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Learning how to decrystallize honey properly is the best way to retain all of its beneficial properties. Some people are shocked find a jar of semi-solid, gritty stuff in their pantry to kitchen cabinet. Never fear, it is not spoiled. Your honey has crystallized and it is a normal occurrence. But, you can reverse the process safely.
If you are a long-time consumer of raw honey, I am sure you have experienced times it has “turned to sugar”. This is the common slang term for crystallized honey when the process happens on it’s own. But in truth, it is a bit more complicated.
Decrystallize Raw Honey
When raw honey crystallizes it often forms large, gritty crystals. As they continue to grow, the entire jar can become solid.
This natural process can be alarming to someone who does not understand why it is happening.
Why Does Honey Crystallize – Sometimes
Bees make this superfood from many different sources of plant nectar. All nectar differs a bit in composition. This answers the question of “why does some honey crystallize” and other varieties do not.
Honey is sugar. It is the high levels of glucose and fructose sugar molecules that are responsible for the change. And, this happens at different rates from one jar to another.
The chemical composition of various nectar sources and their levels of sugars can result honey that crystallizes quickly.
Clover, dandelion and cotton are good examples of varieties that are quick to change form. Tupelo is a variety that rarely if ever changes.
But, storage conditions also play a role. Honey is best stored at room temperature. However, if your room temperature is rather cool, you may still have crystallization occur.
Actually, honey can be stored frozen to prevent crystallization-but most people do not want the bother of doing that.
Reverting Back to Liquid
If you prefer the liquid honey, you can reverse the process without destroying it’s raw properties. This raw food is alive with enzymes, antioxidants, pollen and other natural goodies.
Heat will melt the sugar crystals that are forming in the jar or container. But, too much heat will harm the integrity of your honey.
The trick is to restore it back to liquid using a slow controlled heat. None of it should become overheated or scorched.
Melting Honey – How Hot is too Hot?
This is a common debate among honey connoisseurs. Isn’t the whole idea of raw honey to have some that has not been heated? Yes, that is true. But, how hot is too hot.
Most researchers agree that temperatures over 110° F damages enzymes and anti-oxidants. And, anything over 140° F ruins the natural properties completely.
While 110° F may seem to be quite hot, keep in mind that it probably gets that hot or hotter in the hive.
On a hot South Carolina day, I would not be afraid to bet that areas inside my hive are near that temperature.
Bees do regulate the inside hive temperature through hive ventilation. However, they are still at the mercy of mother nature and can only control sections of the hive.
Gentle warming to a reasonable temperature should not damage the beneficial enzymes. This can be accomplished easily if you take your time.
Reversing Crystallization Process
The easiest way to bring it back to a liquid state requires only a few items. We want to create a “hot tub” figuratively speaking for our jar of honey.
You can also transfer the contents to a medium sized bowl if you want to remove it from the container. But, this extra step is not necessary.
If you buy honey in glass jars, the water bath is easier. (But don’t worry if your honey is in plastic, we can use another method-that I will discuss shortly.)
As we begin the process, it is a good idea to have a lid on the jar. Honey should always be stored in a jar with a tight fitting lid.
This is because it will absorb moisture from the air. A high water content in your honey will cause fermentation or spoilage.
For the process of de-crystallization, there should be a little excess room in the jar to allow room for expansion.
Don’t get your water too hot. Water boils at 212°F-but we don’t want to get our water that hot! Use a thermometer to heat a small amount of water in a saucepan to about 110° F.
Sit the jar in the pot of water. Don’t add water over the top of the jar – it only needs to go up to the level or height of honey in the jar. Don’t let water get in it.
You can also heat water in a tea kettle and then pour it into a large bowl – sitting your honey jar in the water.
How Long Does it Take to Liquify Honey?
The amount of time required to completely decrystallize your honey depends on several factors:
- how much honey in the jar
- how solid it is
- temperature of the water bath
Can You Heat Honey in the Microwave?
Have mercy, no! Please don’t microwave your honey. Microwaving does not evenly heat the food. Also, the microwaving process may damage some of the nutritional properties.
Will it hurt YOU to put your honey in the microwave? No, it should still be safe to eat and use. But, it sure will not do it any favors.
How to Decrystallize Honey in a Plastic Bottle
If you have a crystallized plastic bear, you have a extra step to perform. Putting a plastic bear or any plastic container in hot water may result in melting the bear.
And, as we have already discussed the microwave is not a good option either. You will melt your bear and ruin the nutritional value of your honey.
You have a couple of options. If it is thick but not solid, perhaps you can transfer it to a glass jar. And then, proceed with a hot water bath.
What if the honey is solid in your plastic container? Create a water bath similar to the one outlined earlier. But, this time keep the water temperature lower than 100° F.
It will take a while, but you may be able to loosen it enough to pour it out of the plastic. Once it is in a glass container the task becomes easier. Then, you can proceed with the first method of a hot water bath that is warmer.
Setting the plastic container in a warm sunny window is also a good way to get things headed in the right direction.
Another Option for A Plastic Bear
Do you own a car? Some people report excellent results decrystallizing honey in their car. If you live in a region with warm temperatures, you may be able to heat your glass jar inside the car on a sunny (not hot) day.
How hot the car interior gets depends on the season and your location. It is important to monitor the inside temperature of the car to avoid damaging your raw honey.
Decrystallization of Bulk Honey
Beekeepers often store their harvest in sealed 5 gallon buckets. It is not unusual for some of it to turn solid in the bucket.
This situation is not unique to beekeepers. Others who practice bulk food storage may experience granulated honey in large containers
For home use, scoop out the amount that you think you will use soon. Put it in a glass bowl or jar and proceed with the hot water bath method.
This allows you to avoid exposing the whole bucket to heat unnecessarily. If you stir the mixture periodically, it will help speed up the process.
Another option for bulk storage is a bucket wrap heater. This product fits around the bucket and warms the contents.
It is even safe to use on plastic pails. Nothing is damaged by the slowly warming heat that brings the content back to a liquid state.
Beekeepers often bottle honey in jars before it is sold. It is hard to know what size container your customers will want.
You may end up with a case of jars that doesn’t sell as quickly as desired. And, those jars may crystallize.
The problem is that most consumers don’t understand granulated or crystallized honey. They fear that it is damaged in some way. In truth, it is just as nutritious as liquid – but it doesn’t sell as well.
A warming cabinet is easy to make and use. It works wonders when you have several jars of to warm.
The process can be repeated again and again. However, remember that each time we heat the honey – even a lower temperatures, we may cause some very minor damage. Especially when it is repeated multiple times.
Yes, the process of sugar crystals forming can alter the flavor, taste or aroma but not in a significant way for most varieties. Some people prefer it this way and purposely make creamed honey.
No, actually a refrigerator is the worse place to keep raw honey. This is the temperature that encourages crystallization.
Without a double boiler technique and gentle heat – you would over heat your honey and damage it. Do take care to avoid getting water in your jar though.
Please remember that crystallized honey is still good – don’t throw it out. However, if you need or prefer something that pours, choose a decrystallization process and give it a try.
Do you have to worry about recrystallization? Yes, it can happen-though generally at a slower rate the next time.
Protect your jars from colder temperatures that encourage crystals, a nice warm place near the kitchen stove is perfect.
Decrystalize Honey – Step by Step
- 1 jar honey in glass jar
- 2 pints water
- Place your honey in a heat safe container (glass jar) or ceramic crock. You don’t have to add the loosely attached lid but I like to in order to protect the honey from water splashes.
- Heat several inches of water in a pot on the stove until it is almost boiling (but not quite) – then remove from heat.
- Slowly lower the jar of honey for decrystallizing in the hot water bath. Leave the jar sitting in the hot water bath until the water cools.Another option: place the honey jar in another pan and slowly pour in the warm water. You will have to repeat this process several times. Slow and steady.