Help! My honey’s not runny

Published on 09/01/2018 | By HealthPak

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At HealthPak we seem to get quite a lot of comments from customers who aren’t sure whether their honey ought to be runny or hard – so we thought we’d set the record straight.

Just because our 100% Pure New Zealand Toast Natural Honey might not pour out of the sachet like golden syrup doesn’t mean it’s gone off or is past its best – in fact, far from it, the crystals in set honey are actually a sign of quality.

Before we get into the science, rest assured that the texture has nothing to do with taste and so our honey is perfect for spreading on a breakfast slice of toast or for a natural sweetener in tea or coffee regardless of how it comes out of the packaging. And, as we’ll see, the heat of hot buttered toast or the steam from a nice cuppa are likely to melt the crystals anyway.

So, then, what are those crystals? And what should you tell your hotel, motel or B&B guests if they come running to your kitchen to say they think your honey’s past its use-by date?

It’s probably best not to completely blind guests with science, but a first point might well be to mention that even that venerable old institution The Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC is happy to talk about it having an “eternal shelf-life”. In fact, Egyptian tombs have been excavated to uncover pots of honey thousands of years old and they have been found to be as good to eat today as they were when they were first bricked up with the mummies!

If your guests still don’t buy this super-food’s super longevity, you might also like to add that the reason honey doesn’t spoil is that it has a very low water content, a naturally high acidity (typically between 3 and 4.5) and contains a small amount of hydrogen peroxide (the result of the chemical reaction that allows bees to “magically” turn the nectar from our wonderful native New Zealand flowers into honey). These three factors simply don’t provide an environment where bacteria can thrive or – ultimately – spoil.

So where do those crystals come from?

The first reason honey can become set, granulated or crystallised (all three terms actually mean the same thing) is the temperature. Below 10C (that’s 50F in old money) honey will start to form crystals even if it’s still in the hive, which means cool storage cupboards or the fridge are definitely going to start the process. It’s possible to gently heat the honey to make it runny again, but it’s simply going to re-set once it cools and any constant heating-cooling-reheating tends to ruin honey’s naturally bright, summery taste.

The second reason (and this gets a little more scientific) is the ratio of glucose to fructose in a specific batch of honey with the more glucose, the higher the likelihood of crystallisation. HealthPak’s honey is naturally free-range (after all, who are we to tell the bees which flowers to visit) and the type of nectars the bees collect determine this ratio so we’re really not in a position to tell which batches are going to crystallise faster than others.

The third reason is the real clincher: the crystals form around minute particles of pollen or wax. Raw honey contains plenty of these naturally occurring particles meaning that any crystallised honey is likely to be less processed and more pure than overly heat-treated products.

HealthPak is proud to provide guest accommodation throughout New Zealand with the best quality, locally produced and handle products and you can rest assured our honey is no different. So if your honey’s not runny, it’s not only nothing to worry about – it’s actually something to be proud about.

For more information on HealthPak’s hotel and motel food and beverage supplies and other guest amenities contact us on +64 9 579 6268, at info@healthpak.co.nz or via the website.