Hold onto your appetite, this is going to be a tasty ride!
Our Taste of Sweet Karpathos Nectar
My sister Joanne went to Karpathos a few years ago and told our cousin’s husband, Vangeli (Βαγγέλη), that she wanted to see where and how their honey was made. He brought her to this remote place in the mountains (vouna, βουνά) and, as luck would have it, when they arrived, so did the bee harvesters.
They removed the honeycombs from their truck, with a few bees still attached, and brought them into a tiny structure. They began by scraping off some of the honey from the combs into vats (Joanne guessed that it was the excess) and then placed the combs in huge drums that spin the honey out of them.
One of the men gave her a piece of honeycomb to try it. This was her first time eating raw honey off a comb so she asked him “how do you eat it.” They all told her to put the comb in her mouth and treat it like gum. So here goes, she thought, and dove in. The honey oozed out and the comb was like wax (which you spit out when you’re done). She beamed “It was the most delectable honey I had ever tasted. Light, airy, not sugary sweet like the ones you buy in the supermarket.”
Her husband, Vinnie, wouldn't try it (not the adventurous type!) because he thought they would get botulism (which didn't happen).
Their daughter Jackie, who was only 4½ at the time, didn't want to chew the wax so she hesitantly and skeptically put some honey on her tongue and a smile bloomed from ear to ear…an undeniable stamp of approval. “It was sweet, fresh, and warm,” she said, “a one-of-a-kind honey.”
After all this commotion that started over a can of honey, the shop owner-cousin gave them the honey as a gift to take home. Sweet! Joanne shared the honey with me when she returned and it was the best I had ever tasted…I only wish I were there to taste it fresh off the honeycomb!
Show Me the Honey!
This honey is rich in enzymes that relieve inflammation and is hailed as an excellent source of energy for athletes, children (not to be given to children under the age of 12 months), and pregnant women. It's also good for digestion and is renowned for its antimicrobial properties.
Monastiri honey is minimally processed so it crystallizes naturally. To return a honey to its liquid form, gently heat it by placing the opened jar in a pan of hot water over low heat just until the crystals liquefy, 10 to 15 minutes, being careful not to overheat. It should be stored at room temperature (not refrigerated) away from sunlight and heat.
Honey Glazed Gorgonzola-Stuffed Figs with Pancetta
Serving size: 2 figs
8 slices pancetta, or thick-cut bacon
8 fresh figs
6 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
4 ounces Ariadne Pure Raw
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange pancetta on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until it just starts to brown but is still flexible (do NOT overbake), about 5 minutes. Transfer pancetta to a paper towel-lined plate and let cool slightly. Drain excess drippings from baking sheet but do not wash.
2. While the pancetta is baking, trim the stem of each fig and cut an “X” into the top, slicing ¾ of the way down, keeping the base of the figs intact. Gently open the figs and stuff each with cheese. Reshape figs and wrap with pancetta, sealing in the cheese. Secure the pancetta to each fig by pushing a toothpick into the pancetta outer loose end and through the other side of the fig.
3. Warm the honey spread and coat the outside of the wrapped figs.
4. Place figs 1 inch apart, stem end up, on the baking sheet and bake until the pancetta is golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove toothpicks and transfer figs to serving plates. Serve warm with a light salad, if desired.
© Recipe by Chef Chris Smith, created for the Cyprus Embassy Trade Commission
MONASTIRI honey from Crete:
Mediterranean Foods (2 locations in Astoria, NY), 22-78 35th Street (718-721-0266)
and 30-12 34th Street (718-728-6166)
ARIADNE PURE (Mellona) Honey from Cyprus: ariadnepure.com
I hope you enjoyed our personal taste of honey. Here's the link to Honey~An Ancient Treasure (part 1) in case you missed it. For more on the foods of Karpathos, see our blog Greek Cooking with a Karpathos Island Twist. Stay tuned for more Karpathian flavors in upcoming blogs.
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Kali orexi! Good appetite!
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