Our last batch of honey this year was cloudy probably because it went through a commercial extractor that hadn’t been cleaned for a while. (See Cloudy Honey for a further explanation.) Apparently (because I’m not certain), commercial beekeepers clarify their honey by heating it as high as 140°F / 60°C* (a process that also delays crystallization). So it doesn’t make any difference to them if their extracted honey comes out cloudy; they just heat it. I know I’m still new at this beekeeping racket, but to my thinking, heating honey is bad news no matter how you look at it. Whether the extreme heat of pasteurization that transforms honey into plastic-flavoured grocery store goo, or the lower heat used only to clarify honey, I would think both processes either completely remove or diminish the compounds in the honey that preserve the unique floral flavours and aromas. I wonder if I’m correct in that thinking.
I don’t fault commercial beekeepers who have little choice but to meet market demands. The market for some reason demands honey that always looks clear and pretty on grocery store shelves, even if it means destroying most of the natural and beneficial properties of the honey. But given the choice, I’d pick the unprocessed honey every time. Why? Because it’s about a billion times better than honey that’s had everything that was ever good in it heated and filtered out of it. Not that every beekeeper who heats their honey is ruining their honey. 40°C, if that’s typical, doesn’t seem extreme. But 60°C does.
I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who only recently became familiar with the nuances of honey. I began like most people by eating heavily heated honey from the grocery store (“pure natural pasteurized honey”). Then I tasted honey from our hives and everything changed. I didn’t know what honey was until I tasted it fresh from our hives. I haven’t tasted any heated, mixed or ultra filtered honey that’s comparable.
At any rate, I decided to heat a jar of our cloudy extracted honey to see if I could clarify it like commercial honey producers do (though I suspect I used a considerably lower heat). Then I did a blind taste test to see if I really could tell the difference between cloudy extracted honey, heated extracted honey and our beautifully delicious and naturally clear crushed and strained honey. Here’s the video with the results. (The blind taste test begins at 2:20. It’s boring. You can skip to the 5:35 mark to view the results.)
P.S., I had planned to do a blind taste test with some other honey too, but I forgot. Also note that I couldn’t find the exact temperature that’s used to clarify commercial honey, but a bottle of organic honey I saw at a local shop claimed that the honey was heated to a maximum of 40°C*. Another note: This is not a record of a scientific test. It’s just me goofing around (I wouldn’t want anyone to take anything I do seriously).