It is estimated that Tirol has at least 200 times more bees than humans. This means bees are the third-most important food producers in the region, after cows and pigs. Tirol's 3,000 beekeepers keep a close eye on their 33,000 hives producing mountain honey of outstanding quality.
Honey has for millennia not only been enjoyed as a sweet treat but appreciated for its medicinal benefits. In 2001 the World Health Organisation placed honey on its list of possible treatments for illnesses affecting the upper respiratory tract such as coughs. This is because honey settles on the mucous membranes that are inflamed, thereby significantly reducing coughing. Honey is also used to treat first and second degree burns thanks to its antibiotic properties.
The perfect combination for healthy eating
Good honey can be eaten either on its own or with a wide range of other foods.
Important! Children up to one year of age should not be given honey due to the strain it can place on the immune system. Children aged one year and older are free to enjoy this sweet treat.
- Honey should never be heated to over 40°C as this kills many of the valuable nutrients, leaving just a sugary sirup. That is why good honey is always processed cold.
- If you leave honey for too long it cristallises. However, you can reverse this process by placing it in a pot of warm water (max. 40°C). Do not use hot water. By using warm water the process takes longer but the nutrients are preserved.
How to recognise top-quality produce
Honey experts immediately recognise good honey by its smooth taste. Those of us with less experience may, however, find it hard to tell average honey from good honey. We recommend talking to a beekeeper or someone with expertise in honey. A study has shown that the healthy properties of honey depend very much on the production technique used.
In Tirol, honey was for a long time considered a rare and precious good. It was used almost only as a medicine and was cooked only on special occasions, for example when making "Nui-Schmalz", a mix of milk and flour with butter and honey. It is also traditionally used to make gingerbread.
Be careful when heating honey:
- Honey loses its nutritional properties when heated above 40°C. If honey is overheated, it can also lose its sweet taste.
However, honey is perfect to add a sweet kick to certain things:
- Hot drinks like tea and cocoa. Do not mix then honey into the drink until it has cooled down to room temperature. For "honey cocoa", boil 1/3 of the milk with unsweetened cocoa, take the mixture off the heat and then add the honey at the end.
- Jams. Instead of using jam sugar, use gelling powder (3:1) and no sugar. The jam will still be preseved even without the sugar. After opening the jam, add honey to sweeten. Keep the opened jam in the fridge (out of the fridge it will go off more quickly than jam made with sugar).
- Compots, etc. Prepare as usual without sugar, leave to cool to below 40°C and then add honey to sweeten.