Why does honey granulate?
All honey will granulate or crystallise over time and the rate at which this happens depends on the floral source of the nectar gathered by the bees. The main sugars in honey are fructose and glucose and it is the ratio of these that will determine how quickly the honey will granulate. Glucose is less soluble than fructose and therefore it is the glucose that will cause honey to granulate. The nectar from rapeseed is extremely high in glucose and will granulate within a period of two weeks, turning the honey so hard that it will bend spoons. Beekeepers will usually mix rapeseed honey with another that has a smoother texture – this is called seeding. Borage on the other hand, is high in fructose and very rarely granulates.
There is nothing wrong with a jar that is showing signs of granulation – the taste of the honey will not be affected whatsoever. However, it is easy to restore the honey back to a liquid state using a bain-marie or a microwave. Loosen the top and stand the jar in hot water, ensuring that the water completely surrounds the jar. Heat very gently in a warm oven until the honey becomes liquid. Alternatively, use a microwave for 30 seconds at the lowest power and don’t forget to remove metal lids or loosen plastic ones.
If you leave your honey to set, this is what we call naturally set/cyrstallised honey, however you may decide to cream it or make it into soft set honey.
Warm your honey to about one third liquid and then transfer into a bucket with a tap. Place your honey creamer (see photo below) in the honey and move it up and down ensuring you keep the plunger below the level of the honey to avoid drawing in air. Using a manual creamer will take quite a while to achieve the desired effect (perhaps several days) and you may decide to invest in an electric creamer with paddles. Put your honey into pre-warmed jars when it is fully creamed and still pliable.
Soft set honey
This method is the easiest to produce a lovely soft set honey. First of all you need to find a suitable seed honey. This should be a smooth soft set honey – perhaps some you have saved from a previous batch, or for your first batch buy some from another beekeeper. You could even buy a few jars from a supermarket to get the process going.
- Liquefy your honey in a warming cabinet at about 45oC
- Strain into a bucket with a tap
- Leave to cool
- Put your seed honey into the bucket. Use about 10% seed, so for 30lbs honey use 3 x 1lb jars.
- Stir the honey using a creamer or a long wooden spoon ensuring no air is introduced.
- When it is all mixed in and fairly thick put into pre-warmed jars to avoid frosting.
Below is a good YouTube clip for seeding honey courtesy of BeekeeperDevon and at the bottom of the page there are a few photos.