“Storing Honey and Sugar,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, 75
How can you prevent lumps in sugar, or how can you keep honey from crystallizing when you want it to be liquid—or vice versa? The way to solve these problems is to know more about their causes.
White sugar forms lumps when it absorbs moisture from the air. Therefore, it must be protected from moisture and stored while it is very dry. Store the sugar at room temperature or below, since sugar that gets hot over a long period of time may turn slightly yellow. If it develops lumps, they can usually be broken up easily.
Brown sugar is just the opposite. It needs moisture to make it soft, and it gets rock-hard when it dries out. If you buy it in a plastic bag, keep the bag tightly closed after opening with a clothes pin or a rubber band. If you buy sugar in a cardboard box, the inner liner usually won’t keep it moist after it is opened, so transfer the sugar to a plastic bag and close it tightly.
If brown sugar goes hard or lumpy, sprinkle it with water and heat it in the oven at 250 degrees F. for a few minutes. Some people suggest putting an apple slice in the plastic bag with the hard sugar. Both methods add moisture to the sugar.
Honey that can crystallize stores better than honey that can’t, since the high sugar concentration in crystallized honey prevents fermentation and the growth of microorganisms. For honey to crystallize, the water content must be below 15–18 percent. Pure honey will crystallize; if water is added, it probably won’t.
Do not store honey in large containers such as five-gallon cans, since you’ll have to liquefy it in order to use it. Not only is this process inconvenient, but every liquefaction makes the honey darker and stronger.
Before the honey crystallizes, pour it into smaller containers. A three-pound shortening can will hold five pounds of honey. Many people prefer glass jars instead of cans, since the acid in the honey sometimes interacts with metal in the can and causes a black discoloration. Cover containers tightly and store them at room temperature or below.
To liquefy honey, place the container on a low oven rack in a pan of hot water; the rack should be high enough to prevent scorching. Heat the honey to 155–160 degrees F., stirring frequently. Maintain this temperature for 30 minutes to be sure all crystals dissolve. Heating the honey to a higher temperature can cause undesirable flavor changes.—Kay Franz, Brigham Young University, Department of Food Science and Nutrition