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Honey made by bees visiting just one kind of plant's blossom is named after that plant. Clover, Orange Blossom, and Sage are all such varietal honeys. Sage honey, produced primarily in California, is made from nectar of any of the herbs of the genus Salvia. A unique taste, smell, and color accompany each variety, depending on the characteristics of the nectar.
These monofloral honeys, made from the nectar of one kind of plant, are further categorized by color. The lightest shades range from water white to white to light amber. Darker, thicker types include amber and dark brown. In general, white honey has a light, sweet, mild taste, while dark honey is rich with a more pronounced taste.
Chemicals are responsible for the varied characteristics, namely the type and amount of sugars and acids. Different kinds of sugar, such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose, exist in different ratios in flower nectar. The nectar of sage is exceptionally high in these sugars, with not as much water diluting the flavor. Amino acids also affect its taste.
The most popular varieties of sage among bees are found in Black Button, White, and Purple sage. The white flowers of the Black Button attract swarms in the Sierra Nevada mountains and California coasts. Southern California cultivates bushes of white blooms on White sage for most of the year. The darkest sage honey is made from the Purple sage in Texas. Bees collect the most nectar during peak blooming season, early spring to late summer.
Many varietal honeys can be tasted at farmer's markets, specialty stores, or through online retailers. Buyers should choose ones made by a raw, unfiltered method to get the freshest, most fragrant experience. Cooked or filtered honey may ruin the sense that the taster is dipping his or her finger right into a honeycomb.
Always store honey in an airtight container, away from light or extreme heat. Sage honey is especially valued for its high sugar content, which makes it thick and less likely to crystallize. A honey with more water might granulate sooner, but this process doesn't mean it has spoiled. Gently heat the jar by putting it in a bowl of hot water, and it will become smooth again.
Sage honey would be a perfect choice to make mead. This alcoholic drink has roots in ancient Rome, Egypt, and medieval Europe. When diluted with water and left at room temperature, the mixture ferments into a curious concoction.
Sage honey is definitely my favorite, but when I can't get it (that stuff is expensive where I live!) I usually end up making do with thyme honey.
I use honey for baking mostly anyway, so thyme honey works really well for that. Not my favorite for tea or oatmeal, but the best for marinades and dressings!
I like sage honey, but I'd have to say that rosemary honey would be my ultimate favorite. Although it's technically more of an infusion than a honey, I really love how the sweetness of the honey matches with the fragrance of the rosemary.
It's also really great for making baked honey pork chops. I usually marinade the pork chops in rosemary honey for about an hour before I bake them, and then garnish each chop with a sprig of fresh rosemary (if I'm feeling super fancy, if not, it's plain chops that night).
It's also really well suited for tea, especially the lighter green teas, although I could see it working with an oolong as well. I usually use it with long jin tea, to give it a little twist.
I've always loved black sage honey -- the taste is just so unique; it's really light, but with an herbal taste that you definitely can't miss.
Unfortunately for me it's also usually really expensive, because the flowers it's made of only bloom once every four years.
I was lucky enough to get a bottle for a wedding present, and immediately fell in love with it, and now I buy a bottle and make it last for a year -- that would definitely be my "desert island" item.
I would really recommend you to try it though, if you get the chance -- it's such a unique honey, I think that everybody should try it at least once.
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