Let’s talk about crystallisation. Compact honey cannot be used right away, sometimes it is so solid you will not even be able to dive a tea spoon in it. However, this does not mean that solid honey is not good to eat. It is normal for honey to change texture through time, but that does not spoil any of its healthy properties. On the contrary, you might want to watch your step when you approach grocery store’s shelves full of liquid honey jars. Chances are that honey went through processes and temperatures that spoiled its good qualities just to achieve that texture.
No matter the kind of honey, it will always feature a texture between liquid and dense just after extraction. This is not a permanent situation though. Honey contains an enormous quantity of sugar, that is in disproportion with a very small quantity of water. This results in honey crystallising, and so turning to a grainy texture in a period of time that varies from honey to honey.
Fructose and glucose are the main sugars in honey. Glucose is the less soluble of the two, and it is responsible for the crystallising process. The balance between the two varies from honey to honey. When there is a bigger quantity of fructose, honey stays liquid for a longer time, while honey with more glucose crystallises faster. Giving a few examples, sunflower, dandelion and rapeseed honey crystallise a few weeks after extraction, whereas honeydew, acacia and chestnut honey remain liquid for several months.
How to tell whether or not honey is still good to eat
Once fermentation begins, honey is not good anymore. You can tell whether that process has begun by tasting a small bit. If it is a little sour, then it is time to throw it in trashcan. Sometimes during fermentation a few little bubbles gather on the surface. That is due to the forming of carbon dioxide. In some cases, though, it could simply be air that was trapped in during the processing of honey. Therefore, bubbles alone cannot account for honey’s conservation state.
Other times it can also happen that two layers form inside the honey jar, a liquid one on the top and a crystallised one on the bottom. This happens when the texture is too watery, or when honey is stored in places that are too hot. Both situations lead to crystals falling on the bottom of the jar. In addition, being exposed to high temperatures results in honey losing its aroma and getting darker. Another possible consequence of storing honey the wrong way is spoiling fructose. This changes honey’s flavour to a bitter caramel taste.
Storing honey at the right temperature
Leaving on a side all those cases where honey starts fermentation, well-stored honey does not spoil fast at all. It only loses some of its qualities over time. Temperature plays a role in this aspect. Between 25-30°C honey loses its qualities in a few months, while if you keep honey in a fresh cellar, it will most surely last a few years.
If you do not need to use honey in the short term, you might want to consider keeping it in your freezer, so it does not crystallise. This way it will also preserve all of its healthy properties. Remember that honey crystallises faster between 12-16°C – in this case without losing its qualities.
Get the best out of your crystallised honey
If you need a “workable version” of your crystallised honey, you can melt it slowly over a bain-marie, without reaching 40°C, so you will not spoil its qualities.
Do not overlook the fact that compact honey has a less sweet but fresher taste. It is easier to manoeuvre around than liquid honey, which drips easily and is too sweet to be eaten alone. It might even turn out to be your new favourite snack.