Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Heating and Freezing Honey
In the previous post we looked at why honey crystallizes. Since it's a natural for the sugars in honey to crystallize over time, what's the best method to re-liquefy it?
The answer is to use heat, but the question is how much?
Many commercial beekeepers invest in heated honey storage tanks. With the constant heat the honey never gets a chance to form crystals. These tanks are always kept around 125 degrees F. (More on this later when I learn more about them…)
[Photo - Last year's plastic pails. We still use them but the jars are used first.]
We use a pressure cooker to heat the honey in a hot bath. This is the marketing manager's (Dad's) job. He and Mom boil water in their pressure cooker. Then they turn off the heat and set the honey jars inside the hot water. The pressure cooker has a wire base which keeps the jars from sitting directly on the metal bottom. They leave the jars for a couple hours and the heat works to slowly melt the crystals.
The key is to not let the temperature get above 40°C (104 °F). At 50 °C (122 °F) honey will caramelize.
Pasteurized honey available in grocery stores has been heated at 161 °F (71.7 °C) or higher. Cooking at this heat destroys yeast cells, reduces enzymes, darkens the colour and changes the taste and smell of the honey.
Below 5 °C, the honey will not crystallize and the original texture and flavour are preserved indefinitely.
Honey will not freeze solid. Instead, as the temperatures become colder it becomes thicker (think of the saying like Molasses in January…). While appearing or even feeling solid, it will continue to flow at very slow rates.
My preference is to scoop the crystallized honey straight from the jar and into my hot tea. In my opinion that's the best way to melt it.
(Many thanks to those experts who contribute to Wikepedia where this info came from)