Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Heating and Freezing Honey

Heating 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?

The melting point of crystallized honey is between 40 and 50 °C (104 and 122 °F). Too much heat will destroy the nutritional elements of honey. Heating up to 37 °C (98.6 °F) causes loss of nearly 200 components, some of which are antibacterial. Heating to 40 °C (104 °F) reduces enzymes.

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…)

With our small time operation with no heated tank (not yet at least) we keep all our honey in glass jars. Using glass makes it easier to heat the honey up. In previous years we kept our honey in food grade plastic containers but then it crystallized in those containers and then had to be scooped out into jars and then heated to liquefy. So now we're skipping the plastic entirely.

All family members and even a few friends save and wash all their glass pickle, relish, jam jars, etc., for us to use. We don't put all our honey in "for sale" jars until we need them. That way we don't have to buy boxes and boxes of for sale jars all at once. When ready, we heat the jars to liquefy the honey and then pour into the for sale jars as needed and label 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.

Freezing 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)


James Dearsley said...

Great article, very interesting.....

Anonymous said...

I don't see how it makes sense to store the honey in an intermediate jar only to purchase another jar to sell it. The time spent doing this must be immense! You can buy cases of jars for next to nothing from Dominion & Grimm.

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

Anonymous: You're right it does take more time and another method would be better. But the jars don't cost next to nothing. And it's an hour drive and back to the supplier or pay the cost of shipping.
In any event I think you're right and next year I'll just have to invest up front in a lot of cases of jars.

Scott said...

Wonderful article. I have found that putting jars in the oven with light bulb on all the time will melt the honey. The temp stays about 90 - 95 degrees but it takes a few days.
Scott from Wisconsin

Bee Magic Chronicles for Kids said...

Hi Scott. Yes the oven is create as a heat box. I use a trouble light and set the jar inside inside and then close the oven door. It takes time as you said but it's a very effective method.

Katy Busy Bee said...

I made a 5 sided warming cabinet out of rigid foam insulation to fit over a shelf unit, large enough to hold 6 five gallon buckets. I put 5 buckets in and a thermostatically controlled space heater (Patton or other brand) and warm the cabinet contents to about 115 degrees. It will take about 2-3 days for a solidified bucket to go back into solution, faster if you stir it. Total cost about 40 bucks. Pictures on my Katy Busy Bee facebook page.