The short answer: soft-set honey is honey that has crystallized into a semi-solid form, as opposed to the initial liquid form of natural honey.
The long answer:
Most people think of honey as a viscous liquid, and this is indeed the initial form of newly made natural honey. Over time, most (but not all) natural honeys will gradually crystallize into a harder, semi-solid form. The rate at which natural honeys undergo crystallization depends on many factors, with the most important being the floral source and the ambient temperature. Most honey harvested on the Canadian prairies tends to crystallize relatively quickly, becoming quite hard over weeks if stored at room temperature, and even quicker if exposed to colder temperatures (not uncommon in Canada). For this reason, it is common for Canadian honey producers to allow (or encourage) the honey to crystallize in a controlled fashion before selling the honey. The objective of controlled crystallization is to obtain a softer, smoother crystallized honey than may occur if the honey is simply allowed to crystallize on its own. A common method to achieve this is to add a small amount of finely crystallized “seed honey” to liquid honey and then place the honey in cool storage. In Canada the resultant smooth, semi-solid honey is often called “creamed honey”. I should be clear that the “seed honey” is usually also purely natural honey, so honey properly “creamed” by this method is still pure, natural honey. Other common methods include mechanically whipping or grinding the honey.
While many Canadians are familiar with the term “creamed honey”, we think “soft-set honey” better describes Wendell Estate Honey for several reasons:
- It avoids confusion. People unfamiliar with Canadian honey (Wendell Estate Honey is sold in countries outside of Canada, and also purchased by new Canadians and visitors) often read the word “creamed” and wonder if we’ve added milk or cream to the honey, especially given the white, “creamy” colour and butter-like texture of our honey. We promise you there is no milk, cream or butter (or anything else not found in natural honey) in Wendell Estate Honey.
- “Soft-set honey” is the international standard industry term, as demonstrated by the category of “Soft-Set Honey” at the World Beekeeping Awards (that’s the award Wendell Estate Honey took home gold in 2019).
- We do not employ any of the common methods (adding seed honey or using mechanical methods) of “creaming” honey. We choose honey with the right properties such that it naturally crystallizes into our signature silky-smooth texture in the jar. We have heard that some beekeepers actually use Wendell Estate Honey as their seed honey.
If you do have liquid honey that crystallizes into an inconveniently hard form, you can always melt it by gently heating it to return it to a liquid form. Please read our detailed storage instructions (here) before melting your Wendell Estate Honey, as it will not likely return to its original smooth form once cooled.