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Get to know your honey

Associated Press

Honeyed Baja barbecue sauce is an easy way to give added richness of taste to your grilling efforts.

Associated Press

Thinking about dining al fresco? Grilling is ever more appealing, which isn't surprising because most foods just seem to taste better cooked on the grill and eaten outdoors.

Consider paying more attention to the role of honey in your repertoire of seasonings by taking advantage of the choice of varietal honeys now available. Grilling-sauce recipes using different varieties can have very different flavors.

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First, know your honey. There are more than 300 floral honey sources in the United States. These are the flavor characteristics of some of those available; they vary from delicately light to full and rich.

Light honey group:

Alfalfa: mild flavor; beeswax aroma.

Basswood: green ripening-fruit taste; lingering flavor.

Clover: sweet, flowery flavor.

Fireweed: delicate and sweet with subtle tea-like notes.

Sage: sweet, clover-like flavor; mild floral aftertaste.

Sourwood: sweet, spicy anise aroma with a lingering aftertaste.

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Medium honey group:

Blueberry: aroma reminiscent of green leaves with a touch of lemon; moderate fruity flavor with a delicate aftertaste.

Brazilian pepper: spicy bite.

Dandelion: strong floral flavor.

Loosestrife: delicate, sweet flavor.

Orange blossom: sweet and fruity taste reminiscent of citrus.

Tupelo: smooth honey with a complex floral, herbal, fruity flavor and aftertaste.

Dark honey group:

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Avocado: rich, caramelized-molasses flavor; flowery aftertaste.

Buckwheat: pungent, molasses-like flavor; dark and malty flavors with lingering aftertaste.

Eucalyptus: mildly sweet; herbal flavor with a fruity aftertaste; some eucalyptus honeys have a slight menthol flavor.

Gallberry: heavy-bodied and extremely mild flavor.

Wildflower: floral, pungent flavor.

Here are two recipes for grilling sauces that make the most of individual honey flavors. The distinct varietals used in the sauces bring out the best attributes of each.

The first, a honeyed Baja barbecue sauce, benefits from the sweet, fruity flavor of orange blossom honey. The other, a sweet and spicy grilling sauce, features buckwheat honey, which is a full-bodied, richer variety.

Honeyed Baja barbecue sauce

(Preparation 10 minutes, cooking time 5 minutes)

3/4 cup honey barbecue sauce (recipe follows)

1/3 cup orange blossom honey

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 canned chipotle chili, minced (see note)

1 teaspoon adobo sauce (from canned chipotle chilies)

1/2 cup pureed fresh mango

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Combine honey barbecue sauce, honey, lime juice, chili and adobo sauce in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly; stir in mango and cilantro. Brush over beef, chicken or pork during the last 5 minutes of grilling. Makes 1 3/4 cups.

Note: Chipotle chilies in adobo sauce may be found in the Mexican foods section of most grocery stores.

Honey barbecue sauce

(Preparation 10 minutes, cooking time 25 minutes)

1 1/2 cups ketchup

1/3 cup orange blossom honey

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon liquid smoke

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients except for the butter and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in butter and water. Makes 2 1/2 cups.

Sweet and Spicy Grilling Sauce

(Preparation 10 minutes, cooking time 10 minutes)

2 tablespoons peanut oil (see note)

2 small shallots, peeled and minced (about 3 tablespoons)

4 cloves fresh garlic, minced

1/4 cup grated fresh ginger root

1 cup dry sherry

2/3 cup buckwheat honey

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoon water

2 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoon hoisin sauce

Heat oil in a medium saucepan; add shallots and garlic; cook over low heat for 5 minutes, until softened. Add ginger and cook for 1 minute more, stirring frequently. Add honey and sherry and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 minutes. Combine the soy, water and cornstarch in a small bowl; add to pan with hoisin sauce. Cook and stir for several minutes more until slightly thickened. Remove half of the sauce to a small bowl and set aside. Brush remaining sauce over pork ribs, beef skewers or chicken during last 5 minutes of grilling. Place reserved bowl of sauce on the table to drizzle over the cooked meat. Makes 1 3/4 cups.

Note: Vegetable oil can be substituted for peanut oil.

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