Monday, January 7, 2013

What happened to my honey?

One day craving honey, you open the cupboard and reach for your jar of honey but in it's place is a jar filled with a cloudy solid mass. What happened?
Your honey crystallized, but don't worry. Putting your honey back into liquid is super easy.
Actually, you should take it as a good sign. It proves that you have raw unfiltered honey the way it ought to be. If your honey does not crystallize, it means that it's been ultra-filtered and pasteurized as is the case with much of the mass-marketed honey in the grocery stores. Take a look at the honey next time you're in a supermarket. Chances are it's so clear, it's like looking through yellowed glass. That's the product of ultra filtering under high pressure. This process removes all the ultra fine particles of pollen, propalis and minerals from the honey.  The downside is that all those particles are part of what makes honey so good for you. Then to make the honey easier to handle and to make certain it does not granulate or crystallize, the honey is heated. Honey that is heated over 145 degrees for 30 minutes will not crystallize, but it's pasteurized (read: DEAD). All the living enzymes and beneficial bacteria are killed. So, when you remove all the pollen, propalis, minerals, enzymes and beneficial bacteria that give the honey it's healthy attributes, you reduce the honey to simple sugars. It's nothing more than fructose, glucose, sucrose, water and a handful of other minor components. Honey flavored water essentially. So it that light, what's the point? Make sure your honey is pure and raw or you're getting duked.
Now, the actual time it takes honey to crystallize depends on the variety of flower that the honey bee collected the nectar from. Honey from some flowers will crystallize in a few short days while others take nearly a year. That's because it has to do with the ratio of fructose to glucose is in the actual nectar of the flower, since only the glucose forms crystals.

Warming honey on the wood stove

If you happen to have honey that's crystallized already, what do you do? Just warm it gently and let it turn back into liquid. I did this recently on our wood stove. All you need is a large pot with some water in it. Into the water you place your jars and heat the water to about 100 degrees. Let it set for a while and just like that your honey will be restored to it's nice liquid state.
So, if your honey has crystallized don't worry. And if you've had the same jar of honey for years and it's never crystallized, now you know why. In either case, use it and enjoy it. Appreciate it and never forget the effort that went into that jar of honey. After all, tens of thousands of honey bees literally worked themselves to death making that honey.
Thanks for reading.
Most of the technical information in this post came from the Beekeeper's Handbook by: Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile.

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