While the crew is catching queens in the California sunshine, I’m home in Montana preparing to exhibit at the yearly Made in Montana Marketplace.  Loading trailers, hauling honey, and standing up to talk to people for 8 hours a day really aren’t the most fun things in the world to do when approaching the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, but we’ve found that the Made in Montana show is the best one for connecting with wholesalers and retail customers, old and new.  So, off I go, honey, beeswax, and trailer in tow.

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Mama Stone/Nan at the 2011 Made in Montana Marketplace.

And luckily, I have lots of help.  My dad deals with the trailer, my father-in-law bottles honey, my mom comes with me to sell (she’s really quite good at it!), Brother Dear helps with all of the above and of course everyone pitches in to make sure that Maggie Rose is happy during all of this hustle and bustle.  After all, if the almost-two-year-old ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

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Unfortunately for everyone involved, pets aren’t allowed at the show, and these days Maggie Rose pretty much ain’t happy without her Woof-Woof, Roy.

As I’ve been gathering our wares for the fair, I’m noticing that this year’s honey crop is starting to crystallize, or harden, in the bottle, faster than in past years.  If you’re into learning about crystallization, and how to fix it, the rest of this blog is for you.  Otherwise, check back a different day!

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Three pounds of crystallized raw honey.

All honey eventually crystallizes.  This does NOT mean it is bad – honey never goes bad, it’s a supersaturated sugar that pretty much nothing can grow in.  It needs to be properly sealed to prevent fermentation, but otherwise it’s a pretty low maintenance food.

After some time though, and that time varies by the honey and its sugar-moisture-pollen content, even year to year, it will crystallize.  The “more raw” or less processed the honey is, the faster it crystallizes.

Some folks like the hard texture.  I prefer to squeeze my honey, so I re-liquefy it.  There are a number of ways to accomplish this, all involving low heat to preserve the honey’s integrity.

I fill a pot with water on the stove top, set it to low, and put the bottle of honey in the warm water.  After an hour or so, liquid honey!

My dear friend from college is a baker and she keeps her honey sitting on the range at all times – she says the warmth from her oven, which she uses daily, keeps the honey from crystallizing in the first place.

My dad wraps his crystallized honey in a heating pad: poof! Liquid honey.

My hippie pal from high school keeps her honey in her south facing kitchen window, where she says the afternoon sun keeps it liquid.

You can also turn your oven to its slowest setting (mine is 170F) and put the honey into the oven.  Depending on the size of your container, it should be liquid in 30 minutes to an hour or so.

You can microwave it, too, but if you leave the lid on, it’s likely to destroy that bottle itself.  And subjecting the honey to microwave-high heat will likely destroy the enzymes in the honey and much of it’s “raw-ness.”  When I’m down to the last inch of honey and just need a little for salad dressing or whatever, this doesn’t concern me, but we’re all about full disclosure around here.  And Real Life, too.

Some people worry about the heat and the plastic honey bottles.  We sell our honey in plastic bottles because otherwise the shipping would be so high (due to the additional weight) that no one could afford to buy it.  But once I get my 5# plastic jug, I decant it into a glass mason jar.  That way, when it crystallizes, I can subject the jar to heat without worrying about the plastic.  Not everyone worries about the plastic and since I’m not a scientist I’m not saying that you need to, but if it’s a concern for you, that’s how I deal with it.

How to keep your honey from crystallizing?  Well, you can’t, short of eating it faster than crystallization occurs.  But the temperatures most likely to cause it to harden are those in the 40Fs, so DO NOT put the honey in the refrigerator.  It doesn’t need to be refrigerated and this will only cause it to crystallize faster.

Does honey caramelize or burn?  You betcha.  Low and slow are the keys to liquefying crystallized honey.

Why does your honey from the Big Box Store never seem to crystallize, as to opposed to an actual beekeeper’s honey?  Because it’s been superheated and pushed through a diatomaceous earth filter that sucks every bit of pollen and other honey goodnesss out of it.  Does honey “need” to be superheated and filtered?  No.  So why do the big packers for Costco, Target, Wal-Mart etc heat it up and filter the daylights out of it?  Because it keeps the honey from crystallizing on the shelves, and that’s what the average consumer demands.  Do I think that superheated, superfiltered honey is just another sugar, not terribly unlike table sugar?  Yes.  Do I eat superheated, superfiltered honey?  Ugh, no.  Yuck.  Eat real honey, people.

If you need some real honey, head on over to www.glaciercountyhoney.com — but we’re not shipping Thurs-Sat, as we’re headed to the aforementioned Made in Montana Marketplace!  If you’re in Great Falls, stop by and see us at the Civic Center on Saturday, from 9-4.  We’ve got what you need to be naturally sweet.

2013.  Glacier County Honey Co.  All Rights Reserved.

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