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All raw honey will turn solid. It crystallizes. What should you do when it does?

May 19, 2023

When we think about honey, most people think about a thick gooey liquid that drizzles golden sweet goodness into drinks and onto foods. This has become the modern expectation. But, with truly natural foods, the modern expectation is not always the reality. This is true with real raw honey.

Over time, real raw honey will take on a white, hard appearance. It may become crunchy, half solid, or fully solid.

This is nothing to worry about. It means that you’re getting the real deal, old fashioned, unfiltered, truly raw honey (not honey-flavored fructose). And that means that you’re getting all the antioxidant, antimicrobial, and immune boosting benefits.

On the flip side, most store bought honey is filtered and pasteurized to prevent fermentation and crystallization. It’s put through a fine strainer to remove pollen, beeswax, and any other “impurities”. And, it’s heated to 145F for 30 minutes or 160F for just a minute and then cooled quickly. This kills any yeast or other microorganisms that might cause fermentation and also prevents it from crystallizing. The trade off is that this removes the honey’s natural goodness and healing powers.

Raw honey doesn’t expire, but it does change over time. This process is called crystallization, and it’s completely natural.

Honey is an oversaturated sugar solution, made up of less than 20% water and over 70% sugar. Over time, it will naturally crystallize until the sugar and water are completely separated.

Crystallization happens when the natural sugars in honey (mainly glucose and fructose) bind together and begin to form small or large crystals. The pollen and beeswax in honey also contribute to this binding process, providing a platform for the crystals to form.

Some types of honey will crystallize faster than others. The botanical origin, the percent of water, the temperature it’s stored at, and the amount of pollen and beeswax all affect when and how honey crystallizes.

Honey will crystallize faster when it’s stored between 50-59°F. If you prefer pourable gooey honey, then this means that it’s not a good idea to store honey in the refrigerator. To keep it liquid, honey is best stored at temperatures above 77°F to avoid crystallization.

Crystallized honey is delicious and crunchy.

You can spread it on toast or mix it into a salad or oatmeal. It gives a wonderfully sweet crunch. You can also use it in drinks or for baking, just like you would liquid honey.

If left crystallized too long, raw honey can ferment.

This happens because the separated honey pulls more moisture into it. Then, the live yeast and bacteria in raw honey start to break down the sugars. You’ll see bubbles or foam forming on the top of the honey, and it will have a sour smell.

Fermented honey is still ok to eat, but some may not like the funky taste. On the other hand, some love the flavor and health benefits of fermented honey and make it at home. It’s antimicrobial and can have immune boosting properties. And hey, there are some people that use honey to ferment garlic, ginger, or fruits!

If you prefer the nice drizzle of honey, you can easily decrystallize honey with a warm bath.

Take a large bowl, fill it with warm water, and let your honey sit in it until the crystals melt away. Just make sure to heat the honey to no more than 104F to maintain all the beneficial microbiology. Voila!

Marie Reedell

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