DIY Infused Local Honey

Ever thought of making your own line of honey without becoming a beekeeper? Need a project to do with school-aged kids while making gifts for friends this season? Today is your day!

This year, I decided to infuse Sacramento honey with garden herbs! To gift 12 special people in my life, I spent about $2.50 a person.

Here is what you will need:

  • 5 days lead time
  • Honey (I got 5 lbs because I wanted extra, talk to the honey people)
  • 12- 4oz mason jars
  • Dried Herb – choose one herb type per jar. If possible, dry the herb on the stem
  • Large soup pot
  • Tea kettle

First, stop by Sacramento’s famous Sacramento Beekeeping Store, located near X & 21st Street. Did you know they have a tasting area? For real though! You can taste all sorts of local honey and decide which one would go best with the herb of your choice. Also, they can help you calculate how much honey you will need. Why is that important? Because honey is very dense and is measured by weight verses ounces. For a 4oz jar you need 5oz honey. Honestly, my brain cannot even handle the calculations and lucky for me the beekeepers are there to help.

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When you see this, you’ve come to the right place! My kid is cute, right?!

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Tasting area! All were delish!

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Sacramento Wildflower honey has a strong and wonderful taste.

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I chose Delta Wildflowers! It’s more mellow. Who knew?!

Okay, a note about your dried herbs. The jar will look cuter when the herb is dried on the stem. A trimming of rosemary or mint can be dried upside down in a paper bag. You can also use a dehydrator but be careful with your delicate babies.  The key is to have completely dried herbs that are fresh (if not dried all the way, they will mold).

I wanted to use lavender but quickly learned a couple facts from reading up on it. First, only English Lavender is edible. That’s important, right? Second, only the flowers have enough flavor to infuse. My plants at home are not in season so I made due with purchasing local buds from my honey friends.

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Local herbs and instructions. Better safe that sorry.

So you’re ready? Let’s do this!

Sanitize your mason jars and lids. I boil the pieces for about 5 minutes and then let air dry.

Put a sprig of herb in the bottom of your container or along the side. I used flower buds so I put 1/2tsp in the bottom of my jar. Meantime, warm water in your kettle until  it’s screaming. Then pour water into a soup pot. Place the honey (in the container you purchased it in) into the hot water to warm it until it’s nice and syrupy. The runnier the honey the better. Add more water as needed.

Once the honey is warmed, pour it into your jars. You will notice that the herbs want to rise to the top. That’s okay!

Close them up and store them upside down for 5 days.

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For flower buds, flipping them doesn’t matter; however, for sprigs it does.

All that’s left is to make them cute and give them away!

Side note, if you want to infuse more flavor than what this recipe suggests, a drop or two of edible essential oil of your herb will do the trick. Just warm the honey jar in a water bath, add and stir.

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My cute honey pots ready to go to their new holiday homes. I added a note stating it was Sacramento Delta Wildflowers for an “oooh-aaah”factor.

Did you know that honey never goes rancid? If it crystalizes, you can just warm it up in a water bath and it will be as good as new.

That’s about it. Have fun giving your one of a kind honey to your friends!

Written by Mariah Cook, Sacramento mom and lover of bees everywhere. After making and giving this honey, she was was asked if she has her own bee hive. She thinks the beekeepers in Sacramento are doing a mighty fine job and she will gladly support their work. 

Too Many Tomatoes? Dry them! Sun-Dried Tomatoes!

The end of summer is near. For me, this means two things. Kids are heading back to school and I have way too many tomatoes in the garden for my family to eat. Let’s focus on those tomatoes for a second. As much as I love having my family and friends over to have their own harvests, I want to preserve as many as possible for the winter. At the same time, I don’t have time.  I also want my kid to be able to help me, or at least pretend to help, long enough for me to accomplish my task.

That’s why we are making sun-dried tomatoes.

For this task, you will need a food dehydrator or access to a friend’s. Yes, you could use your oven; however, with the summer heat outside, the less I need to use my oven the better. If you have a garden or you can’t beat the deals you are seeing at your local farmer’s market, buying a dehydrator might be a great investment.

NESCO is what I have - it's on the low end but works great

NESCO is what I have – it’s on the low end but works great

Things You Need:
Tomatoes (I use Roma, Ace, and San Marzanos. Smaller sizes shrink too much. The bigger the better.)
A paring knife (To be used by a grown-up.)
Little thumbs (Kid fingers happen to be the perfect size.)
Kosher salt
Basil (Just another fun way to use your dehydrator if you are feeling inspired.)

Preparing Your Tomatoes:
I like to rinse my tomatoes in a colander and leave it in the sink to air dry while I work. I slice my tomatoes in half and get the seeds out using my thumbs. I do this over the sink as well.  If the tomato is too large for the dehydrator at this point, I slice the tomato lengthwise, about ½ inch thick. You want a big slab, but you also need to be able to stack your racks. This will help you keep your slices or halves pretty consistent in size as well.

I simply place the slices on the rack, sprinkle with salt and basil, then stack the rack!

work station

work station

single layer, sprinkled with salt and basil, ready to go

single layer, sprinkled with salt and basil, ready to go

Culinary Note: Many recipes recommend boiling your tomatoes first before slicing and seeding. This isn’t mandatory, but a matter of taste. I don’t have time to boil, cool, and peel a hot tomato. Just placing them on the rack with the skin on is enough for my family and they taste great.

Drying:
ust like you and I, dehydrators are all different, so read your manufacturer’s manual for their recommended dry time. I dry mine for about 10-14 hours. It’s like a crockpot, right?! You just get it ready and leave it be.

The key is to check after the minimum time. You want a tomato that is like dried leather versus a crunchy dead leaf.

finished and ready to freeze

finished and ready to freeze

Culinary Tip: If you have a lot of hot Serrano or Poblano peppers, you can cut them in half and dry them on a separate rack. They use the same amount of time to dry! You store them the same way as the tomatoes.

serrano peppers and pablanos

serrano peppers and pablanos

Storage:
Dried tomatoes need to be in an airtight environment like a ziploc bag and placed in the freezer.

get all the air out and they are ready to freeze

get all the air out and they are ready to freeze

Questions About Storing Dried Tomatoes in Oil:
Can you do it? Sorta. You can soak them in oil with a sprig of any herb for up to 24hrs in a closed container like a mason jar. I have not found a safe way to can dried tomatoes in oil in a home kitchen for long-term storage. If you have, leave me a comment! I’d love to know!

Ideas for Use:
Aside from the common stuff like pizza, sauces, and salads, you can use them as part of a gift basket for holidays and/or birthdays! People love things made from the heart-I know I do.

Written by Mariah Cook. She lives in Sacramento with her small son and big husband.