HONEY-A short review

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Last night we were discussing in the thread "Ancient Baklava for Wendy" about Honey. In fact Kokkopuffs mentioned Honey.
So I took the chance to undust my wise books to learn more about the origins of honey and find a nice healthy and very ancient recipe!!

Honey belongs to the category of Food that was not discovered by chance. Salt, wine, olives and olive oil, cheese, are among the products that somehow in the very remote past, in the corner of Earth that is called Mediterranean and Aegean Sea, our anchestors realized their nutritional and gastronomical value.
It's very difficult, not to say impossible to date the "inventions" of these products.

Archaeological findings help of course but when we are talking about 6000 BC with lack of script it's not always easy to identify a bee-hive or an olive press. Everything seem so similar.

As I posted yesterday scientists think that Egyptians were the first to domesticate the bees at the end of the third milenium BC.

In the Aegean we have a bee-hive from Santorini that was discovered in the ancient town of Akrotiri which was destroyed after the explosion of it's volcano.

The citizens of Akrotiri were living a luxurious life and we have many clues that proove that they knew what the word gastronomy meant. We are talking about the year 2000 BC...

This bee-hive that was founded in Santorini is very important because it dates in 1628 BC . The first writen passage about bees and bee keeping dates 1000 years later in the forensic speaches of the Athenenan lawyers of the 5th century BC (Lysias-the most famous "lawyer" and speech writer of classical antiquity) .
From those speeches we learn that honey in ancient Athens was sold in the market with the honeycomb, It was a very popular product not very rare but expensive.
Honey was also used as a preservative medium for poultry.

In the 4th ce Aristotle knows well that the smell and taste of the honey depends on the flowers that your hives are close to.

In Roman period honey was very popular and Apicius have several ( I have counted 6) recipes with honey. He uses it in poultry and pork :)

Of course in the Middle ages te use of honey expands and it doesn't refer only to the bee-honey. As I was surfing one night in a specific site about medieaval texts , I came across a report of an Arad traveller in the Middle East around 1300AD and there he mentions coconut honey :)

As for what kokkopufs mention about the relation of Honey and Longevity I haven't found anything . I have in mind the famous survey of Harvard University about the relation of Olive Oil and Longevity but I don't know anything about Honey:)

As for the ancient recipe.

Hopmeric poems were wroten around 8th century BC although they refer to a very remote Era. n the 8th century BC hoeny was in use, so Homer must have known Honey.
In Iliad when King Priamos goes to the tent of Achilles to beg for the corpse of his dead son Hector , Achilles ( the Greek) offers him the sweet with sesame and honey, something that 3000 years later, today you can have in my country :)

We call it pastelli and it's very simple but not so easy to make.In the villages and in monasteries that they make huge quantities, all the men of the village are gathered in order to make this pastelli. It need a lot of physical strength to stir a pot filled with honey and sesame :)


100 gr of sesame
4 tsp of honey

Place both ingredients in a pan and stir the mixture continuously for 20 min. When the mixture turn to golden remove from the fire and let it cool.

When its cold enough, wet you hands and take small quantities in order to create small balls. Your hands should always be wet.

You have your home made pastelli.

Of course I have other ancient recipes with honey but this is the most ancient one :)
I will post some other recipes in the Pastry Forum :)

Andrew Dalby, Siren Feasts, A History of Gastronomy in Greece
Doumas Chr, Thera, Pompeii of the Ancient Aegean , Excavations at Acrotiri 1967-1979. London
Carne E. The Archaeology of Beekeeping, London 1983
Athenaeus, Deipnoshopist II 38,b
Lysias, Against Stephanus (Lipsiae)
Aristotle, About the History of Animals ,613b5
Plinii, Naturalis Historiae.
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Oh ! I forgot to mention Hydromel. I came up to this in many books.
But I will do this tomorrow.

And something about the Lands of Honey and Milk. It seems to me that by using this expresion they were reffering to the nomadic people that lived in Middle east and not in abudance :)
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Hydromel is the oldest fermented drink and existed before wine and beer.

This drink was enjoyed by all the ancient civilizations (Slavic, Greek, Gallic, Celtic, Egyptian...)

Too bad you're so far Athenaeus, I have a bottle in my cupboard. I also use it for a sauce, with seared foie gras. :lips:
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Yeap! But just for the Forum's records I will post some details about that tommorow.
Slavs Celts Caulls are not so ancient Kimmie !! :)

I didn't know they sell Hydromel. May I have some more information about that? Will I find something in the Internet?
Joined Mar 13, 2001
Yes, here it is, but a lot of the information seems to be in French.


We find it very easily in Montreal, being a product available at the S.A.Q.

Joined Jul 24, 2001
Mezzaluna I didn't reply at once because I didn't know the answer.
But I sent a couple of emails to people they know a lot of things and I got my reply.

My friend Andrew Holm , is a historian, a specialist in Egyptiology but we share the same hobby for History of Food.
So I asked him about this idea of the "immortality" of honey.

" Honey is considered indeed , immortal ,an aliment that doesn't spoil.
According to archaeological excavations honey is not the only food that seems to last in time.

Ancient Egyptians, that have developed the most sophisticated techniques in embalment , they have realised very early that honey is one of the best preservatives ( Romans used honey as a preservative factor too).

Whatever was used in the preparation of mummies has the adjective of Immortal in the Magical papyrii of Egypt ( those that describe the ancient Egyptian cult).

Maybe this is the reason that Honey is considered "immortal" althought it's not the only food that survives in time.

I hope that this was od some help ".

I think that this is an idea ok but I do not feel 100% persuaded

Joined Jul 31, 2000
I have not read this post until today, Some of you may recall my passion for honey.When i went to chicago I brought with me a little bottle of lavender I had made for everyone to enjoy. I also have made vanilla honey, which is one of my favorite combos of flavor (Honey and Vanilla) I am not however and expert of honeys history as others here but I did some study from one of my books.

Honey has always been a prized food in all parts of the world, Not only for human but for many animals as well. Bears and badgers,which have thick skin and are not troubled by stings, rais wild bee's nests in hollow trees. These animals can be a problem for commercial beekeepers, and in some place hives have been hung ontop of trees to keep the bears from getting them. A neolithic rock painting in the arana cave of bicorp near valencia spain shows a man collecting wild honey. The oldest written reference to the use of honey is thought to be egyptian, of about 5500 bc. At that time lower egypt was called bee land and upper egypt was called reed land. By the 5th dynasty (c,2600 bc)apiculture was well established and is shown in many reliefs in the temple of the sun in abusir. Honey was a valuble commodity used widly in trade- the accounts of seti 1 (1314-1292 bc)110 pots of honey were equel to a ox or donkey. In 1450 bc Thutmoses III is recorded as recieving tribute fromsyria of 539 pounds of honey. The use of honey was taken to india by it's aryan invaders and became associated with religious rites. The ancient indian laws of manu, dating bake to 1000 bc,set the tax rate at 1/6 of the beekeepers production. honey is also mentioned on ancient surerian clay tablets, possible even older the the Egyption reference. later babylonian tablets give recipes for "electuaries medicins based on honey. an electuary mentioned in the 1st century ad by the roman writer Pliny the elder included powdered bees. It was said to be a cure for dropsy and bladder stones.
Theearliest hives were hollowed out of tree trunks,and this practice still survives in some societies.If a colony of bees can be found when swarming-That is,gathering in a dense clump as a preparation for establishing a new nest-the whole swarm may be picked up and tranferred to an artificial hive,where the bee's will settle. The original method of gathering honey,whether the wild or from a hive,is still employed.Smoke is used to drive out the bees so that the honey can be taken. They return to the depleted hive and stoically set about making more honey.

My next honey I will make will be from the arabian jasmine flower. In asia the flowers scent desserts and teas. In thailand jasmine garlands are used in buddist ceromonies and a sign of respect.
i will try to have it ready for chicago :)
Joined Dec 28, 2001
This is very interesting.

Some months ago I have read an article in Lancet,which makes the connection between Honey and Longevity.
It was a presentation of a survey similar to the one of the 7 countries survey about Olive Oil.
As a survey it wasn't as impressive as the later one but the point is that they have found a relation between honey and longevity.
I can trace the article if you wish
Joined Jul 24, 2001

I would be very much interested in this . Because I have the suspicion that the countries that are used in this Honey Survey are Olive Oil producing countries...

I mean if this is the case, how can be certain on what causes the longevity?

Thanks for mentioning that.
Joined Dec 28, 2001
Quite a clever remark but I have to check.

The survey of the 7 countries was a long scale experiment very well performed. This survey is something different but accurate otherwise it wouldn't be published in Lancet. ;)
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