Cranberries in Honey – A Treat from Latvia!
Old Latvian Truths about Honey
The traditions and history of beekeeping in Latvia go back very many centuries. The oldest evidence of beekeeping in Latvia has been established as far back as the 9th and 10th centuries. Beeswax and bee larvae colonies from the 11th - 13th century have been found and history has it that great volumes of mead were already being manufactured in the 12th century. Honeybees have always been something sacred to their keeper. The fact that the destruction and plundering of bee trees used to be one of the cruelest forms of vengeance only attests to this. The love and respect Latvians have for honey has not lessened over time. Today, approximately 70,000 honeybee colonies produce 600 – 800 tons of honey a year to add sweetness to our lives.
What do Latvians say about honey?
The important role of honey for Latvians is further emphasized by the place it holds in our folklore. Folksongs, sayings, beliefs and wisdom about honey from centuries ago are still remembered and used by Latvians today.
“To glue someone’s eyes shut with honey” – to hide a bitter truth from someone
“A drop of tar in a honey barrel” – a small failure spoiling an otherwise perfect general impression
“Sweet as honey” – a comparison to describe the sweetness of something
Beliefs: Eat honey before going to bed and you will have good dreams
Old wisdom: Having eaten too much honey, one should drink ice-cold milk or eat a radish
Meaning in a dream: Honey in a dream is a good sign and a promise of luck in love.
Honey – the cure for 99 ills
What else if not honey could stimulate brain activity so quickly, but still be healthy? Honey contains sugars, which quickly reach the brain, sharpen thinking and help memory. Our athletes know of no better way to rejuvenate strength, keep their health and escape illness. Honey can be used externally as well: spread on clean, warmed skin it has a healing quality, a stimulating effect on microcirculation, and makes skin silky and soft. Quite possibly the positive qualities of honey are to be found in the fact that honey, in its composition almost perfectly corresponds to our blood.
For generations honey and cranberries have given us the strength and health to withstand the severe winters of the North. Our honey is valuable, concentrated and biologically active; that is because the blossoming season is so short and the pollen found in the flowers in Latvia is much more concentrated than it is in places where the blossom season lasts much longer. Latvian grown cranberries have a nine times higher dose of vitamin C than berries from anywhere else.
The original combination of honey and cranberries was first invented by our ancestors. They found that cranberries could be preserved without losing their medicinal value by being kept in honey. With time, the unlikely harmony in terms of the taste of these two very different products was revealed. When used separately, each of them has a rather strong flavor, which not everyone finds pleasant, but when combined, they created a balance. Most importantly, this combination has always been a daily source of health and strength for any Latvian, as well as being the best aid in fighting a cold.
320 liters of white honey and 150 kg of cranberries will be given to Latvia’s NATO Summit guests
To make sure that all the NATO Summit guests will be able take home a Latvian treat, approximately 4500 jars will be filled using 320 liters of white honey and 150 kg of cranberries.
The bittersweet contents of each jar will represent two regions of Latvia. The honey has been harvested on the left bank of the Daugava – in Zemgale, in a park of 140 lime trees, which, according to the beekeeper himself, is one of the most ecologically clean places in Latvia. The berries have been hand picked in northwest Latvia, near the city of Aluksne.
You may wonder why, exactly, are the cranberries served in white honey, not heather blossom or rapeseed blossom honey? Beekeepers say they have tried pairing the berries with other kinds of honey, but people, based on their tastes, seem to have given a preference to the tandem of white honey with cranberries. Although it is one of the sweetest and mildest of honeys, white honey still has a certain bitterness to it, that’s why it fits with the sourness of the cranberry and they complement each other so well. And, of course, with its clear and golden color white honey emphasizes the rosy berry more majestically than any other kind of honey can.
Honey: a brief user’s manual
How to store honey?
It is important to keep honey in closed containers. Properly prepared honey stored in tightly sealed containers can stay good for decades. If kept in the open, honey takes on odors and moisture. As a result, it begins to ferment and becomes too bitter to be eaten. Nevertheless, you can always keep a small jar with the lid lightly fastened on the table. However, fresh cranberries kept in honey will only stay in good condition for a limited time, so this treat should be eaten as quickly as possible.
How best to use honey?
It is important not to overheat honey. At 70° C, all the biologically active ferments are lost, evaporating along with the steam from your cup and only the sugars remain in the honey. When heating honey, 42° C is the upper limit and this is why you should never put honey into boiling-hot tea or milk, but wait until the liquid has slightly cooled.
We thank beekeeper Jānis Sulutaurs, apitherapist Maruta – Solvita Naudiņa and the Latvian Association of Beekeepers for their cooperation.