Date: February 2007
How fast will honey crystallize, are there different kinds and
different speeds for the crystallization process?
All honey will naturally crystallize. The speed of the crystallization will
depend on the nectar source, the temperature, and the availability of
"seed" crystals - the starting point for the growth of a crystal. After
honey is crystallized it can be reliquified by warning it... but do it
gently so as not to destroy the enzymes that make it healthful or chase off
the volatiles that make it smell and taste good.
Some people mistakenly think that crystallized honey has "gone bad." Wrong.
In fact if honey crystallizes it is a good sign. To discourage
crystallization some big companies heat it to 180 degrees and pass it
through a very fine filter. This changes the nature of the honey and
removes the seed crystals. It will not crystallize... at least not for a
long time. This also destroys the enzymes and removes the volatiles and
pollen particles that enhance the taste and smell. However, it is still
sweet. Most people that only want sweet will use white granulated sugar.
It is sweet and costs less.
The nectar source will also affect the speed at which honey crystallizes. I
suspect that in your area you will find that fall sources of nectar will
crystallize quicker than spring sources.
Temperature has a big effect. The bees keep honey from crystallizing by
keeping it warm. The brood in the hive is kept about 93 degrees and they
honey stays liquid at that temperature. (It will reliquify at only slightly
above that temperature.) Honey can also be frozen to stop crystallization.
(Sounds funny, but true.) Honey crystallized best at 40 to 45 degrees.
That is close to the temperature in your refrigerator. Don't store your
honey there unless you want to encourage crystallization.
American consumers think honey should be liquid. In most other parts of the
world honey is sold in the crystallized form. It is often called "creamed"
honey. Generally honey that is creamed is treated to grow fine granules
making it smooth to the tongue. The honey that granulates in your
refrigerator will tend to form larger granules and feel chunky. It is still
just a healthful, but feels different.
Honey was the main source of sweetness until we learned to process sugar
from sugar cane and beets. Yet, honey is a different sugar. It is largely
fructose instead of the sucrose present in cane and beet sugar. By its
nature, it is more easily digested, but is also easier to keep in a liquid
state. Well treated honey (not the chain store variety) also contains
minutes amounts of pollen and propolis. These healthful ingredients are not
present in processed sugar.
The honey bee has been on the earth for millions of years longer than man.
They must be eating right!
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Update: June 2012