1/19/2011: Experimenting with chile-infused honey

[This photo is part of my 2011 Picture a Day project »]

I’m trying to perfect my recipe for chile-infused honey before posting it on Slice. Credit where due: It is 100% inspired by Mike’s Hot Honey, which is available online or from the bar at Paulie Gee’s.

I’m playing with the spice levels. The honey on its own is pretty damn hot. But on a recent pizza I drizzled it on, it wasn’t overpowering. The wife, though, said that the honey (again, on its own) was all heat — that it lost any other flavor components. On the pizza, though, I was able to discern the sweetness it added, and the spiciness was a slow burn. So I might be at the right power level. Still, I want to tweak before posting the definitive recipe.

I’m also a bit concerned about food safety issues. My original source for the technique was actually Serious Eats (imagine that!). But the commenters there brought up the possibility of botulism spores growing in the anaerobic environment of the honey.

Mike’s Hot Honey, I suspect, gets around this by using vinegar (you’ll see it listed on the label). From what I’ve read, heating the honey to 185°F for five minutes should be enough to kill any botulism microbes that could later produce botulism spores. To play it safe, I’d say that you should probably consume this honey within a few days of making it and trash any remaining at the end of a week.

6 thoughts on “1/19/2011: Experimenting with chile-infused honey

  1. Hi – just came across your post after a curious googling of how to make chile-infused honey. Did you figure out what ratios work best? I want to use dried ancho chiles & since they’re rather large I can’t figure out the child to honey ratio. Am also concerned about botulism & wonder if heating the chiles together with the honey would help? I made a habanero-peach condiment once & remember reading that the chiles had to be heated on the vinegar to reduce chances of botulism. Did you try making your infused honey with an addition of vinegar? How much did you add?

    • I never got the ratio down pat. I did find that it really depends on the type of chile you’re using and even how hot the individual chiles you’re using are, since even within pepper type, it can vary wildly. I think I ended up at one point using habanero

      Anyway, I think I used a handful of dried jalapeño heated IN THE HONEY with it. I never tried vinegar, though I do think that may be the key to the botulism thing. I would suggest asking a local extension office to see what direction they could send you in. I did a bunch of reading about how to kill the botulism spores, all of which I’ve forgotten. They key was heat and time. You can either do it for high heat shortly (like ultra-pasteurization) or lower heat for longer. I do believe that if you do a pressure cook, that can reduce the time as well. BUT do not take my words as gospel. Ask the extension. I never followed through with getting to the bottom of this because I just buy a bottle of Mike’s Hot Honey when I need it — it tends to last me a while, since a little goes a long way.

  2. Thanks! I had also done a bunch of reading on how to kill the botulism when I made the habanero-peach sauce but this was like 3-4 years ago and I don’t remember squat. I do recall that heat was a huge factor which is why I thought of heating the peppers in the honey. I’ll read up a little more before I make a batch. I have no idea how to work in the vinegar. I;m guessing commercial brands contain it because they need to elongate shelf life. If I make a small batch, enough to last me 2 weeks, I could probably skip it.
    There’s surprisingly little on chile-infused honey online, though there’s lots on vinegars.
    I think I’ll crumble 1 ancho into 1 cup of honey and see how that goes. Pet project for the next week!

  3. I think we’re of the same mind. My batches of the stuff were so small (~1 cup) that I knew I’d use it up in a week or two — or that I wouldn’t mind throwing out whatever I hadn’t used. The amount of chiles shown in the photo above… HAHAHAHA I look at that now and can’t believe I used that many for THAT small amount of honey. WAY too many.

    Yes, as far as time and heat goes, I can’t remember what the deal was. I think the heat required to kill the spores quickly was too much for the honey to handle — it was beyond the boiling point. AND the amount of time required to kill the spores at a lower temperature was like, HOURS, and I wasn’t going to spend hours on it.

    Yes, there is surprisingly little info on infused honeys on the web. The searches I did led me to Serious Eats, which is funny, because I was working there at the time and had forgotten about that post. But even that post was not as helpful as it could have been. It’s basically for the audience it’s for—a hobbyist audience who might just use the honey in short order and not be looking at the issue of storage/canning long term.

  4. Meanwhile, I’ve read here ( http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fs104 ) that cooking foods at a temp of 176F for ten minutes greatly reduces the risk of botulism. Not sure if that applies to honey and if that temperature is too high/too low. I’ll do a test batch on Saturday and see. Also, keeping it in the fridge later seems not such a smart idea :-/

    Also here (http://www.foodsafetysite.com/consumers/faq/?m_knowledgebase_article=640) it says that honey infusions are safe because of the low ph value of honey & it’s low water activity. So I think I’ll try heating the chiles and honey together for 10 mins or more and hope for the best! The worst thing that can happen is that it will turn out awful and I’ll throw it out.

    And you’re right: the Serious Eats article is worthless. I was looking on Epicurious & Bon Apetit but they have nothing either.

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