Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jill's Honey Milk Balls

I love bees!!  They are my favorite insects.  I’m guessing most people do not share my affection for these amazing creatures—I know Kimiko doesn’t.  But I think they are intriguing.  Not only are they beautiful, but they pollinate our crops and provide us with honey.  Someday I would like to have a hive in our backyard.

I’m not sure exactly where I got my fondness for bees, but it’s possible that it came from visiting my mom’s Uncle Stu when I was a kid.  He has been a beekeeper in Pennsylvania for 46 years.  He sells his honey under the name Honey Crest Farms.  I remember looking at his hives as a little girl.

A few summers ago, Robbie, Keanna, and I took a trip to Pennsylvania to visit my grandparents.  While there, we had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Uncle Stu and his bees.  He even let us cut open some honeycomb!!

Honey itself is an amazing food.  Its color and flavor vary drastically depending on the nectar from which it is made.  Probably one of its most impressive qualities is that you can store it a very long time.  As long as it is stored in a sealed container, it will keep indefinitely.  Bacteria cannot thrive in honey, therefore it will never go bad.

The one problem with storing honey for a long time is crystallization.  Over time, the sugars will crystallize, forming a solid mass.  This is easily reversed with a little heat.  About four years ago, Robbie’s mom gave me a one-gallon(!) tub of honey from her relatives in Montana.  That’s a lot of honey!!  I am still using it.  It crystallized a long time ago.  I simply scoop some of the honey into a jar and pop it in the microwave to liquefy it.  We usually use the honey in the jar before it re-crystallizes; but if not, I just stick it back in the microwave.  If you have crystallized honey in a plastic container, you can use a hot water bath to liquefy it.

That's A LOT of honey!  I think it started out at about
12 pounds!

Don't throw away crystallized honey!!

From this... this.  Just watch it carefully as it can and will boil over.
Also, use extreme caution--it will get hot!

One of my favorite things to make with honey is honey milk balls.  I got this recipe from Uncle Stu’s daughter, Jill.  She was the Pennsylvania Honey Queen in 1988, and is now the VP of Sales and Marketing for Dutch Gold Honey.  Her original recipe calls for coating them in 6 blocks of unsweetened chocolate melted with 1 Tbsp. butter, ½ block of wax, and 1 tsp. vanilla.  I really like dark chocolate, so I tweaked that part of the recipe.

Jill’s Honey Milk Balls
½ c. honey
½ c. creamy peanut butter
1 c. nonfat dry milk
1 c. quick oats
10 oz. dark chocolate, chopped or chips
1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (do NOT use vegetable oil)

Combine honey and peanut butter.

In a separate bowl, combine dry milk and oats.  Work dry ingredients into gooey ingredients.

Refrigerate until cool.  Meanwhile, place chocolate and shortening in microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave 45 seconds; stir.  Continue to microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring thoroughly between heating times until smooth.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax or parchment paper.  Roll cooled mixture into small balls.  Dip cool honey balls into chocolate and place on baking sheet to harden.  If mixture gets tacky, stick it back into the refrigerator to cool before continuing.  Likewise, as chocolate cools, return it to the microwave for 10-15 seconds to warm up.

Candy-dipping tools are great if you make a lot of candy.
Otherwise, a fork will do the job just fine.

Toss a few in and turn to coat.

Let excess chocolate drip back into bowl.

A fork will do the same job, but doesn't let as much excess
chocolate drip off.  Maybe that's a good thing?

As I discussed in my peppermint bark post, I don't temper
chocolate, so it develops bloom.  Doesn't affect the flavor,
just doesn't look as pretty....

....But who cares if it doesn't look perfect when it tastes
so good?!?

For more information, tips, and recipes using honey, see the American Honey Board website.  If you are interested in beekeeping, see the American Beekeeping Federation.

*Note:  You may have noticed that I used Alton Brown’s plunger measuring cup for the peanut butter and honey.  This is similar to the Pampered Chef mini measure-all cup we’re giving away tomorrow!!  If you haven’t already entered the giveaway, you can find all the details here.


Bapa said...

That looks your daddy's Alton Brown measuring plunger thingy.

Sarah said...

Honey has also been known to help decrease allergies if it's made from bees local to your area. Kind of like an immunity of sorts. My mom likes to use poison oak honey because it gives her some resistance to poison oak rashes (lots of that in rural Oregon!).

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