1.17.2011

Decrystallize my Honey, Honey

My mom has a couple of beehives on the farm in Maine that she takes care of with my best childhood friend's mom. The bees are super productive and do amazing things for the farm's gardens and trees. Everything about the bees is super cool; on the day we were engaged one of the hives swarmed and my mom's bee friends were able to recover the swarmed hive. Do you know what that means? They took a cardboard box, cut the branch of a tree where the bees had gathered and dropped the bees into the box. That swarm is its own separate productive hive today. Cool, no?
As you can imagine, S and I love everything about beehives, but we especially love the honey. We eat our farm honey sparingly, even though my parents' hives yield lots of honey each year. I can't explain it.

Most honey will crystallize if left long enough, so as you can imagine our savored honey occasionally crystallizes. Honey is composed of a mixture of fructose and glucose; the relative percentage of each determines the rate at which it crystallizes. In nature, glucose is normally a solid and fructose is usually a liquid. When a particular season's honey has a relatively high percentage of glucose to fructose, the honey crystallizes quickly.

The amount of glucose or fructose in honey depends on from which plants the bees collected the pollen used to make honey. For example, a light holly honey will crystallize very slowly, but an amber goldenrod honey will crystallize quickly. The bottom line is that since it's unlikely that you know from which plants' pollen your store bought honey is made, at some point you're probably going to have some honey that needs to be decrystallized. And we're here begging NOT to put it in the microwave.

The key to decrystallizing honey and keeping it that way for a while is to heat it very slowly. Hopefully your honey is in a glass jar, if not, scoop it out of the plastic bear and transfer it to a glass jar for the duration of its life in your cabinet. With the lid to the jar removed place the cold honey in a pot of cold water, with the water level in the pot high enough so that it's above the level of the honey. Very, very, very slowly bring the water to a simmer on ultra-low heat. When the water has formed tiny bubbles the temperature is right. 
Allow the honey to slowly decrystallize, stirring occasionally and making sure that the water doesn't get any hotter than tiny-bubble stage. The slower you decrystallize the longer the honey will stay that way. Once the honey is liquid again, remove it from the water and allow to cool fully before covering.

Repeat in a few weeks to months, depending on the glucose to fructose ratio of your honey, honey.

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