Yes. You read that right. Honey that is vegan. Golden nectar that is bee free! It’s sweet. Syrupy. A bit of sour tang with faint floral bouquet. The recipe is painfully easy too and only a couple of ingredients. It makes you wonder why we use bees for their hard-earned nectar at all. Like. If I can just boil some things, why do I need to bother the bees?
So, what makes honey not vegan? I know you’re thinking it. Right? Right. “It’s just honey and the bees make it and it’s no big deal to take some because they will just make more.” Well. Ya. The bees will make more honey because that’s their food. They are programmed to make honey just like when it’s Fall people are programmed to get a PSL from Starbucks. It’s the natural programming to do what we do. A harvesting bee will visit over a thousand flowers just to fill its one stomach with enough pollen to transfer over to their other stomach that has the enzymes that break it down and turn it into honey. Once back at the hive the bee will regurgitate that honey into the honeycomb which is a storage unit that will be used by the hive as food. Honey is made by bees for bees.
Honey isn’t considered vegan because it is produced through the exploitation of a living being. There are a few reasons honey harvesting is considered exploitation. First off a queen bee’s wings are clipped so that she can’t fly off to start a new hive, and she is artificially inseminated to produce specific kinds of drones and daughters to sell to other honey farmers. Let that sink in. There’s a person with a magnifying glass artificially inseminating a bee…no joke. The second part relates to our own well-being, so pay attention. Honey farms aim to extract the most honey from a hive as possible to produce the highest yield. When that honey is extracted it is replaced with a fortified sugar substitute that mimics honey but it isn’t honey. This affects bee health and bees die both in the extraction process as well as from improper nutrition. Circling back to the artificial insemination of the queen bee, hard working drones are preferred, but that also limits the gene pool of the bee population. You have one branch of the bee family tree that keeps growing because they are the preferred stock of workers, but then disease or virus hits which leads to a mass die off.
So, why does it matter if bees die? Well, if bees die then we die. It’s pretty simple. They are an essential part of the circle of life and the form and function of our environment. Without bees we lose a large percentage of pollinators and without pollination fruits and vegetables can’t grow. As a vegan you take a moral stance against animal slaughter, abuse, and exploitation. I don’t drink milk because it’s not milk that’s made for me and the foundational process of getting it is really no different than the process to get honey. I can live my best life and let the bees eat their own food.
Side note. Ya’ll have probably been eating vegan honey for years anyways and you didn’t even know it. Honey is a weird food in terms of regulation, and unless you are buying local honey that you know is from a real person and not a major corporation there is a good chance what you’re drizzling on your yogurt is a blend of high fructose corn syrup, water, and a boat load of chemicals. Honey is time intensive to make and should have a higher price tag at the store. If you’re buy cheap honey chances are you’re not actually buying honey. If you haven’t read up on “honey laundering” you really should if you’re a honey lover.
In short honey gets laundered by going through an ultra-filtration process that removes all trace of pollen so that the country of origin can’t be determined. The honey is then cut with water, other sweeteners, and even some antibiotics. Scary stuff and because there isn’t a federal standard companies can slap the “honey” label on just about anything. They can even use the term “pure honey” without any kind of regulatory process to certify that. Want to test your cupboard honey? If it is pure a drop will sink to the bottom of a cup of water. If it has been laundered or is outright fake then it will disperse or easily mix in. You can also test your honey with a piece of paper towel. Pure honey will sit on the top of the paper whereas adulterated honey will wet the paper or dissolve through.
Now that we’ve covered all of that here’s a recipe that you can easily make at home using ingredients that you probably already have on hand. Because this is made of sugar and not nectar it does not have glucose oxidase which is one of the enzymes bees use to remove the water from the honey. This enzyme makes the honey thicker and when it is refrigerated it often gets very thick and crystallizes. You can store this vegan honey in the fridge for an indefinite amount of time and it will stay a thick syrup. Can you freeze it? Absolutely! It will harden in the freezer because there is water in it. Can you keep it out on the counter? I wouldn’t recommend it. When in doubt refrigerate or freeze for longer term storage of anything.
- Crock Pot
- 1 cup natural apple juice
- 3 cups water
- 2 bags dandelion tea
- 2 bags chamomile & rose tea
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 4 cups sugar
- Pour the apple juice and water into a crock pot and add in the tea bags.
- Turn the crock pot up to high, cover, and let the tea bags steep for an hour.
- Remove the bags, stir in the sugar until it is fully dissolved, and leave the crock pot on high and partially covered overnight or for at least 8 hours. I generally place a wooden spoon across the top of the ceramic part of crock pot and prop the lid on that so that steam can escape but any splatters are contained.
- It will seem thin and runny at first but it will thicken as it cools. You can check it by taking a small spoonful and pouring it on a plate and putting it in the fridge. If it is thick and honeylike then it’s done!
- This makes roughly 2 pints. Refrigerate or freeze.