Chat Leftovers: Meet my new honey

It’s cold and snowy here in Washington — perfect weather for soup. And while chunky, hearty bowlfuls do have their place, sometimes you want something a little more refined and elegant. This week, Jane Black tells you how to make velvety, restaurant-worthy soups at home, no chef necessary.

Also in Food, Cathy Barrow introduces you to Dumplingfest, an annual get-together of friends where the focus is on Korean dumplings. And Whitney Pipkin looks into the world of raw-milk aficionados, who will drive for miles to get the unpasteurized stuff despite the federal government’s concerns that it’s not safe to consume.

VIENNA, VA, JANUARY 9, 2013: Winter salad of shaved cucumber, radish and endive with lemon vinaigrette. Dishware courtesy of Crate & Barrel. (Photo by ASTRID RIECKEN For The Washington Post)

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It’s a good day to settle down in front of a nice, warm computer and check in on today’s Free Range chat. As always, it starts at noon sharp, so be there, and bring your questions. The aforementioned Cathy Barrow — if you follow food blogs, you might know her as Mrs. Wheelbarrow — will be a guest this week, ready to field queries about dumplings or whatever else might be on your mind. Any questions that we can’t get to during the hour will come to me, and I’ll answer one next week. Here’s a leftover from last week’s chat:

I’d never heard of creamed honey until I was given some in a food gift basket. Is it the same as regular honey? If not, then what do I do with it?

Creamed honey is interesting stuff! It’s also sometimes called whipped honey. Both names are a little off-base; there’s no cream in it, and it’s not whipped.

It’s just plain honey, but it is crystallized, which gives it a pale, creamy appearance. You know those crystals that can form in honey as it sits in your pantry? These are the same thing, but instead of being created by random natural processes, they are the product of a controlled method and are much, much smaller — so tiny, you shouldn’t be able to detect them on your tongue.

All those minuscule crystals create a substance that is thick, creamy and smooth. It doesn’t drip, like regular honey does, so it’s less messy.

You could cook with it as you would regular honey, but that’s sort of not the point of the stuff (though for recipe purposes, it’d be much easier to measure than regular honey would be). I think most people use it as they would butter or cream cheese: as a spread on bread/toast/sandwiches, biscuits, muffins, bagels.

Speaking of butter, you can mix it with your creamed honey — start with a ratio of 1 to 1, then adjust to your taste — and make honey butter. Or mix creamed honey with softened cream cheese. Some people add flavorings to creamed honey: cinnamon, vanilla and fruit purees are popular. For savory uses, I like it mixed with mustard.

Lots of people like creamed honey better than the regular kind, and if you become a fan, you might be interested in making your own. It appears to be pretty easy; you just need to keep some of what you already have, to be used as a sort of starter. You can find instructions all over the Internet. Who knows? Your gift basket could be the start of a new hobby.

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