A unique problem we run into when we source truly artisanal products is that if our producer disappears; so does their product. For years we sourced the best lavender honey we could find from Pierre Cochet. Pierre was an itinerant beekeeper, travelling with his hives through the lavender dense fields of Provence. When we got wind of his retirement, it sparked a year long quest for an equivalent (or better) source.
French lavender honey is monofloral, which means that at least 20% of its pollen source comes from one flower. The best monofloral honeys have upwards of 50-60% pollen content from a single source. As bees can’t be trained, the beekeeper has to time the hive’s swarm with the desired plant’s flowering season. While this tradition is more popular in Europe, in Minnesota we are lucky to have beekeepers like Brian from Ames Farm who follow in the same tradition (his honeys are available at Great Ciao.)
Monofloral honeys are typically unpasteurized – the heat required to pasteurize them would destroy the flavor profile and texture the beekeeper worked hard to create. Because they are raw, these honeys will naturally crystallize. Often the textural component to a monofloral honey is one of its best assets. Two of the main components of honey are glucose and fructose. A honey with mostly fructose, like Italian acacia honey, will remain fluid almost indefinitely. Lavender honey, composed of mostly glucose; is on the other end of the spectrum. It crystallizes almost immediately, with a texture similar to buttercream frosting.
After we tasted (and tasted, and tasted) through dozens of iterations of French Lavender honey, we couldn’t choose just one. The more traditional of the two is from La Cave a Miel (pictured above to the left), a cooperative of beekeepers in the Languedoc-Roussillon department of Southern France. The texture is dense and smooth, with a bright lemony flavor and a floral lavender aroma.
The second honey we brought in is the Maritime Lavender honey from Gabriel Perronneau, whose family has been producing honey since 1890. As the name suggests, the Maritime lavender honey is harvested from lavender flowers growing off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. The saltwater in the air imbues the honey with a faint briny, iodine quality. It was so weird and wonderful that we couldn’t pass it up.