There's been a renaissance in beekeeping in recent years, and a growing appreciation among consumers for raw honey. It's a trend that kosher consumers can embrace -- according to the Star-K, and many other rabbinic authorities, pure raw honey, without added flavorings, is always kosher, even without a hechsher. (Note that per the CRC, honey purchased at the retail level -- for example the sort you'd find in plastic supermarket honey bears -- requires a hechsher, because mass-market... commercial honey may have been heated to make it easier to package.)
Here's a selection of exceptional honey offerings that are readily available online; farmer's markets and local gift shops are other good sources for single-source raw honeys.
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Ames Farm Single Source Honey
Minnesota's Ames Farm offers an intriguing range of single-source honeys, from deeply-flavored buckwheat to delicate basswood, the apiary's award-winning signature honey. One especially neat feature is the "Hive-To-Table" accountability program: each jar lists the hive number, beeyard, and extraction year -- information you can use to learn more about your honey's provenance on the Ames Farm website. Prices: $4.15 to $14.50. Shop online at AmesFarm.com.
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Big Island Bees
The tropical flowers that characterize Hawaii's gorgeously rugged landscape are the essence of Big Island Bee's unique honeys. The apiary offers three varietals of raw honey -- Macadamia Nut Blossom, Organic Wilelaiki Blossom, and a beautiful, crystallized white honey made from the Ohia Lehua blossom, which grows only in Hawaii. Prices: $30 to $34 for 3 9-oz jars, or $38 to $42 for a 47-oz jar; shipping to mainland U.S. is free for orders over $65. Order online at BigIslandBees.com.
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Red Bee Single Origin Honey
Marina Marchese began beekeeping as a hobby; today, she is a passionate ambassador for all-things honey related. Not only does she turn out an impressive range of artisanal raw honey, but she's authored books on honey and beekeeping, and, in her role of "honey sommelier," offers lectures and tastings highlighting the importance of terroir to the unique flavor profiles of single-origin honeys. Among Red Bee's more unusual offerings are Red Currant, Apple Blossom, Pumpkin... Blossom, and Bamboo honeys; honeycomb is also available. Prices: $5 to $22. Shop online at RedBee.com.
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Savannah Bee Company
Ted Dennard eased into the business of selling honey from his 5 hives back in 1999, when a friend asked him to bottle some for her shop. Since then, the Savannah Bee Company has grown into one of America's top purveyors of artisanal and locally-sourced "everyday" honeys and bee product-infused bodycare. The company has also championed the cause of the honeybee, working to educate the public about the importance of nature's chief pollinators to the ecosystem and food supply.... Among Savannah Bee's varieties are Acacia, Sourwood, Palmetto, and a lush Winter White honey. Hand-signed flutes of the limited edition Tupelo Gold Reserve or Sourwood Gold Reserve would make an exceptional engagement gift or addition to the Rosh Hashana table. KSA kosher-certified. Prices: $6 to $112. Buy online at SavannahBee.com.
How to tell if honey is kosher, even without a hechsher:
- Look for the words "raw," "100% pure," and/or "single-source" or "varietal" on the jar.
- Check the ingredient label to make sure there are no added ingredients or flavorings. Keep in mind that when the flavor of the honey derives from the blossom type, i.e. blackberry blossom honey, there are no kashrut concerns. If blackberry puree or flavoring were added, kosher certification would be necessary.
- If you find bee parts in unfiltered honey, they must be strained out, but the honey remains kosher.
- Honeycomb and bee pollen are kosher, but royal jelly is not. Propolis is kosher, but requires a hechsher.