Monday, March 14, 2011

Review of Honey Cookbooks, Part I

Our collection of honey cookbooks is by no means exhaustive, yet I have to say that I have been underwhelmed by most of the honey-focused cookbooks on the market. They tend to be out of date, with recipes that don't stand up to the test of time. This post provides a quick review of some of the best honey cookbooks I've read and used so far, as well as some cookbooks that I wouldn't recommend. I have a list of additional books on the way and I'll review those in a later post. If you know of other honey-based cookbooks, please post a comment here with your review!

Joanne Barrett (1981) Cooking with Honey (North Adams: MA: Storybook Publishing). At only 32 pages, this is more of a booklet than a book, but it includes some unique honey-based recipes (like honey root beer). Barrett is a beekeeper and owns an orchard. When she began keeping bees, she set a goal to get rid of all process sugar in her cooking. The emphasis is on sweet dishes and some miss the mark, but the book usually goes for less than $5 and certainly worth the price.

Jane Charlton and Jane Newdick (1995) A Taste of Honey: Honey for Health, Beauty and Cooking (Edison, NJ: Chartwell Books). This is by far the best cookbook in our collection. It's gorgeously illustrated and written, and includes a variety of recipes, some of which are quite inventive (individual honey souffles or lavender honey cheesecake, anyone?). The photographs are fascinating, the history compelling and the recipes inspiring. The one catch is that I think it's out of print, though used copies are available from sellers on-line for less than $10.

Kim Flottum (2009) The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook. (Beverly, MA: Quarry Books). As the title suggests, this book is written for backyard beekeepers, so much of the information is aimed at helping small scale beekeepers treat their honey with care and respect. Flottum is the editor of Bee Culture magazine and is an authoritative honey (and bee) booster. He's not a professional chef or recipe developer, though, so this may not be that helpful for non-beekeeping honey aficionados. Like his other book, The Backyard Beekeeper, Flottum offers a nice collection of recipes at the end of the book. These include recipes for spring lamb roast and spaghetti sauce. It's in print and available for less than $20.

Dorothy Mech (1994) Joy with Honey (NY: St. Martin's Press) Written by a beekeeper in Washington State, this is one of the most comprehensive honey cookbooks I've found, yet the recipes often have been disappointing. They seem to reflect a 1990's "health-food" approach and the results tend to taste like food that is good for you, but not very tasty, alas!

Joe Parkhill (1983) The Wonderful World of Honey: A Sugarless Cookbook AND (with Sandi Knode) (1989) Honey: God's Gift for Health and Beauty (Berryville, AR: County Bazaar Publishing). These books give you the impression that Parkhill is not only a big believer in the health benefits of honey, he's also a big believer in himself! The "about the author" note in the books proclaims that he received a "honeyologist degree" from the National Preventive Medicine Foundation. The books read like a community cookbook and it's not always clear that the recipes have been tested. Chapters include recipes for beauty and healing as well as drinks, meats and other dishes.

In a future post, I'll review Gene Opton's Honey: A Connoisseur's Guide with Recipes, Jenni Fleetwood's Honey, and May R. Berenbaum's Honey, I'm Homemade: Sweet Treats from the Beehive across the Centuries and around the World.

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