Honey is sometimes referred to as “liquid gold” – though I believe it is even more important than that. Whether you are a honey connoisseur or a dedicated beekeeper, you may be interested in the various ways to preserve honey. In spite of it’s almost eternal shelf life, there may be situations where you seek a long term storage that preserves all of honey’s wonderful properties. Hence, the question, “Can you freeze honey?”. Yes, my friends, freezing honey is quite easy and an good way to take care of this gift from the beehive.
In most situations, you will not need to put your honey in the freezer. The absolute best method of storing honey is in an airtight container in a warm cabinet. But, the freezer is an option for long term storage. Beekeepers often do this with extra frames of honey that they later plan to use.
The Science Behind Freezing Honey
Whenever we put a liquid in the freezer, we expect a “rock-hard” result – think ice, right? But, honey has a very different composition than water.
When you put liquid honey in the freezer, it becomes a very thick slurry. Perhaps too thick to really pour from the jar but certainly not a solid.
Why Honey Does Not Freeze Solid
The reason honey remains “semi-solid” has to do with the way it is made. The two main components of honey are water and sugars.
Honey bees collect plant nectar and make it into honey. During this conversion process, most of the water is removed.
Nectar with an average moisture content of 80% becomes ripe honey with a water content below 20%. With a moisture content that low, honey will not freeze into a solid mass like some materials.
Water freezes at 32° F but some of the sugars in honey act as natural antifreeze – preventing the small amount of water from crystallizing into ice.
This low water content is also one reason why honey doesn’t go bad – as long as it is protected from moisture.
Benefits of Freezing Honey
If you have the space, there are several benefits of freezing honey:
- protects quality and texture
- prevents crystallization
- easy to store small amounts
- protect freshness of honeycomb
- beekeeper aid in hive management
Protects Nutritional Quality and Texture
Not only does freezing not harm any nutritional benefits of honey, it protects nutrients and quality. When it is stored for a long time, honey remains safe to eat but the color may darken.
In variety types of honey (Sourwood, Orange Blossom, Clover) the flavor can change a bit with storage.
I have seen this happen in my Sourwood honey. It still tastes good after a few years but the flavor doesn’t pop quite as much as when freshly harvested.
Freezing protects the flavor and color of your raw honey until you are ready to thaw and use it.
Freezing Prevents Crystallization
One major benefit of choosing to freeze your honey is to prevent or slow crystallization. Actually, honey crystallizes naturally because of its chemical structure.
Crystallized honey is not spoiled as long as it was ripe when processed. But, some people do not prefer the gritty texture.
However, others love it, choosing to make their own creamed honey to enjoy plain or with added flavors.
The majority of consumers want to keep their table honey in a liquid state. Freezing honey at a stable temperature will prevent crystallization. Thus, allowing you to thaw and enjoy it just the way you want.
*It is important to keep in mind that honey will go through a process called fermentation if the water content is too high. This is why we want to store it in an air tight container protected from moist air.
Small Storage Options
Are you someone who rarely finds a way to use honey? (perish the thought)! Freezing small amount of honey using an ice cube tray is a great way to keep a bit on hand. Once frozen, the cubes can be stored in zip lock bags for months.
Pieces of honeycomb can dry out over time. One of the best ways to store fresh honeycomb is in the freezer. You can keep whole frames of honey for later use or cut it into smaller pieces for ease of use.
Cut the comb into small pieces and wrap each one tightly with aluminum foil. When you are ready to use, remove from freezer and let it come to room temperature.
How to Freeze Honey
Some experts recommend using glass jars for freezer storage. This is to prevent the absorption of any odors in the plastic or freezer. But, others forgo the glass and use the container it came in – the choice is yours.
- Fill a container (with a tight sealing lid) – leaving a little headspace to allow for any expansion
- Clean the outside of the container of any drips or stickiness
- Place the container in a clean plastic bag and seal
- Add to the freezer – until you are ready to thaw and use.
It should not expand very much due to the low water content but it is always good practice to allow space.
I put everything in freezer bags, my food, my bee stuff such as fondant, pollen patties, dry pollen substitute etc. It is a good plan to avoid messes.
Keep the product at a constant temperature (avoid temperature fluctuations) until you are ready to use it. Then, remove from the freezer and let the jar sit in a bowl of warm water for a few hours.
Freezing Honey in Frames for Bees
There are several reasons that a beekeeper might wish to freeze frames of honey. Not everyone completes their honey harvest in one extraction session.
Extracting can be a rather messy job and cleaning up the honey house or processing room is no fun. If you have a few frames to harvest but expect to have more soon – freezing those frames is a great way to protect them.
This allows you to hold part of the harvest until you have more. It will be fine inside the freezer and remain protected from pests such as wax moths or Small Hive Beetles that can destroy unprotected frames of honey.
Storing Excess Honeycomb for Your Bees
Another reason beekeepers store honey in the freezer is to save it for next year. If a colony has perished, or the beekeeper ends up with extra honey for any reason, these are very valuable to give to a new colony in the Spring.
Frames of honey that are stored over Winter should be capped. Uncapped honey is okay in the freezer but it may ooze out before it freezes and then you have a big old mess. Don’t ask me how I know this.
If you want to keep frames of uncapped honey in the freezer, be sure to place each one in a plastic bag or wrap it with plastic wrap before adding it to the freezer.
At What Temperature Does Honey Freeze?
Much like some other liquids (like molasses), honey becomes thicker and less viscous as the temperature drops.
If you doubt this, I challenge you to try bottling quarts of honey in a cold room in December – this stuff moves slow.
However, in general, the freezing point of honey is about -4°F (-20°C)-it will appear solid. At this temperature it can still move just a bit (like a slow moving glacier) but does not flow.
The best method of thawing frozen honey is to let it sit at room temperature. Do not try to hurry the process – slow and steady is best.
Honey has an incredibly long shelf life naturally. When protected from moisture it will last for years – right there on the shelf. Freezing honey does help protect it from slight changes in color and flavor.
It depends on the size of the container – but normally honey freezes in about 24 hours.
No, freezing does not cause your honey to crystallize. However, keeping it in a cold location like the refrigerator will make most types of honey crystallize faster.
Yes, if you have the freezer space – freezing honey is one of the best method of protecting the quality.
Absolutely, let your frozen honey thaw and it is ready to use for hundreds of great recipes.
The science behind the chemistry of honey is yet another fascinating story of the beauty of nature. We have the option of freezing honey without damaging any of its beneficial qualities. So, the next time you find yourself with an overabundance of honey and no shelf room in the pantry – you know what to do.