Crystallized honey is an occupational hazard of any beekeeper. I say this a little tongue in cheek as getting stung is probably item number one on the occupational hazard list of beekeepers! Then there’s losing hives from a cold winter snap or a nasty bout of mites. Those are all the true hazards of being a beekeeper.
My first big honey purchase from another beekeeper was for 25 gallons of goldenrod honey. I was so excited to meet a beekeeper on the Eastern Shore of Delaware that was willing to work with and sell to another beekeeper. Connecting with other beekeepers was not easy. Honey is not available in unlimited supply. Most beekeepers on the shore have no trouble selling their honey at retail pricing.
I picked up the buckets and, after bringing them home, bottled hundreds of jars of honey. I was not at all aware that goldenrod honey is the most likely to crystallize. It crystallizes within minutes of being jarred. In fact, I think that I was able to watch it crystallize right in front of my eyes. Kinda the same way you can watch bamboo grow. In almost no time at all, all of the jars of honey solidified.
Solidified honey is less attractive than raw honey in its syrup state. It’s not as sexy, but there’s nothing wrong with it.
My first thought was, does honey go bad?
I was a little panicked that this crystallization process was going to be the end of my brand new business. Did the honey go bad? How does honey crystallize? How do I fix crystallized honey? I did lots of homework, and with the help of a few beekeeper friends, I learned these lessons about crystallization and am happily passing them on.
Raw Honey Sometimes Crystallizes.
A beekeeper friend was recently asked to take a full return of crystallized honey from one of his accounts. I felt terrible for him, knowing how much work goes into extracting and bottling pure, raw honey by hand. Honey doesn’t go bad, it just may not look “perfect” once it starts to solidify.
The good news is: when honey crystallizes, it is a sign that the honey is raw and unpasteurized, and full of pollen. Mostly all real raw honey crystallizes. That’s the way of nature.
Crystallization happens differently with each varietal honey. Some crystallize in big huge chunks, while others create a more sand-like soft crystal. The texture and size of the crystal is caused by the nectar source.
Why Does Honey Crystallize?
Real, raw honey from the hive іѕ a solution made up of monosaccharides, glucose and fructose and water. The water level should always be lower than 20% and ideally at 18%.
This low concentration of water in the solution means that honey is super-saturated with sugars: there are more sugar molecules than the water should be able to dissolve. Because the solution is super-saturated, there is a natural chemical reaction that takes place over time where the sugars separate and return to their original crystalline state.
The amount of glucose or fructose prevalent in the nectar of the flowers that the bees pollinated helps to determine how fast it crystalizes. Honey higher in glucose crystallizes very fast. Honey that is high in fructose will crystalize much slower, because the solution is more stable.
Another factor that impacts crystallized honey is temperature. If you put some honey varietals in the refrigerator it will crystallize overnight, regardless of how much fructose or glucose it contains. For this reason, don’t refrigerate honey. Keep honey in the dark away from extreme temperatures. Your pantry is the best place for honey. If you refrigerate honey you will have crystallized honey within 24 hours. Again. It’s not bad, honey doesn’t go bad. You just need to follow the steps below to reconstitute your honey once it has been refrigerated.
Particulates like beeswax bits and pollen that naturally occur in raw and unfiltered honey work like a magnet to the crystallization process. The more particulates, the more opportunities for crystallization. If you prefer crystalized honey, but don’t have the patience to let your new jar solidify, you can add a spoonful of crystals to the liquid honey to kick over the process.
What Do You Do with Crystallized Honey?
Use it in your beauty routine. Have a blemish? Dab a little crystallized honey on it and help it along in the healing process. Honey is from plant material, it’s full of antimicrobial qualities. Honey also contains amino acids and micronutrients, all from plants. It helps your skin in ways that you might not imagine.
Gently apply crystallized honey all over your face and rest a few minutes in a nice warm tub. Rinse off with a wash cloth. Honey is a humectant, which means it pulls in water-this helps with balancing out dry, irritated skin. At our Honey House we use it as a mixer in our masks. Our team and our customers love it. It’s a terrific exfoliant, a wonderful moisturizer, and it’s nature’s cleanser.
Cook with it. It’s perfectly fine to use in a bread recipe or even this Buttermilk Pie from our friends over at Beautiful Mess. We actually used crystallized honey in this cherry cobbler recipe just recently.
Make a dip with it. This Honey Mustard Sauce is really terrific and can easily be made with crystallized honey.
Make a simple syrup with honey to use in cocktails. You can store it in your refrigerator for a month after you make a batch of it.
There are so many ways to use crystallized honey, you’ll figure it out.
Use it in sauces and pesto, where a little texture will actually improve the recipe.
Put it in your tea or coffee, it melts to its original form in no time, with just a quick stir. Or, use it in cooking by baking with honey. Use it in your oatmeal as you are heating it up, or spread it over hot toast or muffins.
Eat it right off the spoon with chunky peanut butter.
If honey has crystallized to the point where it’s difficult to remove from the jar, simply place it in a pan of hot water and let it re-liquify. Just don’t microwave or boil your honey (you’ll cook it and ruin the batch that way).
Embrace your crystallized honey. It’s the result of a process that happens in nature.
How Do I Liquify Crystallized Honey?
Reconstituting crystallized honey is very simple:
- Boil enough water in a small pan to cover about half of your honey jar
- Remove the pan from heat
- Remove the lid on the jar of crystallized honey
- Place open jar of crystallized honey into the boiled (hot) water and allow to sit
- Gently stir honey taking special care not to get water into the jar
When Life Gives You Lemons…
My gut reaction was to use the crystallized goldenrod honey on my heels, elbows, knees– and to give myself a facial. My skin never looked better, and even though it was some sticky mess. From that point forward, when our honey turned to crystal, we changed the label and sold it at our Original Body Scrub.
Honey does not go “bad” as many foods do; it remains wholesome after decades.
Eva Crane, “A Book of Honey”