Choosing the Right Honey

Understanding the different types of honey is key to choosing the right honey.

We dedicate this blog post to the consumers that have been annoyed by flavorless honey or by the unending struggle of getting crystallized honey out of those darn squeezy bears. With the following information in hand, honey lovers can choose a product that best suits their needs!

Pasteurized

Pasteurized honey has undergone heat treatment (i.e., pasteurization) in a registered pasteurizing facility and is free of certain yeasts1. The yeasts rarely pose any health risks, so the main purpose of pasteurization is to produce honey that is more visually appealing and easier to pour2. Pasteurized honey is crystal-clear and slower to harden2, which is desirable for consumers who do not wish to reheat crystallized honey. Unfortunately, heat treatment alters the flavor of the honey and destroys any of its health benefits; antibacterial properties, antioxidants, and nutrients are all destroyed, leaving behind a bottle of sugary sweetness.

This pasteurized honey is fluid and clear

Liquid

Honey labelled as “liquid” is very similar to pasteurized honey; it has been heat treated to make it more fluid and less prone to rapid crystallization1;however, unlike pasteurized honey, it has not been treated in a registered pasteurizing plant and likely hasn’t been heated to as high of a temperature. Remember, any honey labelled as “liquid” is required to have undergone treatment1. Like pasteurized honey, crystallization will occur slowly, the flavor has been altered, and some health benefits may have been destroyed.

In some cases, local market vendors may wrongly use the term “liquid” to communicate that their honey is not creamed. This honey has not been heat treated, even though the “liquid” label is supposed to be reserved for honey that has. Talk to your local farmer to ensure that the label is correct or to find out what temperature the honey was heated to. They will be happy to clear up the misunderstanding!

Creamed

Creamed honey is merely crystallized honey1. Contrary to widespread belief, creamed honey is not whipped and does not contain cream. In fact, nothing extra is added to creamed honey. The smooth, spreadable texture of creamed honey is obtained though controlled crystallization, which prevents the formation of the large, sharper crystals that appear when honey solidifies on its own.

It is possible for creamed honey to be either raw or pasteurized so be sure to read the label if you have a preference!

Creamed honey is buttery and spreadable

Raw

Raw honey has not undergone any processing (e.g., heat treatment or filtering)1. By avoiding heat treatment, raw honey retains its floral flavors and the health benefits that are lost during the preparation of pasteurized and liquid honey.

Many consumers wonder if it is safe to consume raw honey, and believe that honey is pasteurized to prevent the growth of microorganisms. However, honey naturally has a low moisture content and is highly acidic, which makes it extremely difficult for microbes to grow2.

One of the disadvantages of raw honey is that it tends to crystallize faster. If the honey is purchased while it is still in a liquid state, it will soon begin to look cloudy and start to crystallize. This is a normal process that eventually occurs with all honey types, but it occurs more quickly in raw honey. The great news is that crystallized honey is just as safe to eat as pasteurized honey3, and it can be re-liquefied by placing the container in a warm water bath. Because of it’s rapid crystallization, raw honey is better suited to jars, which continue to allow easy access to the honey once it has hardened. Consumers may wish to avoid raw honey packaged in squeezable containers unless they are prepared to warm their honey before each use.

This raw honey is flavorful and cloudy

Comb Honey

Comb honey is the ultimate raw honey and a rare delicacy! A piece of honeycomb is cut from the hive and immediately packaged for sale. Both the honey and the wax are consumed together! The taste of the wax differs depending on what the bees were eating at the time it was made, and it adds an intensely rich flavor to the honey. While some people enjoy spreading the comb honey on buttered toast, others serve it with crackers and cheese.

This comb honey is ready to eat!
Chunk honey: comb honey stored inside liquid honey

Raw Honey and Botulism

Some consumers worry that raw honey contains botulism. Although the botulism bacteria can live in honey, it cannot reproduce or produce the toxins that make people ill4. Furthermore, pasteurization does not kill the bacteria, which means that raw and pasteurized honey have the same chances of containing the bacteria3. Adults have natural intestinal defences that prevent the bacteria from multiplying in their bodies, so accidental consumption is nothing to be concerned about5. However, it is important to note that babies under the age of 1 have not yet developed these intestinal defences, so it is important that they are not fed any honey at all3,4,5. Still, there have been only 3 reported cases of honey-related infant botulism in Canada since 19792.

Recommendations

Try them all, but make sure to try comb honey at least once!

The flavor of raw honey cannot be beat, but liquid honey is good in a pinch for baking, cooking, or mixing with tea. Kids love creamed honey, which is smooth and great on toast.

Still unsure which honey suit you best? Koha Apiaries offers variety packs, and details are posted on our website.

References

1CFIA Industry Labelling Tool (Labelling Requirements for Honey Products)

2Beemaid Canada – Why Pasteurize Honey?

3Government of Canada (Infant Botulism)

4Government of Canada (Botulism Fact Sheet)

5World Health Organization (Botulism Fact Sheet)

 

 

Leave a Reply