Honey is natural liquid sugar made by bees. The bee converts the sucrose in the nectar of flowers into glucose and fructose by means of an enzyme it carries in its body. A hive of bees will produce from 20 to 50 pounds of honey in a year.
Honey is an easily assimilated source of energy and the oldest-known method of sweetening food, used extensively in cooking and preserving long before cane sugar came to be widely known in the west. The Bible and the Koran contain mentions of honey; it was used in ancient Egypt for embalming, in India for preserving food, and honey has long been famed for its medicinal properties.
The flavour of the honey depends on the flowers from which the bees take the nectar; rosemary and heather are among the most prized, and the honey from Mount Hymettus in Greece is particularly famous.
Honey can be substituted for sugar in many recipes, but more honey than sugar will be required and a reduction made in the liquid used. Clear honey should be used in cookery.
Honey has hygroscopic properties – which means that it absorbs moisture. For this reason bread and pastries made with honey remain moist for a long time and thus keep well.