Creamed Honey: Why We Love It and How to Make It!Healthy Living
Creamed honey is considered the crème de la crème of raw honey, often costing a premium whether you buy it plain or flavored, directly from a local beekeeper or off the shelf at the healthfood store.
From a practical standpoint, I’ve always preferred creamed honey to liquid honey because it makes less of a mess in the kitchen when the kids are making breakfast or grabbing a spoonful for a healthy pick-me-up after school.
No sticky drips on the floor, table, or counters to clean up!
From a nutritional point of view, consumers often assume that the premium price of quality creamed honey especially if it is flavored with herbs or fruit is a sign that it is healthier than liquid versions.
In addition, shoppers often conclude that creamed honey has been whipped like butter to achieve that delectably smooth texture that is so enjoyable off the spoon or infinitely spreadable on toast.
Are either of these assumptions actually true? And, if not, could creamed honey be easily made at home from less expensive but just as nutritious, local liquid honey in order to save money, make unique flavors or just to enjoy a fun project with the kids?
Is Creamed Honey More Nutritious or Beneficial?
Many honey fans are surprised to learn that creamed honey does not confer any additional benefits to liquid honey in terms of quality, nutrition, or antibiotic value assuming both are completely unheated and unfiltered.
Ultra-smooth texture and thickness is ultimately the only difference between creamed and liquid honey. However, this dreamy characteristic alone is enough to cause some consumers to prefer creamed versions and willingly pay more to get it.
For example, the amazingly delicious, creamed honey that we have purchased for years is sourced from a variety of organic beekeepers in the United States, Canada, Brazil, and New Zealand. It’s a bit pricey, but my kids absolutely love it because it is ultra thick, smooth and spreadable. When using raw honey medicinally, however, I prefer seasonal local honey. The picture above shows a spoon of local creamed honey and the creamed honey I bought at the healthfood store. As you can see, creamed honey can vary quite a bit in thickness and consistency depending on the variety.
In my experience, local honey is more readily available in a liquid state when purchased directly from a beekeeper. Creamed honey usually comes from artisanal producers who might not live in your neck of the woods, hence the benefits of consuming raw honey that came from the nectar of plants in your vicinity would be lost.
What if local raw honey purchased inexpensively and in bulk directly from the beekeeper could be easily creamed yourself? Would you prefer that instead? I know I do!
How is Creamed Honey Made?
A second misconception about creamed honey is that it has been whipped like butter to achieve that uniquely smooth texture.
On the contrary, creamed honey is crystallized, not whipped. Whipping honey is actually very damaging as it introduces oxygen, moisture and potentially pathogenic microbes into the mix that are all destructive.
Whipping will also not produce quality creamed honey, so be wary of recipes that recommend this approach.
Creaming honey in a traditional manner is very simple. It is a low temperature process used historically by beekeepers to slow down the natural crystallization of honey without damaging it in the process. If you’ve ever left a jar of raw, liquid honey in the pantry for a long time, you know what I mean. Large chunks of the honey crystallize making pouring very difficult.
Crystallized honey can be re-liquefied by placing the jar in a pan of warm water not to exceed 117 ºF/ 47 ºC. In my experience, though, this is not a convenient process nor is it totally reliable for liquefying larger chunks of crystallized honey in a reasonable period of time.
Instead of Creaming Honey, the Honey Industry Heats It
The modern honey industry found the natural crystallization process inconvenient too and so decided to heat treat honey on a large scale basis so it would no longer solidify at all. This keeps industrialized honey looking presentable on store shelves for long periods of time. Of course, the expedient approach of heating the honey destroys the enzymes, probiotics, and makes it toxic too, but in the world of big business, this is inconsequential. Profits are most important to these corporations who figure most consumers don’t know any better anyway.
Unfortunately, this dishonest attitude of “what the consumer doesn’t know, lines our pockets really well” has been taken an unsavory step further by the honey industry in recent years.
Most large scale honey manufacturers have replaced the honey either partially or entirely with honey flavored corn syrup! To avoid this scam, you really must source your honey from a local beekeeper, small producer, or reputable retailer to be sure of authenticity. Buying honey from large store or supermarket chains virtually guarantees that the honey is fake (1).
Be forewarned, however, that according to a beekeeper friend of mine, many of the “tricks” to determine if honey is pure and raw are not actually reliable. The best approach is to read the label to ensure only honey is in the jar in the first place and buying from a reputable source to ensure a raw and unfiltered product.
Crystallized, Liquid or Creamed Honey?
The good news is that like creamed honey, crystallized honey is just as high quality, flavorful and nutritious even though large scale manufacturers and some consumers view it as a defect. You absolutely can eat crystallized honey, although the grittiness might cause you not to enjoy it as much (a few folks do seem to prefer it). Factors which influence the rate at which raw liquid honey crystallizes include:
- Type of honey: some varieties granulate faster than others. You have probably noticed this if you are like me and keep many jars of different types of honey in your pantry.
- Temperature: Cold temperature speeds up crystallization considerably especially temperatures below 50 ºF/ 10 ºC. Hence if you live in a warmer climate, you probably don’t have as much of an issue with crystallized honey. In warmer climates that regularly get into the 80’s ºF/ 30’s ºC or higher, honey remains runny much longer.
The upside is that if you notice your honey starting to crystallize, it is definitely raw, so it is one way to know you’ve got the real thing!
A better solution to commercialized honey, however, is to buy quality raw, local honey and slow down the natural crystallization process by making it into creamed honey which imparts a creamy smooth texture at the same time.
Here’s how it’s done ….
Creamed Honey Recipe
Makes about one pint of creamed honey
2 cups of raw, unfiltered liquid honey, preferably local.
3 tablespoons creamed honey -OR- crystallized honey
1-2 teaspoons raw, freshly ground cinnamon, optional
1 wide mouth, quart size mason jar
If choosing crystallized honey as the starter for your creamed honey, it must be powderized into fine granules first. You can either use a mortar and pestle to do this, or buy crystallized honey powder instead.
Once you have your starter ready, pour the liquid honey into the mason jar. Slowly stir in the starter (either creamed honey or crystallized honey powder).
Do not whip or stir too vigorously as air introduced into the process will damage the integrity and flavor of the honey.
Screw on the lid and place in a cool room or basement. The ideal storage temperature for creating creamed honey is about 50 °F/ 10 °C. If you live in a very warm climate, place the jar in a small cooler with an ice pack and change it once per day. Refrigerating will actually slow down the creaming process, so it is preferable not to do this unless it is the only option.
After a week or so, you might see a few bubbles forming on top or the color of the honey has become uneven. Like other fermented foods, every batch will tend to be a little bit different so be open to the possibilities Mother Nature has to offer.
The most noticeable changes are in the texture and clarity of the honey. It will no longer be clear and will take on a thicker consistency that is creamier and scoopable instead of pourable.
Store your creamed honey in the pantry. Avoid storing honey, creamed or not, for long periods of time near windows or on shelves near the stove, refrigerator or other appliances as warmer temperature can cause honey to become less flavorful.
If your home is very warm (over 90 °F/ 32 °C), you may wish to store the creamed honey in the refrigerator so it won’t get runny and darken in color. Don’t freeze it as this will change the texture although the nutritional value remains unaltered.
If your home is like ours, though, no worries as the creamed honey won’t last long enough for these problems to occur even during the hot summertime months!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
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