All of our Knockmealdown Honey is raw, but what is raw honey, and why should we care?
Our raw honey is unheated, unpasteurized and unprocessed, thereby preserving all of the vitamins, living enzymes, phytonutrients, antioxidants and other nutritional elements that are naturally present in honey. In fact, honey contains up to 21 vitamins including vitamin B6, niacin, thiamine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. It also typically contains approximately 16 minerals including copper, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and sodium. The amounts and types of vitamins and minerals present in honey vary according to which flowers the bees have foraged. Amazingly, honey is also an antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-mutagenic and antitumor substance.
Many beekeepers heat their honey allowing them to bottle it more easily and also to slow down the crystallization process. The natural sugars in honey form crystals over time and the rate at which this happens depends on a number of factors including:
- The flowers that provided nectar for the honey, e.g. oilseed rape is a very quick-setting honey and requires swift action by the beekeeper to prevent it being stuck solid in the comb. Other flowers, like blackberry, crystallize more slowly.
- The temperature where your honey is stored. Honey crystallizes more quickly in cooler temperatures.
A little gentle heat does not affect the quality of the honey. In fact, the honey located under a cluster of bees in the hive may reach approximately 35˚C, even in winter. That said, at Knockmealdown Honey we choose not to heat our honey, preferring to sell it to you in its purest raw state. If you wish to make your crystallized honey runny again you can simply put the jar in a saucepan of water – preferably propped up on something (a piece of wood for instance) so that it isn’t in contact with direct heat – and allow the honey to heat up gently, never allowing it to become too hot as this will destroy the nutrients. We do not recommend putting your honey in the microwave as this type of harsh flash-heating can also destroy the nutritional benefits of honey.
During pasteurization, honey is heated to around 65˚C for around 30 minutes and then rapidly cooled. The reasons for pasteurizing honey are rather different from those we usually think of when we talk of pasteurization. It isn’t done to kill harmful bacteria or viruses. It is done to prevent the honey from fermenting. If the moisture content of the honey is too high yeast cells in the honey can reproduce, causing fermentation. This has an adverse effect on the taste of the honey, which becomes unpleasant to eat (although mead can be made from fermented honey). Normally, if honey is collected from the hive after the bees have sealed the comb and it is then extracted in a dehumidified atmosphere, there is no danger of it fermenting, as long as it is stored in sealed jars. This process not only destroys any yeast in the honey, it also destroys the delicate aromas present in raw honey and partially destroys the beneficial enzymes and nutrients. However, large commercial operations often choose to pasteurize their honey as they can then be assured that their honey will not ferment, even if it hasn’t been extracted under optimum conditions. It also means that the honey will remain runny and not crystallize. Pasteurized honey is easier to jar and looks attractive on the shelf.
At Knockmealdown Honey we pass our honey through a coarse mesh sieve to remove large wax pieces that have come off the comb during the extraction process. Mass produced honey may also be filtered to remove all pollen grains, wax and other fine particles suspended in it. Like pasteurization, filtration can delay the crystallization process because crystals will form around any solid particles in the honey.
Pasteurization and filtration create a clear, runny honey that looks ‘the way honey should look’. However, at Knockmealdown Honey we believe in giving you honey in its natural, raw state packed full of nutritious goodness. So perhaps the question shouldn’t be ‘why raw honey’, but rather ‘why not’?