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The World Outside Honey
Why Has my Honey gone hard and gritty?
All good quality honey overtime will crystallise overtime. Sometimes this can be a matter of weeks or months since you purchased the honey. The factors that govern how fast a honey crystallises are very varied and will range from the temperature that the honey is stored, water content, what the bees have been foraging on through to the amount of minute particles of beeswax and pollen that is typically found in a real jar of honey. A lot of mass produced honey has been pasteurised and forced
through some very fine filters to remove the particles of pollen and beeswax to ensure the honey looks clear and to reduce the risk of the honey crystallising on the shop shelf.
Your honey hasn’t spoilt or “gone off” if it crystallises or goes a little cloudy and is still perfectly edible and safe to use. Sometimes honey can take on a very smooth texture as it crystallises and sometimes it can turn very hard in the jar or feel gritty as you eat it. Fear not, if this is not how you like your honey you can very easily turn the honey back to its liquid form. The easiest way is to sit the jar in some warm water, and as a rule of thumb, if you can’t put your hand in the water then its probably too hot. You can speed the process up by gently stirring the honey as it warms and regularly changing the hot water as it cools but be careful not to get water into the honey jar as this will cause the honey to spoil and ferment! You could also pop the jar into a warm oven once you have finished baking but do make sure you have loosened the lid to prevent the jar from breaking.
Alternatively, leave the jar in a warm place such as an airing cupboard or close to a warm radiator can turn you jar back to runny honey. One thing you shouldn’t do is store your honey in the fridge as this will accelerate the crystallisation process. Provided honey is stored in a cupboard away from heat extremes it will outlast most items in your store cupboard.
Thankfully this process is totally natural and actually the way that honey looks after and preserves itself! Crystallised honey is just as good as runny liquid honey and some recipes will even call for the use of crystallised honey. The crystals tend to multiply quickly once the honey has started the crystallisation process, but no, your honey is perfectly fine to use and eat in crystallised form and most definitely not ruined!
Why Does Honey Crystallise
Honey is an insect made syrup of water and sugars for the most part. Typically honey is made by the bees using two main natural sugars, Glucose and Fructose in varying amounts. Glucose is the sugar that is responsible for the crystallisation as it has a much lower solubility in water, so it can more easily crystallise as it falls out of suspension. Honey is a supersaturated solution of sugars where there just isn’t enough water to keep these sugars in solution.
Why is raw honey more likely to Crystalise than factory produced Honey?
Raw honey also contains small particles of pollen, beeswax, bee glue and other nutrients. That's not a bad thing and they are largely responsible for raw honey extra health benefits. But those tiny bits and pieces are perfect for the glucose to crystallise on as it becomes undissolved in the honey solution. Those little particles are the reason that raw honey is more likely encourage the formation of crystals over a pasteurised and fully processed product.
Infants and Honey
Please do not feed honey to children under 1 year old! Honey could contain spores than could develop into botulism once consumed. Sadly as beekeepers we can’t remove this risk. Once a child is over a year old they will have developed their bodies own natural defences against these spores.
More information can be found on the NHS website regarding Infant Botulism
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