We received the following email about jars of crystallized honey:

“During our honeymoon, my husband and I bought some amazing honey. It’s been our favorite, and go to honey, for a long time.

“Fast forward three years, and my husband was diagnosed with cancer. It’s advanced, aggressive and the doctors are doing the best they can to keep him comfortable. Unfortunately, he can’t keep any food down. We tried the honey, and it made him happy.

“I went into our basement and pulled out the last few jars we had down there, and they are crystallized. How do I make it liquid again so he can have it?”

Our reply:

Even though I have been working with bees and owned two commercial apiaries, I don’t eat a lot of honey myself. It’s like working in an ice cream shop, you eat your fill almost every day, and then you sort of only want it once in a blue moon. So, it’s not too uncommon to have honey crystallize around our house. Is it safe to eat? It sure is! Here are some tips to help you dissolve the crystalized parts of your honey, and why this happens.

The first, and fastest way to fix your honey is just add some heat!

Take the jar and put it in a pot of warm, not boiling, water. Open the jar and stir the honey until the crystals dissolve. You can also heat water to boiling, take it off the stove, and just leave the jar of honey in the pot until it is liquid once again. If you choose the later, just don’t leave it on the heating element as it can burn the honey or cause it to boil out into the water.

If you are in a hurry, you can also pop a portion in the microwave for about thirty seconds, mix it up, and then let it cool for about twenty seconds before heating again for an additional thirty seconds. You can keep repeating this until all the crystals are gone.

Once the granules are melted, they will disappear for a time but will eventually return if the honey is not consumed quickly enough.

Does crystallized honey mean it’s expired or is it still safe to eat? Honey doesn’t go bad but a shelf life of two years is a good rule of thumb (since storage conditions can affect taste of honey).

Are the granules edible? Yes, they’ll melt slowly in your mouth and in fact, some people prefer their honey crystallized a bit.

Why does honey become cloudy and grainy in the first place? Here’s a three page document from the National Honey Board Food Technology/Product Research Program [Update: removed since it’s no longer online] it’s loaded with information. A quote:

This natural phenomenon happens when glucose, one of three main sugars in honey, spontaneously precipitates out of the supersaturated honey solution. The glucose loses water (becoming glucose monohydrate) and takes the form of a crystal (a solid body with a precise and orderly structure). The crystals form a lattice which immobilizes other components of honey in a suspension thus creating the semi-solid state.

Did You Know: Honey can be frozen! If honey is only used irregularly, try freezing it in small batches and remove as needed (thaw at room temperature). Freezing will help prevent it from crystallizing.