Types of honey - raw vs. “regular”
This type of honey is harvested from the comb and passed through a filter - and that’s pretty much it. As a result of this minimal handling, this honey will likely include small air bubbles, sometimes very small debris such as pollen, and will crystallize fairly quickly. Shortly after harvest and bottling, it will start to transition from a pourable consistency to a scoopable/spreadable consistency.
This is the process we use for our honey and is common for very small apiaries. You’ll find this type most often at farmers markets.
This starts as the honey above but is then “seeded” with another honey that has a very fine crystalline structure. This encourages the honey to match the fine texture as it crystallizes, resulted in a smooth, spreadable, buttery honey.
This type of honey is easy to find at farmers markets and grocers alike - and can also be made on your own at home - see our notes below.
Much like the raw, unfiltered, this honey is minimally processed and retains the honey’s native yeast and flavor profile. However, this honey goes through additional filtration to further remove the smallest debris (pollen, etc.) and smooth out air bubbles. This honey will remain liquid for longer when stored in an airtight container but will still crystallize over time.
This is a process used by midsize to larger apiaries and is easy to find at both farmers markets and grocery stores.
Conventional, filtered + pasteurized
This type of honey is harvested from the comb, filtered multiple times and then heated to pasteurize. The finer filtration and addition of heat makes the honey smoother for longer - it will take quite a while to transition from pourable to crystalline if stored in an airtight container. The pasteurization process kills any native yeast within the honey as well, which extends honey’s naturally long shelf life even longer.
This is the type of honey most often produced by larger regional apiaries and can be found at both farmers markets and in the grocery store.
Commercial blends, include additional ingredients
This type of honey product is not a true honey but is not infrequently labelled as such. After filtration and pasteurization, other liquid ingredients are blended in; these additives can be liquid sweeteners or sugar syrups. The additional ingredients make this product a honey-like syrup that is sweeter, less expensive to produce and more bland in flavor.
Keep an eye out for these on grocery store shelves where they sometimes sneak in amongst the true honeys.
Types of honey - flavor profiles
Single source honey
It is possible through a combination of restricted territory and a bounty of blooms to encourage bees to forage almost exclusively from a specific type of flower. The most familiar type of single-source honey is likely clover, but there are a vast number of options on the market - azalea, sage, heather, dandelion, manuka, buckwheat and hundreds more. Each variety displays a unique color and flavor profile which can range from light and floral (orange blossom) to deep, rich and dark (buckwheat).
The distinct flavors and colors of these honeys are a delight to use to prepare or finish dishes where the honey can play a starring role. They are an opportunity to taste the blooms themselves.
Wildflower and free forage honey
Wild foraged honey is drawn from anything and everything thriving within a hive’s territory during a season. This honey is typically balanced by a combination of stronger inputs (cover cropping buckwheat) and milder (clover and dandelions) and varies more by season than by flower. A comb harvested in spring will have a flavor and color distinct from one harvested in the late summer; sometimes the combs within a hive will display different colors as well - a visual representation of the season’s changing blooms.
Because of the milder flavor, wildflower honeys are excellent all-purpose ingredients for cooking, baking, tea and more. Wildflower honey is a delicious snapshot of a season.
It’s easy to infuse any mild honey with additional flavors and to find infused honeys at market. Some producers will dial up the intensity on their fruit or floral honeys by further infusing them with the fruits and flowers themselves. Hot honey filled with chili pepper heat, floral lavender-filled honey or rich herb-infused honey find their homes in cooking, shaken into cocktails or stirred into tea for a delicious, dynamic treat.
To prepare at home, you need only gently heat your honey until it’s liquid and just warm to touch and add your favorite flavors; take care to select organic/chemical free additions whenever possible. Allow to steep for a week in a warm location - a sunny windowsill is a great choice to maintain temperature and texture. Strain honey through a fine mesh sieve and return to a clean jar to store.
Using Honey - returning a crystallized honey to a liquid state
Crystallized honey is easy to scoop and measure for baking and dissolves readily in hot tea, but sometimes you need it to be liquid for your recipe (our frozen yogurt recipe is one of these). Fortunately, it’s a quick trick to get the honey back to liquid.
Because repeated heating will break down some of the delicious benefits we enjoy in raw honey, it’s best to heat only what you need for your recipe at one time.
Fill a small pot of water about half full with water, to a simmer and remove from heat.
Place the honey in a sealed container into the water and cover the pot. Let stand until the crystals dissolve; open and stir the jar occasionally to help improve the honey’s heat contact.
Decant your honey into a microwave safe container. Heat in 20 second intervals, stirring after each, until the honey is the desired consistency.
Using Honey - preparing “creamed” honey at home
To create your own buttery smooth creamed honey, all you need is liquid honey and a small amount of produced creamed honey. You can reheat an already crystallized honey and re-seed as well; simply follow the heating instructions above before continuing.
For a 20oz container of honey, you will need 4 tablespoons of produced creamed honey - found at many natural grocery stores and some farmers markets. Simply stir the creamed honey into the liquid honey thoroughly and seal the lid tightly. Set aside for a day or two out of direct sunlight before digging back in.
You’ll see some luxurious swirls develop as the honey develops its new structure. This honey will maintain its new buttery consistency until the end of the jar as long as you keep it stored in a temperate location; heating and cooling the honey will allow less uniform crystals to return.