Smile Politely

Rehabilitating hardened honey

Not everything works out as planned in the kitchen. Strands of pasta become sticky masses, eggs over easy turn out to be anything but easy. And then there’s the day when you find out the hard way that you really should have cleaned the crumbs out of the toaster oven. We’ve all been there. But just because something goes awry, doesn’t mean it has to be a total loss. Very few kitchen mishaps are beyond salvage.

For example, if you want to make the all-honey oatmeal cookies in this week’s Local 365 and find the honey in your cupboard is no longer liquid, don’t throw it out. Honey doesn’t really go bad. It is natural for it to change from liquid to solid over time. In fact most of the honey consumed in the world isn’t in liquid form but in “creamed” form which is accomplished by partially crystallizing it, albeit via a controlled process.

Honey is a super solution. The glucose in it is prone to dropping out of solution and forming crystals. This can happen within a couple days of the honey being made, or never. When and whether crystallization occurs depends upon the honey’s glucose level; types like Tupelo tend to have less glucose. It also depends upon the presence of particles like pollen or wax, or even air bubbles. Keeping honey in an airtight container in a cool place (50 degrees for raw honey, 64 degrees for processed honey) is the best way to slow crystallization. Warmer temperatures tend to accelerate the process, and above 80 degrees you may find yourself on the way to having mead. If you are buying honey in large quantities, you can freeze it in small containers and thaw it at room temperature for 30 minutes.

When honey crystallizes, the best way to fix it is to place the honey container in warm water between 95 and 120 degrees until the honey returns to liquid. No need to heat water on the stove or in the microwave, just use the hottest setting on your tap. The process usually takes less than fifteen minutes. There are several websites which advocate simply microwaving the honey container, but unless you are going to use all the honey immediately this can actually make the problem worse over time. Microwave ovens work by heating water molecules. This leads to evaporation which will lead to more crystallization.


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