Throughout my childhood, it was an unshakeable rule: After we’d passed through the Illinois State Fair’s main archway, our first stop had to be the Illinois State Beekeepers Association’s honey ice cream stand in the Illinois Building. Even the delights of Happy Hollow (then the carnival rides area), next door to the Illinois Building, had to wait until I’d had that honey ice cream, served in paper cups with little wooden spatula-like spoons. I’d study the ISBA’s display that always included (and still does) a working beehive, one of its sides replaced by glass. Slowly savoring it, I’d take progressively smaller bites, making it last as long as possible. After scraping out the last drops – if my mom wasn’t looking – I’d give the paper cup a quick lick. Then – and only then – was I ready to explore the rest of the fair.
Honey ice cream has been served at the Illinois State Fair since 1958, according to Rita Taylor of Pleasant Plains, who joined the Lincoln Land Beekeepers Association that same year. It was started by Carl Killion, founder of the Illinois State Beekeepers Association and state chief inspector of honey operations. “Carl came up with the recipe,” says Taylor. “For the first couple years we gave out samples to see if the public would buy it. It really sold and it’s been a fundraiser for the ISBA ever since.” Some of those funds help sponsor a Honey Bee cooking contest at the fair. Recipes must contain at least 1/2 c. honey, which must be the main sweetener.
The only real problem over the years has been finding dairies to make it, says Richard Ramsey, another longtime LLBA member. Smaller dairies willing to make special orders have become fewer and fewer, unable to compete with the big operations. And those big companies, such as Prairie Farms, haven’t been interested. Over the years different dairies have made the honey ice cream, but all have used Killion’s original recipe. These days, the ice cream is made by Whitey’s Ice Cream in Moline.
“The only other thing that’s changed is the price,” chuckles Ramsey. “Originally it was 15 cents; now it’s two dollars.”
And it’s worth every penny!
Contact Julianne Glatz at email@example.com.
Honey vanilla caramel sauce
Honey vanilla caramel drizzled over ice cream is decadently delicious. But in my opinion, its intense sweetness is even more delectable over a dish of plain Greek-style yogurt, with or without fruit.
• 1 c. sugar
• 2/3 c. honey
• 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
• 1 T. pure vanilla extract
• 1/4 c. (4 T. or 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into chunks
• 1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the sugar and honey. Cook over medium heat. Stir constantly until the sugar has melted, then continue cooking without stirring, swirling the pan occasionally.
Caramelization stages change quickly, especially towards the end when the syrup can instantaneously change from caramel to burnt sugar, so it’s crucial to keep watching it even when not stirring. Have the remaining ingredients measured out and at hand, especially the heavy cream, because it halts the caramelization, keeping the caramel from burning.
First the mixture will be foamy. Next come large bubbles that eventually morph into small shiny bubbles. Now the syrup starts browning quickly. The edges darken first, then the center.
Now begin stirring again with a heatproof spatula; continue stirring until the caramel is a deep rich brown.
Remove from the heat and carefully drizzle in the cream, stirring until it dissolves. Add the vanilla, then the cold butter chunks; continue stirring until everything is combined.
The sauce can be served warm or cold. It will keep, refrigerated, for at least two weeks.
Makes about 2 1/2 c.
Honey nut bars
The hazelnuts, almonds and pine nuts in these cookies testify to their Italian origin. But other kinds or combinations of lightly toasted nuts are equally good. Just be sure to use 1 1/2 c., no matter what nuts you choose.
For the bottom layer:
• 1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1/2 c. light brown sugar
• 1 c. whole wheat (preferred) or unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
Preheat the oven to 375°. Fold two pieces of foil or parchment so that they fit in to a 9-inch square metal pan (i.e. 9 inches wide). Make them long enough so that the edges hang over the pan’s rim. Put them crosswise into the pan and run your finger along the pan bottom’s edges to crease them. In a mixer, food processor or large bowl, thoroughly combine the bottom layer ingredients. Press into an even layer. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool completely, then spray with cooking spray or butter the foil/parchment-covered sides of the pan.
For the top layer
• 1/3 c. plus 1 T. mild honey
• 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
• 1/4 tsp. kosher or sea salt
• 1 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
• 1 T. sour cream or heavy cream
• 1/2 cup whole almonds with skins, cut in half and toasted
• 3/4 c. hazelnuts, toasted and any loose skins rubbed off in a kitchen towel
• 1/4 c. lightly toasted pine nuts
Bring honey, brown sugar and salt to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil without stirring for 2 minutes. Add butter and sour or heavy cream and boil, stirring, 1 minute. Remove from heat. As soon as the mixture ceases to boil, add the nuts and stir until they’re completely coated.
Top the crust with the nut mixture, and spread it evenly with a spatula.
Return the pan to the oven and bake until the topping is bubbling, 12-15 minutes.
Place the pan on a rack and cool completely in the pan. Use the overhanging foil or parchment to lift it out of the pan in one piece. Use a serrated knife to cut it into bars or squares. Honey nut bars will keep for at least a week, stored in single layer and tightly covered.
Makes between 16 and 25 pieces.
Honey mustard glazed salmon
Honey and mustard are a common combination, and this simple marinade and glazing liquid makes it obvious why the combination is so popular. It’s equally good with other kinds of oily fish such as tuna. It’s also wonderful for grilling pork chops or chicken.
• 1/2 c. olive oil
• 1/4 c. honey
• 1/4 c. Dijon mustard
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
• 1/2 tsp. salt, or more or less to taste
• Up to 6 salmon fillets, approximately 6-8 oz., skin on
• 3 T. chopped fresh dill or other fresh herb or combination of herbs. Flat-leaf parsley, thyme or lemon thyme, and tarragon are excellent.
Combine the first six ingredients in a gallon-size resealable plastic bag. Seal it, then gently squish and/or shake until everything is combined. Add salmon, turn to coat all sides, then lay the bag flat so the salmon is in a single layer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 6, turning the bag occasionally. Be sure whenever you turn it the salmon is again in a single layer.
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. To serve the salmon with skin on, oil or butter the parchment or foil. To serve it skin off, don’t oil the parchment/foil. Wipe off excess marinade, then place salmon, skin side down, on the prepared sheet; reserve marinade for glaze. Bake 8 minutes; then brush with reserved glaze. Continue baking to your desired degree of doneness: Depending on your oven, it should take 3-4 minutes for medium rare; baking until it’s opaque and flaky in its center should take about 8 minutes. For skin off, slide a spatula between the skin and flesh; it should separate easily. Garnish with the fresh herbs.
Honey sherry vinaigrette
Honey and sherry is as equally felicitous a combination as honey and mustard, one found often in Spanish cooking. Sherry vinegar is such an important ingredient in my pantry that I always have a bottle in reserve, so I never run out. It’s available locally at Incredibly Delicious, and can be easily found and ordered online. I especially like it tossed with mixed greens, soft leaf lettuces or baby spinach, garnished with crumbled bleu cheese and toasted walnuts or almonds.
• 1/4 c. sherry vinegar, preferred, or other wine vinegar
• 2 T. honey
• 2 tsp. Worcestershire
• 2 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
• 1 c. olive oil
Mix the ingredients in a jar and stir or shake until combined. Store in the refrigerator. Stir or shake before using.