My beard is filled with honey, spicy honey. But to understand why, we'll have to take a step back.
Some of my earliest memories are in the kitchen of my childhood home. While my mom cooked dinner I would fill a drinking glass with water and raid the spice rack, sniffing and pouring the dried herbs into the cup. Sometimes I would loudly narrate my process to no one in particular, completely fascinated by the smells mingling together. My mom would only break my trance when she needed something from the garden we kept in the backyard. I would bound through the screen door on hot summer nights to pick green beans or cut chives and run back inside with the bounty, standing on tiptoes to watch the separate ingredients become a cohesive meal. Now as an adult, the kitchen remains an enormous place of comfort for me. Cooking brings a deep sense of satisfaction, and I love nothing more than sharing a meal with the people I love.
That boring story is to say, I couldn’t wait to get to the recipe testing.
I decided to use the clover as my standard honey and orange blossom as the more adventurous honey. The buckwheat was too strong in taste and the wildflower was too thick in texture.
Next, I went to the grocery store to pick out a variety of peppers to test. I wanted a range of heat and flavors, with expected and unexpected options. For a little bit of complexity, I also picked some herbs, citrus, and spices to play with.
For the next two days, my kitchen turned into a sticky mess. After the first night of making samples, it was obvious to me that the orange blossom was the best honey for the job. By itself it was just this side of overly sweet, but when paired with the heat of the chilies it created an exciting balance of sweet battling spicy. We still need to find our local honey supplier, and I highly doubt they’ll have orange blossom this far north, but now I know the qualities we’ll be looking for in our final honey.
I infused smaller batches of honey with the herb, citrus, and spice flavors and then spooned them into small bowls with the spicy honey samples. I really enjoyed some of the flavors - lime and jalapeño, turmeric and habanero, rosemary and fresno - but I knew that any gain in curiosity was a loss in versatility; simplicity is a beautiful thing.
In all, I made 12 chili infusions and 11 flavor infusions. By the end of the second night, I had two clear favorites: one bold choice and one broadly appealing choice. At 1am, my boyfriend and I packed a few jars in our coat pockets and ran over to the local bar where we ordered grilled cheese, a fried egg sandwich, and a huge bowl of french fries and started slathering the spicy honey on the food. It was incredible! The taste changed so much when it was paired with food, more subdued than sampling it alone, but the effect remained.
I emailed Morgen the next day: “I think we have a killer product.”
Action: Comment to share any zany story of your earliest or oddest prototypes? We'd love to hear!