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What's so Special about Raw Honey?

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What's raw honey? Why isn't all honey raw?

It's probably not too difficult to remember well what "raw" means when you associate it with uncooked vegetables and meat whereby any form of heating is avoided so as to ensure all the natural vitamins and living enzymes and other nutritional elements are preserved.

Raw honey is the most original sweet liquid that honeybees produce from the concentrated nectar of flowers. Collected straight from the extractor; it is totally unheated, unpasteurized, unprocessed honey. An alkaline-forming food, this type of honey contains ingredients similar to those found in fruits, which become alkaline in the digestive system. It doesn't ferment in the stomach and it can be used to counteract acid indigestion. When mixed with ginger and lemon juices, it effectively relieves nausea and supplies energy. Raw foodists loves honey for its exceptional nutritional value and its amylase, an enzyme concentrated in flower pollen which helps predigest starchy foods like breads.

A lot of honey found in the supermarket is not raw honey but "commercial" regular honey, some of which has been pasteurized (heated at 70 degrees Celsius or more, followed by rapid cooling) for easy filtering and bottling so that it looks cleaner and smoother, more appealing on the shelf, and easier to handle and package. Pasteurization kills any yeast cell in the honey and prevents fermentation, which is a concern for storing honey with high moisture content over a long period especially in warm weather. While fermentation does not pose a health danger (mead is fermented honey), it does affect the taste of honey. Heating also slows down the speed of crystallization in liquid honey. On the downside, when honey is heated, its delicate aromas, yeast and enzymes which are responsible for activating vitamins and minerals in the body system are partially destroyed. Among manufacturers there exists no uniform code of using the term "raw honey". There are no strict legal requirements for claiming and labelling honey as "raw". Nevertheless, suppliers who understand that honey that has undergone heat treatment would not be as nutritious and have the consumers' health in mind would ensure their honey is only slightly warmed (not pasteurized), just enough to allow the honey to flow for bottling. Thus, you may also find raw honey that are unprocessed but slightly warmed to retard granulation for a short period of time and allow light straining and packing into containers for sale. Using as little heat as possible is a sign of careful handling.

Usually raw, unfiltered raw honey can only be purchased directly from the bee farm. Characterised by fine textured crystals, it looks cloudier and contains particles and flecks made of bee pollen, honeycomb bits, propolis, and even broken bee wing fragments. Raw and unfiltered honey and has a high antioxidant level and will usually granulate and crystallize to a thick consistency after a few months. It is usually preferred as a spread on bread and waffles, or dissolved in hot coffee or tea. However, as most consumers are naturally attracted to buying and eating crystal clear and clean honey, unfiltered honey which looks cloudy and unappealing, is not commercially available on supermarket shelves.

Forms of honey

Honey comes in a number of physical forms, and understanding the variety will certainly help you pick a more appropriate form from the supermarket when you wish to combine honey with other ingredients used in the preparation of foods. Try out the various forms and tastes of honey when you have the chance!

1. Comb Honey:

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It is difficult to find comb honey nowadays, but sometimes you can find a jar of liquid honey to which a piece of cut comb has been added. Before the invention of honey extracting device, honey is mostly produced in the form of comb honey. Today, very little honey is produced as comb honey.

Comb honey is raw pure honey sections taken straight from the hive – honey bees' wax comb with no further handling at all. It is the most unprocessed form in which honey comes -- the bees fill the hexagon shaped wax cells of the comb with honey and cap it with beeswax. You can eat comb honey just like a chewy candy. Because the honey in the comb is untouched and is deemed to be pure, honey presented in this form comes with a a relatively higher price tag.

Read about my very first encounter, first bite of honeycomb.

2. Liquid honey:

You can easily find this honey everywhere. As it seems, this is the most common form of honey in most places, and thus most familiar to consumers.

Clear, liquid honey can be raw or pasteurised. It has been filtered to remove fine particles, pollen grains, and air bubbles after being extracted from the honey comb by centrifugal force or gravity. Because liquid honey mixes easily into a variety of foods, its uses are diverse. It is used as a syrup for pancakes and waffles and in a wide variety of recipes, and it's especially convenient for cooking and baking.

3. Cream honey:

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If you are one of those who complain that honey is messy to use, cream honey, which is also known as whipped honey, spun honey, granulated honey, or honey fondant, would be an excellent alternative to liquid honey. Cream honey does not drip like liquid honey, has a smooth consistency and can be spread like butter.

Honey is creamed by having one part finely granulated honey blended with nine parts liquid honey. The mixture is then placed in cool storage to promote rapid granulation and produce a small crystal structure that results in a smooth creamy texture. - hence creamed honey. The precisely controlled crystallisation process also lightens the color of honey, but does not affect the taste and nutritional goodness at all. For instance, creamed premium lavender honey from the south of France is white in the jar, however for those who live in warmer climate countries, you probably might have noticed that the same cream honey purchased from the supermart is not white but yellow or even darker in color, and becomes more runny when placed in room temperature over time. This phenomenon shows that the warm temperature has returned the honey its original liquid state.

PS: Honey does not remain stable if the moisture content is too high. No reputable honey supplier would add water to honey, as this would cause the honey to ferment and emit an alcoholic smell.

Color and Flavor of Honey

honey drop image Color is used in the honey industry as a convenient measure of honey flavour and aroma. Generally, lighter honeys have a milder flavor and darker honeys have a more robust flavor. The color and flavour of honey is largely determined by the floral source of the nectar. However, exposure to heat and storage time may affect honey's quality and color. Normally, the darkening of honey occurs more rapidly when honey is stored at high temperatures. Also, honey appears lighter in color after it has granulated, which is why most creamed honeys are opaque and light in color.

Other Related Articles

1) Get these terms and concepts straight - pure honey, creamed honey versus clear liquid honey, crystallisation of honey, honeycomb, monofloral varietals, darkening of honey, viscous versus runny honey, honey storage, and more in: Frequently Asked Information About Honey.

2) How is organic honey differentiated from regular honey? More in: What Makes Organic Honey Different?

3) With so many terms such as raw, pure, organic, etc, buying honey can be tricky. My take on Which Honey to Buy?

4) How much do you trust the labels on the honey jars?: More in: Eating Real Honey?

5) Read about my online find: Really Raw Honey!

6) Does wild honey really taste sour? And does it produce a clear solution when mixed with water? Wild Honey Questions. Need Your Help!

7) Honey claims and labels can be confusing. Get tips that would lend you some clues about honey labelling: Natural Honey, Pure Honey, Raw Honey ~ Making Sense of Honey Labels.

8) Learn about issues related to honey crystallization, pasteurization, and get the best tips for handling and storing honey: Honey Storage Tips.

9) Is honey powder another form of honey? Is it really made of 100% honey?: What in the World is Honey Powder?.

End of "What's so Special about Raw Honey?" Back to "How to Test for Pure Honey"
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