Anyone who buys and uses natural honey on a regular basis will almost certainly have experienced honey crystallization. Most raw honey will naturally crystallize if it sits in your cupboard for any length of time. You might notice that your clear honey has become cloudy or, if it's further along in the process, it could turn grainy or gritty and if left long enough it may seem almost completely solid .This process is the natural way that honey preserves itself. Crystallized honey is just as good as liquid honey; in fact, some cooking recipes will even call for the use of crystallized honey.
WHY DOES HONEY CRYSTALLIZE?
There is fairly complex chemistry involved. In simple terms, we could say the crystals are the natural sugars becoming 'un-dissolved' in the honey. Honey is what scientists call a supersaturated solution; it's essentially sugars and water and there's simply not enough water in honey to keep all of its sugars dissolved permanently.
Honey contains two main types of natural sugars, fructose and glucose. While fructose tends to remain dissolved, glucose has a much lower solubility and so can crystallize much more easily. As a result, tiny crystals form in the honey when the glucose separates from the water.
Crystallization will even be different in different kinds of honey depending on the nectar it was made from. Some form tiny, very fine crystals evenly dispersed through the honey, others have larger gritty crystals. This depends on the water content of the honey compared to the glucose: the more glucose, the quicker it will crystallize.
WHY IS RAW HONEY MORE LIKELY TO CRYSTALLIZE THAN FACTORY PRODUCED HONEY?
Raw honey also contains small particles of pollen, beeswax, bee glue and other nutrients. This is not a bad thing as this is the reason for raw honey's extra health benefits and taste. But those tiny bits and pieces are perfect for the glucose to crystallize as it becomes un-dissolved in the honey solution. Because of these particles, raw honey is more likely to form crystals over a pasteurized and fully processed product.
HOW TO STOP HONEY FROM CRYSTALLIZING
Where you store honey can make a big difference in how quickly it will crystallize. Low temperatures will encourage quicker crystallization, so don't put your honey in the fridge! There's really no need to keep honey refrigerated. Stored properly in a sealed container, honey has a shelf life that is well beyond anything else in your cupboard. Very hot temperatures can cause honey to degrade though, so warmer is definitely not better. For these reasons, to slow down or avoid crystallization it's always best to store honey at room temperature in a cupboard away from direct sunlight. Not only is it best for the honey but it's also the best way to keep it in its smooth liquid state.
HOW TO MELT CRYSTALLIZED HONEY
As we've already said, there's nothing wrong with crystallized honey. Honey retains all of its flavor and quality in its crystallized form. However, if you want it to go back to the golden honey that you had when you first bought it, we recommend the “warm bath” method.
Do not put it in the microwave or boiling water! These methods can expose the raw honey to extreme temperatures and this can destroy the unique enzymes and natural nutrients and can also hurt the overall flavor.
HOW TO DE-CRYSTALLIZE HONEY
To decrystallize your honey, all you need is the warm water from your kitchen tap and a small bowl. Let the water run so it gets nice and warm, place your jar of honey in the bowl and add water until it's about three-quarters up the side of the jar. Using a teaspoon, stir the honey gently and continuously, making sure not to splash water into your jar. You will soon see the crystallization process start to reverse.
You may need to replace the water in the bath if it cools down too much but eventually your honey will return to its clear runny state. Depending on how far the crystallization process has gone, it could take up to 30 minutes to completely dissolve all the crystals.