Have you ever pulled out a jar of raw honey with plans to sweeten your tea or breakfast yogurt only to discover your runny, liquid honey has turned rock solid?
What you have on your hands in honey that has crystallized, meaning the sugar has naturally solidified and hardened.
Honey crystallizes, but that doesn’t mean it’s expired. Crystallized honey is normal and just as edible (and delicious) as its liquid counterpart. Believe it or not, honey is one of the few foods you can leave in your pantry without worrying it will go bad.
In fact, when honey crystallizes, that indicates that you’ve got raw honey, the cream of the crop. While some people can still enjoy honey when it crystallizes, others prefer decrystallizing their honey to its liquefied state.
If you don’t like the texture of crystallized honey, there are a few steps you can take to decrystallize the gooey sweet goodness.
How to Decrystallize Honey: 5 Simple Steps
If you want to decrystallize honey in a quick and efficient way, you can do so with a bit of hot water and a glass jar. Here’s a simple process you can follow to decrystallize honey in five simple steps.
- If your honey comes in a plastic bottle, spoon out the crystallized contents into a glass jar and screw on the lid tightly to prevent any leaks.
- Place the glass jar of crystallized honey into a bowl.
- Heat water to a warm but not boiling temperature using a kettle, instant pot, sous vide cooker or another method. Keep in mind that putting raw honey in boiling water will destroy beneficial enzymes and other properties.
- Pour the hot water bath into the glass bowl. Make sure the water line is above the level of the honey but below the lid of the jar to prevent any leaks.
- Leave the jar of honey sitting in the water, stirring occasionally, until the honey starts to decrystallize. The length of time decrystallizing honey takes ultimately depends on the amount of honey you’re liquifying.
Why Does Honey Crystallize?
Crystallization is a sweet phenomenon that’s caused by a few factors: the type of honey, the temperature at which it’s stored, and storage conditions.
Honey is made up of different sugars and water. Honey varieties have unique ratios of these ingredients, but typically contain more than 70% sugar and less than 20% water. The names of honey tell you what type of plant it came from, which is why they all taste so different — and crystallize differently.
Because honey contains exorbitant amounts of fructose and glucose, the balance of these two sugar types is what leads to crystallization. The amount of fructose and glucose will determine how quickly the honey will crystallize. Glucose has low solubility, while fructose is water-soluble. The more glucose the honey contains, the faster it will undergo crystallization.
You’ll notice that some honey products crystallize uniformly, while others form two layers, solid on the bottom and liquid on top. When glucose sugar splits from the fructose and forms crystals, they tend to take on a white color, which is why crystallized honey is usually lighter in color.
The size of the crystals will also differ depending on how rapidly the honey crystallizes. The faster the process takes place, the finer the texture will be.
How to Prevent Crystallization
There are certain steps you can take to slow the process and prevent your honey from crystallizing too quickly. First off, you’ll want to make sure that your jar of raw honey is tightly sealed, because air exposure allows moisture and particles into the container, speeding up the crystallization process. To prevent particles from getting into the honey, always use a clean spoon when scooping out honey.
Secondly, always store raw honey in a glass jar instead of plastic, which is much more porous than glass. Glass will prevent moisture from seeping in and causing your honey to crystallize.
You should also avoid storing honey in a metal container that is not stainless steel because it can oxidize. Honey is slightly acidic and may cause rust in metal containers, contaminating the honey.
Storing honey at room temperature will help prevent crystallization. To slow the process even further, buy honey that is still contained within its original honeycomb — straight from the hive. You can also store honey in the freezer, because it does not tend to crystallize in a cold environment. Placing honey in the freezer will also prevent the flavor or texture from changing over time, making it an ideal place for long-term storage.
Despite the risk of crystallization, honey is one of the easiest food products to store. You can leave it in a cool location away from direct sunlight, and it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. In fact, honey is easier to use when it’s stored at room temperature.
It’s important to remember that crystallized honey has not spoiled — and you can decrystallize it rather quickly! Crystallized honey still has the same quality and flavor as liquified honey, just a different color and texture.
“Honey just simply won’t go bad,” said Joyce Dales, President and Founder of Buzzagogo. “The only time it’ll go bad is if you introduce water to it, and then it essentially tries to turn into mead and it’ll begin to ferment.”
With a few ingredients and some patience, you can turn your honey into mead — wine using fermented honey, instead of grapes. The oldest alcoholic drink known to humans is made by mixing honey and water and then adding yeast.
Just as good grapes make good wine, good honey makes good mead. The type of honey used can change the flavor of the mead.
Don’t: Heat your honey in a microwave oven because you’ll destroy the enzymes. “You can accidentally pasteurize your honey,” Dales said.
Pasteurized honey is different than pasteurizing dairy products and is done for different reasons. Milk, for instance, is heated to kill off harmful bacteria.
Honey, on the other hand, is acidic, which means no bacteria can live or reproduce in the substance. So, why would anyone pasteurize honey? It’s often done to kill off yeast cells and to prevent the honey from fermenting. Another benefit of pasteurizing honey is to slow down the granulation process, which allows it to last longer in its liquid state.
Don’t: Heat your honey in a plastic jar. You definitely don’t want to melt plastic into your honey.
Don’t: Decrystallize honey over and over again. Liquify only what you need at one time to preserve the honey’s flavor and aroma.
Do: Store your honey in a cool location away from direct sunlight and in a tightly sealed container.
Do: Store your honey in a glass jar and not a plastic honey container.
Do: Tell your friends and family that honey does not go bad, and those crystals are nothing to worry about!
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