honey

Spotlight on crystallization: how to make 2-ingredient creamed honey

You can make creamed honey easily at home.

Sadly, crystallized honey is often mistaken for honey that has “gone bad.” Instead, the sugars in the honey have simply arranged themselves into crystals, a completely normal process. It’s delicious!

Inside: You can make creamed honey quickly and easily

Are you disappointed when your liquid gold solidifies into a not-so-radiant paste? Do you suspect your honey is ruined or inedible? Have you wondered if it’s even safe for bees?

Well, fear not! Your honey has simply crystallized. It has formed little crystals in a process not much different than the one that forms rock candy on a string.

In nature, many things form crystals, especially as they cool or become dehydrated. Crystallized honey is still pure honey just as ice is still pure water, and diamonds are still pure carbon. Lucky for us, diamonds are very stable whereas honey crystals can be reversed.

Crystallized honey is a natural product with a poor reputation

Unfortunately, crystallized honey suffers from a lackluster reputation, especially here in North America. Many people think crystallized honey is damaged, “off,” or somehow inferior. In truth, it’s just in a different shape.

As for the bees, they pay no attention to whether the honey is solid or not. Honey has been crystallizing for as long as honey bees have been storing it—a very long time indeed. You can feed crystallized honey to your bees in the comb or not, and they will scarf it down as usual.

Some honey forms crystals and some does not

Honey crystallizes because it contains lots of glucose. Gradually, it separates from the liquid portion of the honey and forms crystals. On the other hand, fructose interferes with quick crystallization. So the rate at which honey crystallizes depends mostly on the ratio of glucose to fructose.

Honey with lots of glucose crystallizes quickly. Honey with lots of fructose crystallizes slowly. Other factors can also affect crystallization speed, such as temperature, moisture content, and the number of impurities in the honey.

Crystals Be Gone

High-fructose corn syrup is popular in processed foods because, among other things, fructose inhibits the formation of sugar crystals. This results in a shelf-stable product with a smooth texture.


Interfering with a natural process

The good news is that if we have honey with a propensity to crystallize, we can interfere with that process and keep the crystals small and uniform. When we do it properly, the honey will spread like butter with a smooth taste and feel.

If crystals become too large, they may become distracting or unappetizing, so we use a simple trick to control their size. We call it seeding.

Seeding yields honey that goes by various names, such as spun honey, churned honey, whipped honey, or creamed honey. Sadly, these names can also lead to false impressions because the processes do not add air, cream, or anything else to the honey. Spinning and churning sound like magic movements, but the actual process is more like stirring—not nearly as glamorous as it sounds.

How we can control the crystal size

We can control the size of the crystals by adding a small amount of crystallized honey into a batch of liquid honey. Once you find a commercial brand whose texture you like, you can simply add some of it to your liquid honey. Most people find that using about 1 part crystallized honey in 10 parts liquid honey works well. However, not all honey will behave the same way.

The pre-crystallized honey acts like a template, of sorts, suggesting how the crystals should be built. As new crystals are added to the old ones, they all will have roughly the same size and shape. When all the crystals are small, and roughly the same size, the crystallized honey will be smooth and silky.

Not all honey will behave the same

You should note that not all honey will yield the same results. Because honey with lots of glucose crystallizes faster, it’s easy to cream honey that is high in glucose. Honey that is high in fructose is much more resistant to crystallizing, so it is perfect for leaving in its liquid form.

As a general rule (with exceptions) honey from the flowers of trees and shrubs is generally higher in fructose. Honey from trees and shrubs include tupelo, cascara, maple, gallberry, avocado, acacia, and chestnut.

Examples of honey that crystallize fast include alfalfa, clover, and dandelion. The record holder is probably oilseed rape (canola) that sometimes crystallizes before it can be harvested.

Mind the water content before making creamed honey

Most cured honey has a water content of around 18%. If the water content is too high in extracted honey, it will often separate into a solid layer on the bottom and a liquid layer on the top. This liquid layer may ferment and give off a musty odor or smell like a brewery. Some people like this flavor in their honey, but others do not.

If your honey has a tendency to separate and then ferment, you can cream it early and prevent the separation process. But be aware that honey will a high water content may form larger crystals. Protect your honey from attracting atmospheric moisture by keeping a lid on it.

Two basic methods for making creamed honey

Two methods are commonly used to make creamed honey. The Dyce (or heated) method is used by commercial establishments and consists of several precise steps. The honey is stirred, pasteurized, strained, cooled rapidly, seeded, stirred, and then stored in a cool environment. A good set of directions can be found at BetterBee.

If you’re not fond of heating honey or have just a small amount to do (even just one jar) you can use the raw (no heat) method. Most hobby beekeepers and family farmers that I know prefer the raw method.

The 2 ingredients for making raw creamed honey

  • To make raw creamed honey you will need:
    • raw (unpasteurized) liquid honey
    • pre-creamed honey such as alfalfa or clover (seed honey)
    • a stirring spoon or electric mixer
    • a lidded storage jar

  • Put the liquid honey and a small amount of the pre-creamed honey in a bowl. Use at least 1 part creamed to 10 parts liquid honey. More is fine and will speed up the process.

  • Stir or slowly mix the honey for about 20 minutes. You will see the mixture gradually become lighter in color.

  • Pour the mix into lidded containers.

  • Store in the fridge or a cold garage for one to two weeks.

Creaming Partially Crystallized Honey

If you are starting this project with honey that is already partially crystallized, it works best to warm the honey until all the crystals have dissolved. This will give you more uniform crystals and a smoother texture.


Flavoring creamed honey

I know that flavored honey is a thing even though honey is flavorful from the start. If you insist on adding more flavors, use dry spices and flavorings so as not to add any additional water to your honey. Some people like to use raspberry powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom.

Simply add the flavorings into the honey at the beginning so it gets mixed in along with the seed honey. You will need to experiment with the amount, especially since some honey is more flavorful than others.

Frequently asked questions

How should I store my finished creamed honey?

Like most other honey, it should be stored at a cool room temperature.

How can I use creamed honey?

You can use creamed honey just like liquid honey: on toast, cereal, pancakes, in tea or baked good, or with crackers and cheese. There are endless ways to enjoy honey.

Can I return creamed honey to liquid honey?

Yes, you can warm creamed honey to return it to liquid honey.

Rusty
Honey Bee Suite

12 Comments

  • Well, now I want raspberry powder. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but of course it is and I’m sure I can find it online. Not necessarily to put in honey, of course, since I want to admire each vintage of pure honey. But I suppose if one had some suspicious cheap honey, raspberry could be an interesting enhancement.

    • Roberta,

      I use raspberry powder (from freeze-dried raspberries) along with fresh ones when I make ice cream.

  • I’m making creamed honey from my own honey. I’ve got some bottles about a year old and well-crystallized. I took a spoonful of this and ground it up in a mortar and pestle, and made the seed then I added it to my recent liquid honey. Just letting time do its job now.

  • This was another great read, Rusty. Thank you. Just thinking about the term “creamed” which has implications that the honey was whipped therefore air added. Might “soft-set” be a good term to use instead? Best wishes, Ann.

    • Ann,

      Soft-set is better than creamed or whipped, I think. I don’t like names that give a false impression or are somehow misleading. As a kid, I wouldn’t eat sour cream because of the word sour. Now I’m trying to make up for lost time.

    • Well since we are now talking about our (bizarre) language, rather than bees or honey, I had no idea “creamed” implied whipped, though I’m aware of its “mush with a wooden spoon till soft” meaning. I do think it falsely suggests that cream is added, although I had to dig a soup can label out of the garbage once to prove our cream of chicken soup was low fat, having “less than 2%” cream in it.

      Soft set sounds too much like ice cream to me.

      How ’bout “Pure Honey. Now with less drip!”

      Also, at least the cream part of sour cream isn’t misleading.

      • I don’t think creamed means whipped. To me, whipped means air was added. And creamed means “made creamy,” although I think “cremed” may mean that, too. What we need is a new word.

        • You can’t steal what is freely given, though I’m not necessarily certain it’s mine to give.

          Also, sometimes I feel I oughta apologize for hijacking Rusty’s very erudite and esteemed educational site with my fourth-rate comedy routines.

  • I’ve scooped crystallized honey into a stand mixer bowl and beat it with a wire whisk. People I’ve given it to really like the smooth, spreadable texture. Would this be considered “creamed” honey?

    • The key word in your question is ‘given’. As long as you’re giving it away, it can be ‘creamed honey’ if you want it to be. Once you try to sell it, there will be complex rules that vary from time to time and place to place. It’s probably safer to just eat it all yourself. : )

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