On Rosh Hashanah, there is a custom to eat apples dipped in honey to bring a sweet new year. As explained in 1001 Questions And Answers About Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by historian Jeffrey Cohen, honey is the preferred form of sweetness because it is tied to manna, which the Torah describes as “honey-like wafers,” as well as because bees are an apt symbol of God, given their ability to create beauty as well as punish (via a sharp sting).
Regular old honey will certainly satisfy tradition, but why not spruce up your nectar by infusing it with ginger, cloves, vanilla, or even rosemary. Not only will doing so give rise to added dimensions of flavor (which, in turn, can complement different species of apples), any surplus product makes for a lovely New Year’s gift to send to loved ones celebrating Rosh Hashanah from afar.
If the idea of infusing honey has you fearing a sticky situation, rest assured the process is relatively simple and requires minimal planning.
1. Choose Your Honey
When selecting a honey to infuse, focus on lighter varieties, which tend to be naturally mild and therefore are less likely to contribute other flavors that will “compete” with your infusion ingredients. Looking to make use of that jar that has been sitting in your pantry, since, um, the last millennium? Because honey is one of the few foods that does not spoil, you can probably get away with it, though you may need to remove the crystals that naturally occur over time.
2. Choose Your Infusion
Select your herbs or spices to infuse. The combination of vanilla beans and cinnamon sticks will give rise to a comforting spread that is the perfect for baked goods (try it on babka!), while pairing ginger and nutmeg gives rise to a honey with autumnal notes that is a fitting sweetener for tea, coffee, or milky chai. Consider lavender for a lovely floral essence or chili peppers for a honey that packs some hefty sweet heat. Finally, earthier infusion ingredients, such as thyme, basil, or rosemary, are great for nectars to use in savory meat dishes, such as honey roasted chicken breast or pork tenderloin.
Next measure out your honey and ingredients. For every 1 cup of honey, use roughly 1 to 2 tablespoons of herbs or spices. Note that while fresh herbs will provide stronger flavors, dried versions are preferable as they are easier to measure.
Then, place the infusion ingredients in a glass jar with an air-tight lid along with your honey. Mason jars or any jar with a tight seal and a wide mouth are ideal as they facilitate adding and eventually extracting the infusion elements.
Stir honey with a small wooden spoon in order to best distribute the spices or herbs. Secure the lid of the jar and leave rest for up to two weeks, and remember, the longer you keep the infusion, the stronger its flavor profile will be in the honey.
4. Finish and Make it Fancy
Strain the infused spices/herbs from the honey into a clean container. And if you’re feeling extra festive, adorn with a bow or a colorful cover. As this tutorial demonstrates, the latter can be easily created by procuring quilting squares from your local craft store (or online), tracing the outline of the jar lid on fabric, and trimming any excess material with shears.
Finish with a label, and, sweet! You have your infused honey.