Why does my local honey crystallize...and other tips
- Most honey that is sold in stores has been heated and ultra filtered, which means all the pollen has been filtered out. If you are buying honey to help with your seasonal allergies you need local pollen to help you with the local allergens. Heating the honey will prevent crystallization, but it also kills all of the beneficial enzymes the bees put in it. If your honey does not crystallize, it IS NOT raw honey!
- When honey has the pollen removed there is no way to tell where the honey came from. Honey that has been imported from foreign countries will often do this on purpose. Countries like China will often have their honey and its impurities illegally enter the U.S. The US Food and Drug Administration states that for a product to be called honey, it must have some pollen in it so that its geographic origin may be determined.
- Read labels. Most honey the large corporations import is cheap honey that has been ultra filtered and heated. Often sugar and high fructose corn syrup are added as well.
- Buying your honey locally allows you to ask questions. It should be labeled “raw” which means it has not been heated to kill the enzymes and it has not been ultra-filtered to remove the pollen. Remember that removing the pollen and heating the honey does not improve its shelf life!
- Buying local honey means you can talk with the local beekeeper and find out how about treatments the hives received – know what is in your food. Also, buying local honey keeps your money in your community.
Why does honey crystallize?
When honey is stored it will naturally have sugar crystals form. Just like sugar crystals in your sugar bowl, these crystals can be of varying shapes and sizes. This process is determined by what type of flower the nectar came from when the honey bee was out gathering. It is easier to spread when it is like this and it won’t run off your bread. If you would like to turn it back to a liquid form, you can just leave it in your oven overnight with ONLY the light turned on. The little bit of heat from the light bulb will melt the sugar crystals. If you are in a hurry you can submerge the bottle in a pan of warm water. Don’t make the water too warm, or you will destroy the beneficial enzymes!
Real Raw Honey Crystallizes. And That’s A Good Thing
LITTLE UNDERSTOOD. The crystallization of honey is little understood by the consuming public. Many assume that crystallized honey is adulterated or ‘spoiled.’ This is not so… In fact, the crystallization process is natural and spontaneous. Pure, raw and unheated honey has a natural tendency to crystallize over time with no effect to the honey other than color and texture.
What’s more, the crystallization of honey actually preserves the flavor and quality characteristics of your honey. Some honey users even prefer it in this state as it is easier to spread on bread or toast. Indeed, some raw honey recipes can be easier to make with partially or fully-crystallized honey —and, the taste is richer.
The crystallization of honey is actually an attribute of pure and natural honey. Why? Honey is a highly concentrated sugar solution. It contains more than 70% sugars and less than 20% water. This means that the water in honey contains more sugar than it should naturally hold. The overabundance of sugar makes honey unstable. Thus, it is natural for honey to crystallize since it is an over-saturated sugar solution. The two principal sugars in honey are fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (grape sugar). The content of fructose and glucose in honey varies from one type of honey to the other. Generally, the fructose ranges from 30- 44% and glucose from 25- 40%. The balance of these two major sugars causes the crystallization of honey, and the relative percentage of each determines whether it crystallizes rapidly or slowly. What crystallizes is the glucose, due to its lower solubility. Fructose is more soluble in water than glucose and will remain fluid.
When glucose crystallizes, it separates from water and takes the form of tiny crystals. As the crystallization progresses and more glucose crystallizes, those crystals spread throughout the honey. The solution changes to a stable saturated form, and ultimately the honey becomes thick or crystallized. Some honeys crystallize uniformly; some will be partially crystallized and form two layers, with the crystallized layer on the bottom of the jar and a liquid on top. Honeys also vary in the size of the crystals formed. Some form fine crystals and others large, gritty ones. The more rapid honey crystallizes, the finer the texture will be. And crystallized honey tends to set a lighter/paler color than when liquid. This is due to the fact that glucose sugar tends to separate out in dehydrating crystals form, and that glucose crystals are naturally pure white. Darker honeys retain a brownish appearance. Bottom line? Crystallization of honey is a gift of nature.
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