My honey crystallized – what do I do?
This is a common question among people using raw honey for the first time.
First of all, raw honey is the same high-quality product whether it is liquid or crystallized. The best thing to do is to enjoy it. It tastes great!
But, if you really need the honey to be liquid, you can remove the lid and put the jar in a hot (not boiling) water bath until the sugar crystals dissolve. The honey will crystallize again – how soon depends on how many crystals remain.
Crystallized honey dissolves well in hot beverages or cereal, spreads on toast, and is easier to measure for baking or cooking. Really the only problem is that it can be a bit harder to squeeze or scoop out of the bottle.
Most honey eventually crystallizes. The question is how soon it happens. Raw honey is more prone to crystallization than processed honey because raw honey is not pasteurized and micro-filtered to remove the pollen and other particles from the honey that act as seeds for sugar crystal formation. These industrial processes keep honey from crystallizing on the market shelf for a long time, but they also ruin what started out as perfectly good honey.
Why does honey crystallize?
Crystallization happens when the sugar in honey starts to come out of solution. Honey is a super-saturated solution containing nearly 80% sugar and less than 18% water. About 2% of honey is made up of minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and other compounds that give honey its wonderful flavor and aroma. Water normally won’t hold that much sugar, and crystallization is the result of some of the sugar coming out of solution and forming solid granules.
There are several kinds of sugar in honey, the two principle ones being fructose and glucose. Fructose is more soluble in water and tends to stay liquid, while glucose is less soluble and tends to come out of solution. Honey with more glucose tends to crystallize sooner than honey with less glucose.
When glucose crystallizes, it separates from the water and becomes a tiny crystal that attracts more glucose. Eventually the crystals spread throughout the honey, which becomes thicker.
Can I prevent my honey from crystallizing?
No. But the process can be slowed down a bit by storing the honey between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t store it in the refrigerator, and try to avoid getting junk in the bottle. Bread crumbs and stray smears of peanut butter will do nothing to prevent crystal formation.
My honey is too thick to get out of the bottle. What do I do?
Crystallized honey can be re-liquified by placing the bottle in a bath of hot (not boiling!) water.
Three important things to keep in mind:
1. The honey will re-crystallize eventually. Since crystallized honey is exactly as delicious as liquid honey and has the added benefit of not dripping off your toast, consider using it in its crystallized form. It is just easier that way!
2. Plastic bottles don’t react well to boiling; if you boil the water, let it cool off a bit before adding the honey bottle. The bottle will melt if you let the water boil. Don’t do it.
3. Heating honey to too high a temperature or heating it too often may drive off some of the volatile compounds that give honey its wonderful flavor and aroma; try to avoid re-liquifying the honey unless you really have to.