Perhaps you’ve read about the wonderful health benefits of honey, and in particular, the benefits of raw honey.
But when you buy honey, how can you know if it’s really raw and unprocessed?
What You Should Know About Buying Raw Honey
Let’s clear up a few misconceptions that people sometimes have about raw honey.
I read on another website that if the honey is runny, you can be sure that it’s not raw. And that’s NOT true!
The fact that the honey is solid (usually with a consistency somewhat like soft butter) does not ensure that it’s raw. And raw honey most certainly CAN be runny.
In fact, if you buy solid honey from the grocery store (often labeled creamed honey or whipped honey), it’s most likely been heated.
It’s true that heating honey retards the crystallization process, and that’s a primary reason that large-scale honey producers heat (or pasteurize) their honey.
But the rate at which honey solidifies, or ‘goes to sugar’ as it used to be called, is not determined only by whether the honey has been heated. It's also influenced by the floral source of the honey.
Some sources of honey will solidify very quickly, but others take longer.
Here in East Texas, where I’ve been beekeeping for years, the primary sources of spring honey granulate (solidify) very slowly.
I’ve had honey sit on the cupboard shelf for years without granulating. And that’s honey that was completely raw. I had extracted it from the comb, and strained it through cheesecloth (I prefer my honey without bee parts in it, thank you!). No heating at all, and no other form of processing.
So when buying raw honey, you really can’t assume that solidified honey is raw, and that runny honey isn’t.
Is Your Honey Chunky? It Doesn’t Have to Be!
Some popular brands of raw honey are packed with very minimal processing. Chunks of beeswax, bits of pollen and propolis, and maybe even the occasional bee part are left in the honey.
All well and good if you like those things. And there’s certainly no harm in consuming the ‘chunky’ parts. The bits of pollen and propolis even add some nutrition. (Though again – I’ll pass on the bee parts. But that’s just me!)
But honey can be strained to remove all of those solids without harming the honey. It’s still raw. It’s pressure filtering – not straining – that disqualifies honey from being considered raw.
So if you like your honey chunky, fine. But you can enjoy the goodness of raw honey without having to pick out the occasional bee leg from between your teeth.
Then How CAN You Tell If Honey is Raw?
If you can’t tell by the chunks, and you can’t tell by the consistency, then how can you tell whether honey is raw?
I know – not the answer you wanted. But it’s the truth. You can’t tell that honey is raw just by its appearance.
And you really can’t tell just from the taste, either. Now if you had a batch of honey, pasteurized some of it and left some of it raw, and did a taste comparison of the two, you’d be able to tell the difference.
But just to take a random jar of honey, sample it, and be able to declare from taste alone that it’s raw, or not – nope. Some may claim they can do that, but I’m highly skeptical (maybe we need to have a beekeeper’s version of the Pepsi challenge!).
The truth is that whether you’re buying raw honey from a local beekeeper or a large company that ships honey internationally, you have to trust the labeling. Or perhaps a better way to put that: you have to decide if you trust the labeling.
But is that so different from the multitudes of other products we buy?
Pick up a jar of peanut butter at the grocery store that’s labeled as completely natural. How do you know?
Pick up a jar of natural maple syrup at the store that’s labeled as containing no high fructose corn syrup. How do you know?
Unless you're personally acquainted with the beekeeper that produced your honey (and there’s still some trust involved there) or become a beekeeper yourself and harvest your own honey (which I highly recommend!), you have to decide whether to trust the labeling.
If You REALLY Want Raw Honey…
If you want honey in it’s purest, most raw state, try some comb honey.
That’s honey in its most natural state. And in my opinion, it’s honey at its tastiest.