My kitchen counter sports 14 salts from 12 different regions around the world, 15 extra virgin olive oils from seven countries (Spain’s six exceed Italy’s three), several vinegars from here and there, and six honeys from four countries.
Variety is the spice of life.
I worry not that the salts will spoil, nor that the vinegars need to be used up quickly. Concern over oxidation of the olive oils keeps me vigilant. (None is more than 2 years old, but that’s already pushing it.)
But the honeys vex me. Though purported to be spoil-proof (edible honey has been found in pharaonic tombs), this favorite among my sweets may never rot but it certainly changes to my disliking.
After a mere few weeks, my raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized honeys crystallize into a zillion shards that go “crunch” in the morning and, sorry, that is too much texture and noise at an early hour. Some people say that they tolerate crystallized honey because “that way, it is more spreadable, less messy too, like peanut butter.”
I understand that; I just dislike the shards once the spread hits my tongue.
Heating crystallized honey, say in a microwave or with the jar in just-boiled water, will “reliquefy” it, sure. Chances are, though, that the honey will turn out a tad too runny or dangerously unevenly hot, in the case of the microwave. High heat also denigrates or destroys the honey’s enzymes, vitamins and beneficial bacteria.
How much better to slowly and gently heat those shards away, say by the sunlight trapped on the household side of a south-facing window. But that takes two, perhaps three days. Time for that?
Then how much better is it to restabilize the honey into a form called creamed or whipped honey (sometimes also called “honey butter,” though no milk butter plays a role).
Note, creamed or whipped honey is not honey that actually has been creamed or whipped. Got that? No cake batter beaters, no arm-busting whisking. These names are misnomers, really, because whipped or creamed honey is honey that, in fact, has been recrystallized.
However, the crystallization is steady and controlled, so that the crystals are much, much smaller than the shard-like crystals of everyday crystallized honey. Plus, the thick, smooth texture, the consistency of creamed or whipped honey is the same throughout the jar. Like peanut butter.
Creamed honey gets that name because it simply appears creamy; whipped honey, because it appears to have had air incorporated into it. But neither of those happens.
To make creamed or whipped honey, you begin with a large amount of liquid honey (honey that indeed may have been gently reliquified from hardened crystallized honey) and to it you add a small amount of previously purchased or home-produced creamed or whipped honey, now called “seed honey.”
Like the dollop of yogurt and its teaming bacteria that will transform a mass of hot milk over several hours into a whole lotta yogurt, seed honey replicates the thousands of wee crystals of the seed honey throughout the larger amount of liquid honey.
That takes several days and a cool spot in the home, but it’s worth it. A batch of creamed or whipped honey is luxury itself.
And it’s today’s recipe. Make your own. It works for my honey collection and it vexes me not.
Creamed or whipped honey
- 10 parts liquid honey (see note)
- 1 part creamed or whipped honey
If the liquid honey is clear, with no shard-like crystallization, skip ahead two paragraphs and begin with “Cream the honey.” If the honey contains crystals, assure that it is in a tightly closed, clear, heat-proof glass jar (such as a canning jar) and place it in the light and heat of a sunny, south-facing window. Allow the heat from the sunlight to melt the large crystals. This may take 2-3 days’ light.
Turn the jar or container a 1/4-turn every few hours, if you think of it; upend the jar or container at least once a day. The honey should be clear of large crystals when proceeding to the next stage. If some crystals stubbornly remain, just pour or “decant” the clear honey off of them when proceeding.
Cream the honey. To the 10 parts of liquid honey, add the 1 part of creamed honey and stir it in well, using a stiff knife or spoon. Loosely close the jar or container and keep it upright in a cool, dark place (always above 50 degrees but below 60 degrees if possible) for a week or more, until the color of the honey is cloudy throughout. The honey is now “creamed” or “whipped.”
Note: “Liquid honey” here means raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized honey, all or part of which (even a small part of which) is still runny. If the honey is abundant with large, shard-like crystals, in whatever quantity, that’s OK. The recipe will liquify them and ready the honey to be creamed.
If you like your homemade creamed or whipped honey, keep a small portion back for yourself. You’ll need it as seed honey if you intend to make future batches of creamed or whipped honey from liquid honey that has taken to annoying crystallization.