Today the question of the question: why do honey crystalize? No, wait a moment: honey crystalizes? What do you mean?
If you follow us since a while, it’s pretty clear that since I have met Basti, I have been finding out so much about beekeeping and bees in general. Today I wanted to tell you about the first time I had tasted his honey. I was in my village in the province of Bergamo and he in his Saxonian one. I come back home from work and there is a package for me. The postman delivered it right that day after a long 1000km-journey. I open it and there are some honeypots that Basti had shipped to me for making a surprise. At that point I wanted me too to make him a surprise: recording a video about my very first spoon from his honeypot. I felt extremely awkward, we hadn’t seen each other in person yet, but I really wanted to record this video anyway. That one, was my first honey directly from a small beekeeper ever. The difference was huge, the taste and the aroma had nothing to deal with the usual one from the supermarket. However, you know what was the most surprising part? Well…it was not liquid!
Did you know that honey crystalizes? And if yes, do you maybe know the reason why? I have probably awaken your curiosity… I suggest you to keep on reading 🙂
Honey crystalizes…that means?
As we were telling here Honey composition: in the end honey is composed by…? – Gaeblini, honey is a supersaturated solution, therefore, much sugar in little water. For this reason honey crystalizes. Crystalizes? Are crystals involved? More or less 🙂 during this physical process, its sugars aggregates under crystal shape, making honey less and less liquid and more and more solid. All, and I say all, kinds of honey are supersaturated sugars where glucose crystalizes more or less quickly. As the expert Lucia Piana was explaining during a webinar “Il miele composizione, conservazione, etichettatura” (“Honey: composition, conservation and labelling”), it’s a bit like the inverted process of what happens when we add sugar to tea or coffee. Actually, from the physical point of view, a permanent liquid honey should neither exist. Indeed, liquid honey exists, but it’s something temporary.
More or less gradually it passes from liquid to becoming viscous, and more and more granulated, compact and hard. This is absolutely natural.
What influences crystalization?
The sugar that crystalizes is the glucose, so one of the two main sugars that composes honey. Keep always in mind that two identical honey will never exist. The quantity of glucose and fructose changes according to its botanical origin. What does this mean? This means that some flowers have a nectar with more fructose (such as locust plant or chestnut tree), while others have more glucose (such as the Dandelion or the rape). The more glucose they contain the faster they will crystalize. Consider that Ivy honey crystalizes almost immediately, already when it’s still in the beehive! Our Spring multiflora honey, for example, tend to crystalize a bit faster than the Summer one. Indeed in Spring we are surrounded by fields of rapes and much Dandelion.
Of course, this is not the only factor: temperature too makes the difference! But which one? Both the one of when we harvest honey and the one at which we keep it. This but also the fact of shaking it or mixing it for example, these are aspects that influence the crystalization process and its speed. As far as temperature specifically is concerned, a curiosity: this process slows down much at very low temperatures and very high temperatures, while it goes faster at halfway (at about 14 degrees). If, for example, you will put it in the freezer, it will keep its status!
Honey crystalizes: is it something good or bad?
As the honey expert Lucia Piana will never get tired of repeating, crystalization is absolutely not a flaw. It’s simply honey nature, that’s it. Anywhere in the world, when people think of honey, they think of this golden liquid, with latest a tendency to be viscous, but for sure nothing that you may struggle to take out with a spoon. I don’t know why, but it’s exactly this way in our collective imagination. Well, let’s debunk this myth! And I want to tell you more: it’s far more natural a granulated and solid honey than a liquid one!
But the honey from the supermarket is liquid – How is this possible??
You are absolutely right, this was my first thought as well! However, the honey offered by supermarkets are in most of the cases liquid because of pasteurization processes. In order to support the demand of liquid honey (because “honey is liquid!“), honey is warmed up at very high temperatures and this keeps it liquid. Nevertheless, this eliminates its main healthy properties that would turn that honey in a high quality product. Bear in mind – I am not telling that the honey is dangerous for your health. It’s just that it’s less good and all its healthy qualities are decreased to zero (that’s why it’s cheaper too). It gets closer to a sugary syrup. In conclusion, if you taste a natural honey and a treated one, you can clearly perceive the difference! Have a try to believe it 🙂
And if I want liquid honey at any cost?
So if for you, honey can be only liquid and there is no other acceptable alternative, no problem! As Basti always tells me: there is always a solution. You can simply buy it from your trustworthy beekeeper when you know that he/she has just harvested it, it will be still liquid. Otherwise you can opt for a kind of honey that crystalizes more slowly (for example our spring multi-flora gets harder faster than the Summer one). Or even more simply, eat it before it crystalizes, it´s not that complicated! And if it is crystalized and I need it liquid for a recipe? It happens often to me too 😊 no panic! You can take the quantity needed with a spoon and put it in a cup. After just few seconds in the microwave, it will be extremely liquid again, thanks to the high temperature.
High temperature? But then it´s spoilt?
Consider that till 40 degrees you can warm it up anyway, without risking to lose its healthy properties. The microwave of course has a much higher temperature, but if you are going to use it for a cake for example or anyway for something that needs high temperature, at this point use directly the microwave. In any case you don´t spoil it, it doesn´t turn into something harmful. It will loose some of its properties but it will give much others to the final result. Your dish will have a special aroma and taste, that will make the difference!
If instead, for example, you want to eat it ‘raw’ on something like yogurt with fruits? Right in order to leave its natural healthy features untouched, what to do? Me, I warm up some water in a bowl and leave in my honey cup for an hour or more. Honey will melt gradually.
You are maybe thinking ´what a pain!´, but actually we love much this slow honey concept! A slow honey, to enjoy slowly, with the time it truly deserves. We are rushing already the whole day every day, isn´t it better to slow down from time to time?
If from one side there are several people (not so long ago me too) that are surprised when we ask ‘do you want crystalized honey or more liquid?‘, we know many others that deeply likes and prefer the crystalized one. For sure there is the advantage of not making dirty around because of a dripping honey spoon. With Nutella consistency, it gently caresses a slice of bread like a charm! But it´s not only this…it has that natural, rough, back-to-basics taste, that makes it even more special! The taste is more intense. It´s like if each crystal realeases a sweet bomb. Think of it – there is a more actual surface on which our taste buds can dance. What is sure is that it depends mainly on the taste of each of one of us, but as far as we are concerned, we do love our slow honey. If you haven´t tasted it yet, give a try to natural honey!
Have you ever enjoyed it? What you think of it. We would like to hearing from you 🙂
A sweet hug,