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Greetings Matt

Honey. What's up with it? Nearly every container of it I've bought over the years has turned into a crystallized, difficult-to-use mess. Why does the sugar tend to crystallize out of solution? My "experiments" (casual observation and discussions with my biochemist wife) point toward a duration-owned component rather than a temperature-only cause. Heating the container only helps acutely; the honey just seems to recrystalize as soon as it cools.

-- Craig G. Fenstermaker, San Diego

The elves have their science hats on, so we're all set for this one. Time, temp, and H2O are the keys. High-glucose honey (practically every kind except Tupelo and sage, which are high fructose) is a teetering suspension of sugar, water, and trace amounts of pollen. Once honey's been processed, the water content is around 17% and as glucose saturated as it can get. With pollen grains and other specs to act as nuclei, the glucose begins to form granules. When you stick in a knife or spoon, you agitate the honey and brings more sugar in contact with nuclei and granules, so they clump up too. Warm temps raise the capacity of the liquid to reabsorb the sucrose crystals. Consider that the temp inside beehives is usually 90 degrees. Don't argue with bees. Cold temps have the opposite effect, but processors recommend freezing as the best long-term storage method if you're not planning to use honey right away. But any temp between 90 and 32 will eventually permit granulation, and, over time, all honey will granulate. And now Grandma has to figure out how to get the honey off the science hats.

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