An Overview of Forms of Honey
There are many different forms of honey and the preference of the form depends on the cultural influences of the local marketplace. In Europe and Canada, most customers prefer creamed honey. This smooth, semisolid form is processed by the beekeeper by “seeding” with a starter containing fine crystals, and carefully controlling storage temperature until the smooth, desired texture is obtained. This form is also called “granulated” or “crystallized” honey and has a very stable shelf life. It retains its freshness and creamy form unless kept at 85° F. or warmer.
Years ago some folks called this form “honey butter”. Actually “honey butter” is a completely different product, made with half honey and half sweet butter. Since this product contains dairy products it cannot be sold without a state dairy license.
Genuine “raw honey” is really only found in the wax-sealed honeycomb—just as the bees produce it.
Comb honey can be cut from the frame and packed in small plastic boxes or small chunks can be packed in wide mouth jars and surrounded by liquid honey. This product is called “chunk honey”. Comb honey used to be sold in 4 by 4 in. basswood boxes provided by the beekeeper to be filled by the bees. Highly labor intensive, the wooden boxes have been replaced by simpler round plastic packages. Once filled by the bees, a clear cover is installed providing a convenient, leak-proof package. Special hive management is required to produce comb honey and therefore beginning beekeepers are encouraged to manage hives for producing liquid honey.
Liquid honey is preferred by customers in the USA. This form requires more labor but the process has been made easy by modern equipment. The frames filled with honey by bees and capped with wax are cleared from bees and brought indoors for extracting. After slicing off the wax capping, the frames with open cells of honey are loaded in an extractor that spins out the honey. The honey is filtered and then the clear, golden treasure is ready to be bottled.
All liquid honey will granulate with large sharp crystals over a period of time. Depending on the floral source some honey granulates sooner than others. Storing honey at 55-58° F. accelerates granulation and for long-term storage liquid honey should be kept at 0° F. in a freezer. Granulated honey can readily be reliquified by heating in hot water. Do not boil the water, as the delicate flavor of the honey will be destroyed.
All forms of honey should be processed without heating above 120 deg F. to maintain the definition of “raw honey” Raw, local honey tastes far better than ordinary “supermarket honey” that is usually heated to 180° F. for better shelf life.