Little Miss Honey and Truffles was thrilled for this degustazione! The founder of Mieli Thun,
Andrea Paternoster joined us at UNISG for a seminar on honey yesterday and what a sweet treat that was!
Paternoster, who bears the name of his grandfather in addition to his passion, works alongside a team of nine other beekeepers to produce honey in a nomadic way. This type of beekeeping means that hives are moved throughout Italy to get many honey varieties that range in flavour, colour and aroma. Sometimes they move up to 60 different locations in a year, crossing terrain by even tractors and canoes. In fact, this honey tasting was sort of like a wine tasting as we learned that one honey can vary vastly to the next.
Interestingly, back home in Canadian grocers, specialty stores or the humble roadside honey vendor, I only ever see one kind of honey. It’s a transparent golden colour that's warm and sweet. Of course, sometimes I see smoked honeys or creamed honeys but those have usually been more processed with other flavours added.
When I first arrived in Italy, being the honey-lover I am, I ordered some honey from my local market and was amazed to see that there are many types of honeys made from different pollinated flowers like acacia, millefiori, arancia or castagne.
With the goal of Mieli Thun to make honey more visible and more widely used, Paternoster wanted to reinvent how we think of this golden nectar. For him, honey is local, natural, essential, sweet, artisanal, limited, holistic, peaceful, maternal and seductive.
It also has so many purposes in the kitchen. As a pure ingredient, it can be added to pastries, cocktails and, my favourite, salad dressing! Honey can be used as a rub for curing meat and can even be injected into a cut of meat to create a more flavoured dish.
Let us also not forget about the vital relationship between the honey we consume and the bees who produce it with the help of nature. That said, #savethebees and plant some bee-friendly plants in your garden!
A fun bee fact I learned during our seminar was that while bees are dormant in the winter, they are actually active within their hive, working hard to produce beeswax and honey, which is nectar warmed as bees move about. Another marvel within the hive are honeycombs themselves. Their hexagonal shape increases surface area and tension, allowing liquids like the fresh nectar to be stored in an effective way.
Enough about bee facts, though. Let’s move onto the degustazione! We tasted:
A sparkling honey wine that was golden in colour, reminiscent of toasted caramel
Made with citrus honey and mountain spring water from Val Nambrone in Trentino and barrel-aged
Aroma of orange blossoms, honeysuckle and lily of the valley
This pollen was sweet yet earthy, with a gummy texture
Collected from mixed wildflowers, there was an aroma of hay, licorice and baked squash
Pairs well with fresh dairy products like Balkan-style yogurt or added on top of soups or salads
A deep golden honey with a high acidity
Had flowery overtones, but also flavours of bitter oranges and cooked artichoke
Great with taleggio or used inside baked peaches or stuffed onions
This honey had a uniquely medicinal bouquet
Fresh flavour bursting with lime and an almost minty aftertaste
Excellent in cocktails or served with goat ricotta, fennel sausage or even pumpkin ravioli
Aroma of Vin Santo, apricot, figs and licorice
Its taste is marked by notes of carob, rhubarb and green tomato jam
Lovely drizzled on ice cream added as a final touch to barbecued meats
We tasted this with bread and good olive oil, typical of a Moroccan breakfast...something I will now be adopting at brunch!
Sweet and mild, this was served with soft torrone
Aroma of white spring flowers, almonds and bourbon vanilla
The highest in fructose content and the sweetest of honeys
Pairs well with goat and blue cheeses but as an ingredient, it can be used to balance acidity in a tomato sauce
Served with ricotta, this had an earthy fragrance reminiscent of fungi
Medicinally sweet taste, it had a smoky umami finish
Goes well with ceviches and sweet gorgonzolas or even used in risotto
Sulla (French Honeysuckle)
Soft, subtle and served with gorgonzola
Slightly floral with notes of dried straw and a trace of fresh walnuts
Excellent as a starter yeast for breads, allowing for more golden and airy textures
Aroma of tall grasses and cheese rind but distinct notes of chamomile
This honey was accompanied with a local hard cheese made with honey
Excellent with bitter greens like endive and to glaze roasted pork
And that’s all folks! By the end of the talk, trust me when I say that I was buzzing from the sugar high. Inspired by all that I learned and truly moved by what I tasted, I felt inspired to get into the kitchen and whip up some honey-based creations. I’m thinking maybe a baklava or a honey cocktail will soon be in the works...I also honestly can’t wait to take a trip out to Mieli Thun’s headquarters in Trentino, a Northeastern part of Italy that I have yet to explore!
Like wine, honey can possess so many flavours with an array of varieties. It can’t be classified as solely one thing and I think that is both beautiful and magical. Check out Mieli Thun the next time you’re at Eataly!