Honey can crystallize without the help of any external force. In fact, honey bees constantly maintain the inside temperature of beehive (around ninety three degrees) to preserve the honey in a liquid state.
If left as it is, honey cools down and crystallizes; the seed crystals inside the honey partake in converting the cooled down honey into a crystal structure of some sort. Also, the glucose content of honey plays a major part in crystallization as well.
Crystallization of honey is a very natural and unplanned process but is often mistaken as a form of honey that’s gone bad. However, the case is quite the opposite. Only real and raw honey can crystallize.
This process actually keeps in intact the nutrients and flavor of the honey. Some people even prefer their honey to be in this state.
The temperature at which honey crystallizes depends on the seed crystals inside. At some cases, the honey may crystallize even if the temperature falls below seventy degrees. Normally though, the crystallization tipping point is around the range of 40 to 45 degrees (room temperature for many places).
The Reason Behind Crystallization of Honey
It is important that you keep in mind throughout the article that crystallized honey is in no way less good than the more gelatinous honey. In fact, in some areas, it is normal to see crystallized honey (also known as creamed honey) available for purchase at food stores.
Sometimes, honey may crystallize uniformly and sometimes it may not. The size of the formed crystals may vary as well. Some will form in fine manner while some may become large and gritty.
The faster it crystalizes, the better the structure in which it appears. Crystallized honey has a paler or lighter color than when they are in liquid form.
Honey contains 70% sugar and less than 20% water. So, they have more sugar content than the watered amount can possibly hold. And that is the prime reason behind crystallization of sugar. This over-saturation makes the solution unstable and this is when they tend to form crystals.
The two major sugars in honey are glucose (grape sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar). Their content varies from honey to honey. Normally, fructose ranges from 30-44% and glucose ranges from 25-40%.
The ration of their content in honey is a major controlling factor for crystallization of honey. Honey, which has lower glucose content, is less likely to crystallize. Crystallization basically refers to the separation of glucose from water (turning into crystals).
How to Decrystallize Honey?
In order to decrystallize the crystalized honey, a few points need to be kept in mind. Honey has to be heated gently in warm temperatures. Overheating will surely diminish its natural flavor, so it is better to avoid that.
But, that does not mean that it cannot be microwaved. However, the hot water method to be described below is more convenient as it distributes heat equally and keeps the flavor intact.
At the same time, the honey needs to be fully heated enough to melt all the crystals or else, it might start crystalizing again very soon.
Hot Water Method
For honey packed in plastic bottles, it is important to make sure that the applied heat from hot water is not too much for the plastic to handle. Excess heat may dismantle and bend the plastic which is very bad for the honey inside it.
You have to put the plastic bottle with crystallized honey in the bowl. Then, take some hot water and fill up the bowl to level up with the honey. Keep in mind to remove the lid of the plastic bottle.
Then, you will have to let it sit there for around 15-20 minutes. It should loosen up and get that nice yellow creamy texture back. That’s when you’ll know that the de-crystallization process is complete.
For honey contained in jars, the instructions are pretty much the same. Make sure to remove the lid of the honey jar. You do not have to boil the water; just apply enough heat to warm and liquefy the crystal. It is recommended to stir the honey from time to time.
The whole process needs to be repeated until all the crystals have turned into liquid. Any left out crystals will simply accelerate the crystallization the next time.
Tips to Avoid Crystallization of Honey
Below are some added advices to keep your honey away from crystallization.
Keep Jar Lid Tightly Sealed
A loosely closed jar seal lets in air and moisture, which are serious factors that promote crystallization. Make sure to keep the rim fresh and arid.
Storing It In Freezer
Unless you intend to use the honey at short intervals, it is advised to keep it refrigerated. But, if you want to use it in short intervals you can keep the honey in normal room temperature, preferably in a dark place.
Store in a Glass Jar
Glass provides better protection from external agents that contribute to the crystallization of honey. For those who wish to apply the hot water method, it is to be noted that glass jars can be very helpful for heating purposes.
End Note That Worth
If you keep de-crystallizing the honey again and again, it will lose its nutritive value and flavor as well. It is recommended to avoid intensive and frequent de-crystallization.
For larger quantities of honey, the process of de-crystallization is not the same as for the aforementioned ones. In such cases, it is hugely recommended to consult beekeepers. They’ll guide you through the process or get your honey de-crystallized commercially.
However prepared you think you may be against crystallization of honey, you must understand that it is a completely natural phenomenon. The underlying cause of it can be stated as glucose.
Glucose has a comparatively lower solubility than fructose and, thus the separation from water and formation of crystal. As mentioned, crystallized honey is very much safe for intake.
In fact, some people prefer to have their honey this way. This is because the crystallized form of honey is the best proof of the purity of the honey.