What to do with the set or crystallised honey?
Why does raw honey crystallise? Is it gone bad?
Raw honey is pure natural honey that hasn't been processed or heat treated. Crystallisation is a natural process and it doesn't change the quality of the honey and it is perfectly fine to eat. By simple chemistry, honey is an overly saturated liquid of natural sugars produced by the honey bee from the sweet nectar of flowers.
Nectar is 80-95% water and 5-15% natural sugars (sucrose). The sucrose is broken down into simple sugars by the enzymes of the bees while transporting the nectar from the flowers to the hive. Once the nectar is in the open cells, worker bees fan their wings to create heat that evaporates the water from the nectar. When enough water is evaporated (only 17-20% left), the result is sticky, pure honey.
The composition of honey will depend on the nectar, therefore on the natural sugars. This is the reason some variety will start to set much faster than others. Low temperature can make the honey set faster too, so in winter most varieties will set faster by being transported in the cold.
Store your runny honey at room temperature and with a closed lid to keep it runny for longer. Do not put the honey into the fridge, it will speed up the crystallisation.
Why most shop-bought honey is runny?
Often honey bought from supermarkets is heavily processed, like homogenised, pasteurised and ultra-filtered.
Homogenisation or blending: this is a method of mixing honey from different sources, often from different countries (exp: Labelled as 'Blend of EU - Non-EU honey'. If you think about it, this means the whole world). This way they can create a flavour profile and also hide cheaper and questionable quality honey in the mixture. Interestingly, honey you buy in a supermarket from the same brand taste the same year on year even though it meant to be a natural product that varies from season to season. A consistent flavour, look and texture is desired by supermarkets.
Pasteurisation (heat-treatment): Honey is a unique type of food which never goes off or spoils (unless diluted with water or its water content is too high). So honey doesn't need to be heat-treated. The reason for pasteurisation is simple: the honey will stay runny for longer. It is very convenient if you want the product to look the same for long on the shelves. By heating the honey to a higher temperature, will damage the natural enzymes in the honey and reduce its nutrient content.
Ultra-filtration: While the honey is heated it is pressed through a very fine filter to remove any impurities like small crystals, wax particles or pollen. The filtration makes the honey very clear and appealing to consumers, also keeping the product runny for longer as the small particles could trigger crystallisation.
Is Raw Artisan Honey different?
Our Raw Honey has not been heat-treated (pasteurised), homogenised or ultra-filtered. Therefore, Raw Artisan Honey will set with time, will have tiny bits of pollen, wax or propolis in it and there will be small differences even in the same variety throughout the season. You can also experience that you receive a jar of runny honey and on the next order the same variety might be set. We don't want to work against nature, our honey are as nature intended them to be, sometimes runny - sometimes set. :)
So what to do if you like your honey runny?
There are few easy methods to soften up or liquefy set honey. The key is not to overheat the honey! Never microwave raw honey!
1) Just place the jar in a pot and pour some hot water (make sure is not at a boil) around the jar, this will help to soften the honey. However, this doesn't always work with large jars on the first go, so it might need to be repeated a few times. Make sure the lid is closed to avoid water going inside the jar.
2) It might be a better technique to put the jar onto the radiator when the heating is on and cover it with a towel. Leave it there for a few hours or until the desired consistency is achieved.
3) Alternatively, if you have an electric oven where you can set a low temperature at about 40°C, the honey can be melted in a few hours. 40°C will not damage the honey, as this is a natural temperature, common on hot summer days. However, you need to be careful and not apply a higher temperature than that. With this method, it could take also some time so just leave it as long as needed to achieve desired consistency. Also, you can put the jars into the oven after you bake something when the oven is switched off but still hot and cooling down. This way you can save energy too.
When the honey has become liquid it will stay that way for a while, however, with time the honey will start to set again and the process might need to be repeated.