Hot On Our List: AR’s Hot Southern Honey

Something extraordinary happens when you combine perfect amounts of sweet and heat, and that’s exactly what Ames Russell did when he founded AR’s Hot Southern Honey in Richmond, Virginia. Now, he’s come out with the Hot Honey Cookbook to show just how versatile this spicy, sweet honey is. A bottle of AR’s Hot Southern Honey makes an epic stocking stuffer, and Ames is also sharing a prized recipe from the book—Candied Pecans—that make a wonderful gift from the kitchen this holiday season. Keep reading to get the recipe and find out more about this Southern-founded company.

AR’s Hot Southern Honey founder Ames Russell

How did your hot honey obsession begin?

The concept of “sweet heat” is familiar. Remember Atomic Fireballs and Red Hots as children?  Asian restaurants serve sweet chili sauce. Hot honey is the healthy (honey versus high fructose corn syrup) extension and update to the sweet heat concept.

I grew up putting honey on my fried chicken. As I’ve gotten older, I have gained a greater appetite for spicy. I started adding hot sauce or red pepper flakes to my honey on my fried chicken. I had the eureka moment where I thought—why not have a product with the two as one?

Where does your honey come from?

The honey in our products is a proprietary blend of two different and common honeys, clover and wildflower. The genesis and creation of each is very different. As a result, their flavor profiles are different…very different. Generally speaking, half the population prefers one, and the other half the other.  I want everyone to prefer mine, and this explains why I blend them.

We source both in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and beyond to include a catchment area that extends to Western Maryland, Northeast West Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, and Northwest North Carolina.

The Hot Box includes AR’s Hot-Hot Southern Honey, AR’s Hot-Mild Southern Honey, and AR’s Peach Hot Sauce.

As you mention in the introduction of the book, one of your most asked questions is how to use hot honey. How does the book answer that question?

Ricotta and Peach Crostini with Hot Honey

Great question! The book, with 60 recipes covering breakfast, appetizers, mains, sides, desserts, AND cocktails, provides so many simple, accessible, and easy ways to use our hot honey as an ingredient or condiment, on sweets or savories. My favorite recipe, one of a handful contributed by people who have been influential in my journey, is from my daughter Helen (@dankfood_ on Instagram) and is a Ricotta and Peach Crostini with Hot Honey. It’s such a delightful, crowd-pleasing appetizer. The peach can be substituted with apple, pears, and other seasonal fruits.

What’s one unexpected way you enjoy using hot honey?

When I think of hot honey, I’m thinking fried chicken, pizza, and cheese and crackers. My wife Carrie is a coffee savant. She knows coffee, what beans are best, how to process, and serve. She loves a latte and makes one every morning, adding my hot honey to finish, and calls it her “Hot Italian.” I married up!

I’ll give you another! My son Sam is a huge foodie and loves Spam. Not sure where this originated. Ellery, his girlfriend, loves brioche. Together, they make this amazing Hot Honey-Spam Brioche Sandwich. It has both brought me back to Spam and heightened my appreciation for all things brioche!

As holiday cooking and baking ramps up, what are some of your favorite dishes from the cookbook to make for guests?

 For me, simplicity is key during the holidays. I love breakfast with fresh ricotta, strawberries, and a healthy drizzle of hot honey! Gift the Spicy Candied Pecans made with hot honey to family and friends and they’ll ask for the recipe! Do something completely different and wow your guests with Broiled Barbecue Salmon with Dill Cucumbers, both prepared with hot honey. You can’t go wrong presenting the healthy, holiday Arugula Salad with Shaved Parmesan, Toasted Pine Nuts, and Truffle Salt. Finish your feast with Andreas’ Hot Honey S’more Brownies. You’ll be forever in your guests gratitude. Have we discussed cocktails? Can’t think of a better nightcap than Elias’ “That Will Do,” a cognac closer with hot honey, chai syrup, black walnut and angostura bitters.

What’s one AR’s Hot Southern Honey product everyone should have on their wish list this year and why?

There are other hot honeys on the market. The largest is mass market and as a result over/hyper processed and blemishes the category. Our products are premium and though we have grown and widely distribute, our ingredients (real honey and peppers) and small batch process remain unchanged. Since day one, we produced our Hot-Mild, which has catapulted our brand to the top of the category in terms of appeal and quality.  For this reason, our Original Hot-Mild should be the #1 on the wish list!

Spicy Candied Pecans
Serves 6 to 8
  1. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Stir together the pecans, hot honey, sugar, and water in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the honey mixture comes to a boil, stir constantly for about 5 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated and the mixture thickens. Continue to stir for another 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture turns a deep golden brown and caramelizes around the pecans.
  3. Quickly spread out the pecans on the prepared pan. Be careful not to touch them; they are extremely hot! Sprinkle with a little salt.
  4. Let the pecans cool completely (they will crisp up as they cool).
Photos and recipes from Hot Honey Cookbook by Ames Russell with Sara Quessenberry. Copyright © 2022. Reprinted by permission of Rock Point, an imprint of The Quarto Group.

*This recipe has not been tested by Taste of the South.




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