We’ve all had it happen, opening the cupboard or looking in the pantry and finding a jar of honey that has been there for quite some time. You open the lid, and it’s all solid. “Uh-oh,” you think to yourself, “Now what do I do? Has it gone bad?”
The good news is that your honey is fine. In fact, it’s better than fine. It is actually a good sign that you have real pure honey. Not high temperature heated honey or corn syrup you can find on low prices on the shelves in a lot of shops these days. Actually, this is one of the main reasons for honey pasteurisation; to remove the crystallisation process. Therefore, the honey has a smooth golden look and remains runny forever, making it more attractive for many buyers and extending the so-called shelf life.
What is Crystallisation and Why Occurs:
Crystallisation is a natural process in raw honey during which honey changes its consistency form runny to set and ultimately becomes crystallised. Honey contains natural sugars, fructose (fruit sugar), glucose (grape sugar) and water. Depending on the type of honey, the content range from 30-44% fructose, 25-40% glucose, and around 20% water. The higher sugar content means the water in honey contains more sugar than it could naturally hold. When glucose crystallises and separates from the water, it takes the form of crystals. As the process progress and more glucose crystallise, those crystals spread through the honey and change the consistency, ultimately becoming thick or crystallised.
The different type of honey crystallises at different speeds. From 1 -2 months for rapeseed and sunflower honey to 1-2 years for varieties like Lavender and Acacia.
Temperature, relative humidity and the type of packaging could also make a difference in the speed of the crystallisation process. For example, lower temperatures speed up the process whilst higher delay the crystallisation. However, as long as the container is kept closed, crystallised honey can be safely consumed indefinitely without any adverse effects on its quality or flavour.