Honey, Made in Paris

miel de paris

Americans have a funny relationship with honey. To many of us, it’s that sweet syrup in the jar with the feather-topped woman, or the gloopy stuff stuck inside the crevasses of a plastic bear.

In France, honey is a Big Deal and there’s boutiques like Maison du Miel, and vendors at the outdoor markets, which sell nothing but honey and honey-related products. (And believe me, you’d be surprised how many there are.)

Various types of honeys are said to have healing properties, although I don’t eat them for my health: I’ve learned to enjoy the many different varieties available in France, and I switch them around and use a particular kind, depending on what I’m baking or simply for eating.

In Paris, there’s a few ruchiers (beehives) in the city, the most well-known being in the Jardin du Luxembourg, whose honey is available sporadically. But few folks know that in our National Veterinary Museum, there are hives as well. And the good news is it’s almost in the middle of Paris.

The UNAF Boutique sits quietly on the edge of the Marais, which I pass all the time, and I’ve hardly even seen anyone in this treasure of a spot. Not a store, per se, but jars of the delicious nectar from the hives in veterinary school are sold here, amongst the piles of paperwork that seem to proliferate in France, apparently even for something as innocuous as an apiary.

Madame Yvon, who runs the boutique, happily spooned me a sample from a jar, and the aftertaste of the honey had a balmy, minty quality to it. Made from tilleul (linden) and érable (maple), this honey is slightly thick, perfect for spreading on buttered toast, or mixing into an ice cream custard, which would give the ice cream a supple texture and a haunting, natural sweetness. This honey also would make a gift for anyone who’d really appreciate something unusual from Paris. I bought three jars myself, and plan to go back for more.

UNAF Boutique
26, rue des Tornelles (4th)
Tél: 01 48 87 47 15
(Closes midday for lunch.)
Map


Related Links and Posts:

The Opera Apiary in Paris (Christian Science Monitor)

Musée Fragonard d’Alfort

Honey Mania (101cookbooks)

The Buzz on French Honey: My visit to a French apiary

Moist Honey Cake (Smitten Kitchen)

10 Insanely Delicious Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Paris

Alice Medrich’s Honey Ice Cream (Orangette)

Saffron Honey at Gouymanyat

Honey from the Jardin du Luxenbourg (Polly Vous Française)

Roquefort Honey Ice Cream (Recipe from The Perfect Scoop)

32 comments

  • Honey dripped thickly over apples—how nice and sticky sweet–and wonderful with the season’s best………

  • I am used to Greek thyme honey and all these different flower/tree honeys one finds in Europe are very novel to me, but equally yummy. It is also such a great idea to use the plentiful Paris gardens for honey production!

  • I brought honey back from France and Italy and they are both unlike anything here in the US, you are correct, sir! Many of my friends say they don’t like honey. I think it is because the ‘plain ol’ honey’ on the store shelves in the US is not flavorful. Just my two centimes worth of opinion!

  • David, thanks for the info about Parisian honey…Only I recently I began my own trek into the world of honey and was amazed that like wine, honey was informed by its terrior…and the diversity of flavours can mean a life devoted to discovery…but oh, so, yummy!

  • As a medievalist and meadmaker, I am always interested in new honeys… wish we could get our hands on mass quantities of some of the more complex European honeys without paying a small fortune…

  • A very good American honey is Marshall’s Honey produced in and around San Francisco. They also produce a pumpkin blossom honey that is amazing, although (unfortunately) frequently out of stock. Farmer’s markets are good places to find unusual and locally-produced honey, and most let you taste a few before you buy, which is a nice gesture.

  • At my local farmer’s market in Madison, WI, there are at least two vendors that are only honey, and honey-related products. I find it to be a delight to get fresh, local honey. So it’s possible to find these things back in the States.

    However, as much as I love the various flavors of honey (and I’ve had some good European ones too), I find the differences in flavor almost entirely disappears when I use the honey in anything else. Is it just how I use the honey, or is that the case for in general?

  • Hi there
    I have enjoyed reading your blog over the past months and felt now I wanted to comment. I am a dedicated and addicted amateur cook and I love reading your blog for insights into Paris and ice cream making.
    I LOVE honey. I grew up on the stuff since my mother is Greek and in Greece this nectar is food of the Gods. I grew up realising the nature of honey as being like wine, cheese and chocolate..that totally different flavours are created using the expert mixing of different soils, plants, grapes, beans and milk. I love all the different flavours and aftertastes you can get from honey..my favourite being the National obsession in Greece- Thyme Honey, though Fir honey from the Spruce which has the most wonderful liquorice taste is a close second. Set honey, versus the more liquid honey also gives rise to great taste varieties, with a herbal set honey that my boyfriend brings from home in Germany being a favourite on dark seeded breads. Honey however in the supermarket, in the teddy bear bottles and non-descript jars, especially the ones with a picture of a bee on it..all taste the same however. I long ago protested and started to source those favourite food stuffs from farmer’s markets, where like Paris, we have stands of nothing but honey.

  • honey is experiencing a renaissance here in london as well, with lots of emphasis on local honeys. i bought some royal parks honey as a souvenir for friends as well and i enjoy the different varieties on offer. although i have tasted quite a few “parfums” (lavender, thyme, etc) both scented and produced from bees that feed off flowers of a single kind, i prefer the simple, unadulterated. a farmer round the corner from my parents does a beautiful one and i keep going back to it. probably because it tastes just like the one we used to get from my late granddad’s beehives… childhood memories, sucking the honey out of the honeycomb… bliss!

  • Did you and Deb at Smitten Kitchen (www.smittenkitchen.com) plan your posts today?

    Too yummy!

  • Vanessa: It’s funny because we have been trading messages lately, but any coincidence was purely unintentional. I added her terrific post to the links—pronto!

    Alain: Like a lot of things (olive oil and chocolate, for example) the more you dilute it, the less-pronounced the flavor is. So for everyday baking, I use a standard wildflower honey. But where it matters, I usually choose a strong-flavored honey. Since I like things with a bitter edge, I use mainly buckwheat, chestnut, or alderwood honey. But one needs to be careful since if a recipe calls for “1/2 cup honey” if you use 1/2 cup of chestnut honey, it’s going to be too intense.

  • David,
    My family loves honey, my pantry is never absent of it. My neighbor at the end of our street making his own honeys and sells them at the local grocery store. His honey is perfumed with eucalyptus, lavender and wild flower that grow in our neighborhood. Thanks for the info about Parisian honey.

  • If you’re ever in the Moselle area, right in the corner of France between the Luxembourg and German borders, I highly recommend the honey from the Ruchers des Trois Frontières. (http://apiculteurs.info/apiculteur/rucher+des+trois+frontieres/) Their honey is excellent, and quite reasonably priced, my favorites being bourdaine and printemps. I really enjoy your blog and have quite often referred to it when needing information about cooking and baking in France. I found it when I did a search about honey one day and have been reading ever since. Thanks!

  • What a great tip! I was in Paris last week but sadly I left on Saturday, the day of the annual honey sale at the Luxembourg. It is good to know you can buy Parisian honey at a fixed location.

  • Our neighbor travels frequently, and we usually keep an eye on his house, pick up his mail, etc. In exchange, he always brings us a jar or two of honey from wherever he has visited. Lovely! One of these days I will make it to Paris, and your secret honey source will be high on my list of places to go. As always, thanks for the great post, I so enjoy your blog. :)

  • they say that city bees produce a more healthful honey than countryside bees because there’s less pesticides in the city. that sounds insane but hey it’s probably true (the world seems to be working that kooky way lately). i’ve been wanting to try honey from Paris. will check out your places next time!

    PT: That’s interesting since that’s what she told me as well. Perhaps because there’s less things being sprayed around in the city than in the farms in the countryside? -dl

  • So, where is the honey ice cream recipe ;)

  • Hi David,
    With all this honey, do you think you could share with us a recipe for pain d’épice? I live in California and I can’t find any in stores. I would love to be able to make a totally boring no frills pain d’épice (with not too many épices, if any… but lots of honey) but so far my attempts, though not horrible, just weren’t the real thing. Thank you!

  • I brought back some chestnut honey from a trip to St. Petersburg and was blown away by the aroma! While walking around, I noticed several honey shops that served up honey by the gram. If you ever make it out there, you should definitely give this and Bashkirian honey a try.

  • I’m fortunate to have access to local (Illinois) honey that is really really good.
    In Italy my favorite dessert was a mild goat cheese covered with fresh walnuts and drizzled with a light honey. It was fantastic! and so simple.

  • Since I’ve been living in the US, I have not been using honey as much as I used to in France. Yet, I love a tartine of pain de campagne with good butter and a big drizzle of honey. My favorite is “milles fleurs”.

  • Although I’d agree that when I was growing up in Canada that we thought of honey as the stuff in the little bear squeeze bottle, I think that times are changing. We certainly aren’t at the level of discernment that you describe in France but the pendulum is swinging!

  • Oh why am I not surprised … but I am

    I guess I should have realised that the French would appreciate Honey. After all the sophisticated pallete of the average French man or woman buts the rest of the burger loving world to shame.

    Seriously though I had never heard of the French honeys mentioned and will be trying to order from Maison Du Miel.

    John Vaux
    Have a healthy week

  • By searching for small local producers selling raw honey – at farmers’ markets and similar venues – you can get some pretty amazing stuff in the US. No question, it is a lot harder to find than in France. Latest honey taste for me: summer thistle, wild rose and a blueberry honey from Vermont (incredibly dark and viscous and powerful). I hope to be able to harvest from our hives next year (but it’ll just be “wildflowers” – still very local…). But I’ll be able to start experimenting with it when cooking. Honey is amazing… and bees are endlessly fascinating.

  • Nice memories of our time living in Australia. There would be honey in all the wonderful flavors of flowers, trees and herbs visited by the bees. As Americans we were so delighted by the available selection.

  • Oh, I adore honey. But you’re right about the bland supermarket variety not being worth anyone’s time. Lucky for my family, my dad keeps bees, so we get all of our honey from him — it’s fascinating to see how each batch is different, depending on what plants the bees have been visiting, and how flavorful and nuanced good raw honey can be.

  • david said : “To many of us, it’s that sweet syrup in the jar with the feather-topped woman, or the gloopy stuff stuck inside the crevasses of a plastic bear.

    Wow, i don’t have any idea of what you’re talking about, but i guess I wouldn’t want to know :)

  • Awhh! This article makes me sad that I moved back to Los Angeles from Paris. At least there are a lot of great farmer’s markets here with super honey.

  • La Maison du Miel offers a ‘sampler pack’ of up to a dozen different honeys and it is amazing to see the diversity. From the standpoint of appearance alone they range from almost clear as water to nearly as dark as molasses. They taste that different, too.

  • I absolutely adore Lavender honey. Oh my, time to restock my pantry.

  • I just started keeping honeybees in my backyard this year, and I’m looking forward to my first honey harvest next summer. I love to cook with honey – great in glazes and marinades. The bees are quite entertaining in the garden.

  • My German husband used to buy his raw honey from an eBay vendor based in Vermont. It was quite, quite good! Now that we live in Europe (France and Germany), we’ve eaten some of the best honey; acacia, sunflower, and lavender are quite good. Which brings me to nougat, since the holidays are almost here… Would you happen to have a recipe for Provencale nougat?