What to do with that crystallized honey?
At this weekend’s Locavore Farmer’s Market, one customer asked me what to do with some crystallized honey in his pantry. We usually get this question at least once per market, so it’s a good discussion point to post on our website. I have two answers to the question, but first I want to address a very important point.
Properly cured honey doesn’t spoil. Ever.
When bees are foraging for nectar, they bring it back to their hives and store it in their wax honeycombs. Then, they work a miracle of nature that is fascinating follow. They will pack the nectar away and begin curing it through evaporation. Over time, the moisture content in the nectar reduces, leaving a supersaturated solution of glucose and fructose (plus all the other trace elements that give honey it’s particular character).
Once the moisture content is reduced to below 18%, the bees recognize that and cap the honey with more wax. This sealed nectar is now considered honey and will never spoil. Ever. Because of the reduced moisture content, nothing that wants to ferment or live in honey can survive. As long as you buy honey from a reputable beekeeper who waits for the bees to fully cure their honey, you can rest assured that your honey will not go bad in your pantry.
However, the supersaturated nature of honey means that eventually, your honey will crystallize. Unfortunately, raw honey that has not been filtered or heated, will crystallize faster than ultra-processed honey. Why? Those pollen grains that exist in unfiltered raw honey provide a starting point for crystallization. However, that’s a small price to pay for natural goodness, because there are two solutions.
Re-liquefy your crystallized honey
Crystallized honey re-liquefies easily by placing the entire container of honey in a saucepan of warm (not boiling) water. Just leave it in the water bath until the honey returns to it’s original liquid state and it will stay there for another period of time while you continue to consume it. Do not microwave your honey! The intense heat generated by microwaves can scorch the high sugar content in honey, creating unwanted compounds and darkening the color.
Accept the crystallized honey and use it as is
If you’re using honey in your coffee or tea, just leave it in a crystallized state and use it that way. Scoop out a spoonful and let the hot liquid in your cup dissolve the honey, just as it would dissolve sugar. If you’re eating honey with your toast, spread away! Crystallized honey won’t drip off your toast and make a mess.