymous said...

File this under "I for Ironic": I grew up with a father who was a beekeeper. I hated honey. Wouldn't eat it. Now my kids love honey, and dad? Quit beekeeping years ago.

Rudee said...

Laurie-I've never had oxtail soup, but I'll try it if you send it.

Brenda, this recipe was a little of this and a little of that too. My father's mom was from southern virginia-I know for a fact that she used lard in her pie crusts and her dinner rolls. She also had the best recipe for english muffins. We do have her recipes, but not her touch.

Betty, you'll like this if you try it.

Amy, I promise the kids will like it for sure. I grew up loving peanut butter and honey sandwiches. If I had some plain bread here, I'd make one. Did the bees sting you or something like that to turn you off to their honey?

Rose said...

No family recipes unless you count the chicken ala king in a can (!) my mom used to serve us when my dad was out of town; that stuff is NASTY but it was a treat for us for some reason! I get all my recipes now from Everyday Foods; but I love my Kitchen Aid for breadmaking. I'll try the honey bread soon I hope

Winifred said...

Mmm I love honey too. You're right the nectar does affect the taste of the honey. I love the Greek honey we get on holiday. Doesn't taste the same when you buy it at home.

This recipe sounds great but like Brenda I don't have a Kitchen Aid. Wonder if it would work in a bread maker? Might not beat it enough. Think I'll give it a go.

Thanks for this

Anonymous said...

Knitting Bread Making Knurse: Love the recipe! My Grandma taught me a trick that I will share with you. Make sure to coat bread pans with plenty of lard so the bread don't stick to da pan. Also, have you ever tried pickling stuff...like tomatoes or turnips...that kind of stuff makes me drool..especially if there are plenty of salted ox tails around to snack on!

Just a side note: My Grandma use to make a great Wolf's foot pie...always served with a glass of goats mik!

Rudee said...

Dear Anonymous, It wouldn't sound so bad if one thought this weren't really true. You do however, have the most bizarre yens for food. I'll just tell everyone here the truth since I know you well. Don't put the pickled turnips in front of him. They'll be devoured in no time flat.

Sandy said...

Well I've never baked bread in my life but it sure sounds good. I will be looking forward to that other recipe..

Anonymous said...

We used to have a Christmas eve dinner at Aunt Tina's. Grandma's rolls were always a hit. Never, ever was there any left. They would melt in your Mouth....Just UTTERLY DELICIOUS!!!!!!!