If you’ve ever left your raw honey in the cupboard for a couple of months, you should be quite familiar with crystallization. Upon initial inspection, you may think to yourself, “Oh no! My delicious honey has gone bad! I guess I should throw it out.”
Stop! Don’t throw out that honey!
Honey crystallization is a natural process and does not indicate that your honey has spoiled. In fact, honey can last forever. Edible honey has even been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs from thousands of years ago. While this honey probably went through some severe crystallization, the antiseptic qualities and moisture content of honey prevent bacterial growth, so it’s still good to eat.
Why Does Honey Crystallize?
Honey gets its sweetness from glucose and fructose. There is so much glucose and fructose in honey that naturally, it is an unstable solution. Over time the glucose separates from the water, forming tiny crystals. The crystals spread through the honey, changing its texture and ta-da, you have crystallized honey! The more glucose present in the honey, the quicker it will crystallize.
Glucose is present in the nectar that bees feed off of to make their honey. Some types of flowers that bees love (including alfalfa, cotton, and mesquite) have nectar with a high glucose content, so the resulting honey crystallizes quickly. Sage, robinia, and longan have lower glucose levels, so honey made from these plants has a slower rate of crystallization.
Crystallization can build off of the presence of pollen as well. Since raw honey goes through minimal processing, bits of pollen and other natural debris can remain, increasing the rate of crystallization.
Processed honey is heavily filtered and heated to remove pollen and enzymes. While this does delay crystallization and gives the honey a transparent aesthetic, it eliminates many potential health benefits associated with honey.
Pollen presence in honey also allows food fraud technicians to identify the flowers that the honey is made from and where it was collected. Removing the pollen makes it incredibly difficult to locate the origin of the honey. This, unfortunately, means that multiple types of honey, along with rice syrups, can be mixed, bottled, and sold as “pure honey” at your local grocery store.
To make sure you are getting the best quality honey, buy it local, and buy it raw!
What Should I Do With Crystallized Honey
Honey texture is all about preference. Many people prefer honey in its crystallized state. Crystallized honey is spreadable for your morning toast and will still dissolve in hot tea! However, if the grainy texture doesn’t please your palate, here’s what you can do to return it to its original state.
Warm up a shallow amount of water in a pot.
Place your jar of honey in the pot and keep it there until it turns back into a liquid.
It’s that easy! The heat causes the glucose to dissolve. Be careful not to overheat the honey though! Using too much heat can cause pasteurization which removes a lot of the health benefits from your raw honey. Keeping the temperature under 37°C will prevent this from happening.
If ever you find raw honey to be too hard, place your jar or container of honey in the oven with just the oven light on overnight. The next morning your jar of hard honey will be soft!
Purchasing creamed honey will stave off crystallization as well. This type of honey is whipped in an auger to produce a creamier texture, making it easy to spread. The whipping process breaks down the glucose, interfering with the crystallization process. The resulting product keeps its texture for longer on your shelf.
Crystallization is a natural occurrence within stored honey. It can happen to raw honey inside beehives too! Do you enjoy crystallized honey? How about creamed honey? Let us know on Facebook or in the comments below!