Crystallisation and creamed 101
When we think of honey, most of us think of the sticky golden liquid that we can drizzle over our oats or into our morning cup of tea. But honey can be so much more than that, and even a single jar of raw honey can come in so many different forms.
We get a lot of questions about our crystallised and creamed honey — Is crystallised honey still okay to eat? Why does crystallisation happen, and can you turn it back into liquid? What’s the difference between crystallised and creamed honey? — so we put together a quick introduction to these two amazing styles of honey and why we love them so much!
What is crystallised honey?
Crystallised honey is still raw honey, just in a different state. Raw honey, when exposed to temperatures lower than that of the typical hive, begins a process called crystallisation. It’s a natural, healthy process in which honey begins to “preserve” itself, keeping all of its flavour and nutrition packed in tight, which is why honey has no expiration date.
Raw honey consists of two things: water and sugar (natural sugars, of course!). Honeybees like to keep their hives nice and toasty — around 35 degrees Celsius — so when it’s inside a hive, honey stays fairly warm, which keeps it in a liquid state. But when removed from that environment, the honey starts to cool, initiating a process in which the water starts to “un-dissolve” from the sugar molecules, which then combines with each other to form sugar crystals. Once the first crystal forms, more will build on top of it, and the process continues until the whole jar is crystallised.
Crystallisation also happens inside the hive itself. If the weather is cold, and the busy bees can’t keep the hive at its typically balmy temperature, then the honey will start to crystallise inside the honeycomb. It’s a totally natural process that has nothing to do with human interaction, and it’s a reversible one, too — all you need is a bit of warmth to heat the honey back up.
Because it is still raw honey, crystallised honey has all of the same health benefits as liquid honey. The crystallisation process has no effect on the honey other than changing the colour and texture — although some people say crystallised honey tastes better than liquid honey, because it takes longer to dissolve on your tongue so your taste buds have more time to check out all of the complex flavours. A few of our team members at Honeybee Heroes always take home a bottle of crystallised honey when given a choice between the two!
What can I use crystallise honey for?
Pretty much everything! Many chefs and bakers prefer crystallised honey to liquid honey, because when it’s crystallised, it’s easier to work with, spreads easily, and doesn’t make a mess. It’s great for spreading on breads, glazing meat, baking recipes, and more. It melts right into hot drinks and food, so it’s great to use for sweetening your warm drinks or a bowl of oats.
How quickly does honey crystallise?
Various types of raw honey — lavender, fynbos, eucalyptus, and so on — will crystallise at different speeds and to different viscosities. Some will stay smooth even when the full jar is crystallised, while others will be much thicker and you’ll have to use your muscles to get a big scoop! Either way, it’s all natural honey.
The colder your honey gets, the quicker the crystallisation process will occur, so if you store your honey in a cold place, it will probably crystallise within a few days or weeks. So if you want to slow down that process, the best place to store your honey is in a cupboard at room temperature, which will typically keep your honey liquid for a few months. It also depends on how your honey is bottled: when stored in glass jars, like our honey is, the crystallisation process is a bit slower than if stored in plastic bottles. And when honey is unfiltered, which all of our honey is (because that’s the most natural way to enjoy honey), then crystallisation occurs a bit faster. That’s because microscopic particles, like beeswax or pollen, act as “starters” on which crystals can form. So if your honey is crystallising, that’s a good thing: you know your honey is real and raw!
Can I liquify my crystallised honey?
Yes you can, and it’s a simple process. If you prefer your honey runny, all you need to do is slightly warm up the honey, which temporarily reverses the crystallisation process. But to make sure that you don’t jeopardise the honey’s nutritional value, you don’t want to expose it to direct heat too quickly. Instead, pop your jar into a water bath with warm water from the tap, or place it a warm windowsill, and it will liquify within an hour or a few hours. Don’t microwave it or put it into boiling water, anything above 35 degrees Celsius is too warm for heating up your honey! As your honey cools, it may slowly start to re-crystallise. You can either repeat the process again, or only liquify as much as you’re planning on using.
How can I crystallise my liquid honey?
The easiest way to crystallise your honey is just to wait, because it will happen naturally to a bottle of liquid honey over time. But if you love crystallised honey as much as we do, and you’re impatient to enjoy its great taste, you can pop it in the fridge, or even add a single spoonful of water to the jar and mix it in, both of which accelerate the crystallisation process. Don’t put it in the freezer, because the crystallisation process won’t work properly if the honey’s water content freezes.
Okay, I know liquid honey and crystallised honey — but you guys also sell creamed honey. What is that?
Creamed honey is delicious! Here’s the biggest difference between crystallised and creamed honey: crystallisation is a natural process and creamed honey comes from an artificial process. But that doesn’t mean it’s an unhealthy one. All it takes to get creamed honey is to take crystallised honey and blend or whip it so that it breaks down the crystals inside to a smaller consistency crystal. You don’t need to add anything, heat the honey, or filter it. While creamed honey typically looks a lot lighter in colour than liquid honey, because glucose crystals are white in colour, creamed honey is still just raw honey in a different form. It’s super spreadable, easier to use, and just as delicious — if not more!