How to Store Honey – Does Honey Go Bad?

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Storing Honey for Best Quality

Honey is a perfect food– as soon as the bees finish with it.  But as a natural food, we sometimes feel that we need to take too many precautions with it. This wonderful natural food doesn’t spoil but keeping it in the best location will preserve the integrity of it for a longer time. These tips on finding the best way to store honey are sure to help you protect your investment.

image of multiple jars of honey stored in glass jars

After carefully selecting the perfect jar of raw honey, your first taste exceeds your expectations. Wow, this really tastes great.

But, you can’t eat the whole jar at one time… or at least you probably should not! Even though it is a special treat – remember it is still a sugar.

Chances are you will end up having the jar sitting around for a while. Unless of course you discover all the other wonderful things you can do with honey.

raw honey pouring into a jar - how to store jars of honey preventing crystallizaiton

Now, what can you do with that jar of liquid gold to protect it and keep it fresh? You know what they say about “good intentions”?

Well, your best intentions may lead you to do the absolutely worst things for this precious food made by bees!

What is Raw Honey?

Raw food products are in their original form as created in nature. Nothing is added or harmed in the components of the product.

Some people can not consume raw products – hence pasteurized products are a better option for them. Honey can only be called “raw” if it has not been processed, super filtered or heated.

But remember, beekeepers do need to strain out huge pieces of wax. Letting it drip through a sieve under no pressure does no harm. Every beekeeper need to do this step to provide a liquid product without bits of wax.

Each harvest is unique. Because each season different flowers may or may not produce the same amount of nectar as in a previous year. 

In my bee yard, it is not unusual to have one bucket of that is very light in color and another very dark.  Flavor and color of honey will vary from season to season.

I found a nice dispenser with a tight sealing stopper and lid. It is one of my favorites and holds up well to repeated use.

Great for a family with kids (young or older) that are prone to being messy. This jar is a perfect companion to larger storage jars. Its a great way to serve smaller amounts. You will love it – I keep mine sitting on my stove.

free honey ebook and recipes

Does Honey Go Bad?

Honey does not go bad and will last indefinitely if protected from moisture. It may lose color and some flavor. But it will still be safe to eat. The low moisture content, low ph and antibacterial properties prevent spoilage.

However, allowing water or moisture to get into the jar, can cause fermentation and spoilage. When this happens, it will smell yeasty . This is part of the process of how mead is made.

Natural Process of Crystallization

What happened? My jar has become solid! This is a common cry among consumers who do not understand the nature of this natural sugar.

You may also hear the term “turned to sugar”. But, it does not mean that anything has been added honey does not go bad in any way – because of this natural crystallization process.

It may look very different than you expected. But, don’t be fooled by the gritty texture, it is not spoiled. It has crystallized.

Almost every type of honey crystallizes at some point. This is a natural process and happens faster when the product is stored at cold temperatures.

picture of honey that has crystallized

Crystallized honey is often thrown out – what a waste! You can still eat it. In fact, some people love it in the crystallized form.

You can even make your own – we call it creamed honey – and the crystals are small and smooth – not gritty.

Why does this happen to some types jars and not others? The rate of crystallization depends on the nectar sources, storage temperature and other variables. A few varieties will never crystallize but most types will do so over a long enough period of time.

How Long Does Honey Last?

Raw honey can crystallize faster than commercially prepared products. It does not mean that sugar or anything has been added. Don’t be turned off-if your jar crystallizes.

In fact, that gritty jar may actually be more nutritious than the beautiful golden bear from the supermarket!

If most natural honey “turns to sugar” in time, how can those supermarket bears be so beautiful and clear?  How indeed?

Once you have gone to the effort of buying a good quality product, you want to protect its nutritional value. None of us want to waste money on food.

Do you want to keep it in a liquid (pour-able) state? There are certainly a few things you can do to slow down the crystallization process.

First, consider the temperature of the area where you keep your honey. It plays a roll in how fast crystallization takes place. A warm room temperature cabinet in the kitchen often works well.

Honey is made by bees and what a wonderful story of survival it is! It is the perfect food for long term storage in a bee hive.

Once stored in wax cells and capped with wax – the bees can depend on food for the cold Winter months.

Sometimes, we humans want to improve upon natural things. We want our jar of sweet goodness to sit on a shelf in a pristine state for months.

The practices used to create a beautiful product for the grocery shelf are not necessarily kind to our nutritious raw food.

While honey will be safe to eat for a long time, it can darken in color and become more solid.  That’s doesn’t look pretty on the grocery shelf – so large commercial packers use intense filtration.

The product is pushed through a filter under pressure to remove bits of wax and small crystals. The end product is beautiful, uniform and it will look good on a shelf for a long time.

But ultra filtration removes some of the micro-nutrients and pollen too. Thereby, lessening the nutritional value of the product.

Should You Store Raw Honey in the Refrigerator?

No – that’s not the best place to keep your it.  This is a common question asked about storage. No cold storage or vacuum sealed jar is required.

Please don’t put your it in the refrigerator. It will not make it last longer or keep it fresher.  But if you put your jar in the frig, that’s okay – it is still good.  Just maybe a bit gritty!

Storing Honey in the Freezer

Honey can be stored frozen in the comb or place liquid in a container with room for expansion.

Freezing protects the integrity of your raw product. In fact, it can be frozen for several years. When you are ready to use, thaw at room temp in sealed containers.

Use  silicone trays to freeze small portions. A great way to seek relief for sore throat pains or coughs, just pop out a frozen “cube” and put it in hot tea.

Best Container for Honey Storage

The best thing you can do for your honey is to store it in a tightly sealed jar. Keeping it at room temperature and in a dark cabinet preserves color and flavor.

Handmade Honey JarsHandmade Honey JarsHandmade Honey Jars

 

Handmade pots are beautiful to use and make great gifts. However, do not leave a large amount of honey sitting out in them as most do not seal. Honey is acidic. This is one reason it never spoils – bacteria doesnt grow well in it.

But this does not mean that you should not take precautions to keep it protected from environmental influences such a dust.

Do give a bit of thought about what type of container you choose for storage. Glass or plastic is fine. It is perfectly okay to re-use a glass jar with a tight lid.

However, because it can absorb moisture and odors – please don’t re-use an old pickle jar. Unless of course, if you want to add a bit of pickle aroma to your raw honey, that’s your call.

Using large-mouth glass jars, is one of my favorite methods of storage for long term. You can spoon out as much as you need – even if it crystallizes.

These large containers (half-gallon) will hold a lot of product but are not too heavy to lift.  Smaller amounts can easily be transferred to  a serving container.

My favorite storage option is glass jars in a kitchen cabinet. Glass allows me to see inside without opening the container. If it is cold and slow to pour, I can put the jar in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

( I break the rule and store a small jar right on my stove top. – I am a rule breaker that way. ) Any “tight sealing” pot or container is okay.

picture of a small jar of honey stored in glass jar with lid

Storing Fresh Honeycomb

Do you enjoy eating honeycomb?  Some folks enjoy eating beeswax with the comb.  It is really sweet but a bit waxy! First the bad news, if you have a piece of comb inside your jar – it will crystallize faster.  Solution?

Eat it first!  But, what if you have several pieces of comb that you want to save for later. Surprisingly, freezing is a good option. You can wrap the pieces of comb rightly in plastic wrap and freeze.

Or, vacuum seal and freeze. I love my Food Saver. It is a great way to seal comb in preparation for freezing. Need more ideas? Read this article with tips for How to Store Honeycomb.

Recapping the 3 Best Tips for How to Store Honey

  1. keep it in a tight sealing container
  2. store your jar in a dark location
  3. keep in a warm location – it will crystallize slower

If you want to learn how to produce your own, consider my online beekeeping class

Give some careful consideration to finding the best place to store your honey and you will be able to enjoy every last drop.

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28 Comments

  1. Just love your chats. Your easy way of chatting, your knowledge and tips.
    I curl up and read them immediately.
    Thank you Wonder Women Carolina.
    Bee ? blessed!!!
    Elle

  2. I bought honey in West Virginia 3 years ago at least . Eat honey but thought this was gone so today I find it in pantry. It has crystallized and has no smell. Is it okay to use . It was opened prior to storage.

  3. As long as it does not have a fermented smell it should be fine. Honey stored in an air-tight jar will last for a long, long time. You dont have to refrigerate after opening.

  4. Iris Walter says:

    Dear Charlotte,
    I have a gallon sized can, not jar, of 100% pure honey. I was told at the time, that it would last forever. Is this true?
    It is approximately 45 years old. Have been keeping it for food storage, but noticed can has some rust on it. I need to move into jars, but don’t want to, if it is bad. (I know 20/20 hindsight tells me I should have done that many years ago.) I believe it has always been stored inside in moderate temps.
    From what I read in your article above, if it appears and smells good, it is ok. Am I understanding this correctly?
    Other articles I’ve read have said honey contains spores that can cause botulism, is this true?
    Thank you for any insight and advice you can offer.
    Iris

  5. Yes, honey MAY contain those spores but so does any raw food. I would say that your honey is probably just fine. My only concern is that since it is in a metal can – have the acidic honey caused any problem with the metal? I honestly dont know. But if it smells good and tastes good you are probably okay.

  6. What are the changes that occur to raw honey when stored in the refrigerator?? In summer I often have ant issues and recently started storing my raw honey in the fridge to prevent the ants from getting to them.

  7. Honey stored in the frig goes through the crystallization process faster. It wont “harm” your honey but it will (depending on the nectar source) crystallize faster in the frig.

  8. marianne fought says:

    What is the best way to remove honey from a fresh honeycomb? Once I remove the honey, then I need to put it In a sealed tight glass container like a Kerr pint canning jar with a lid and seal, right?
    We just had a hive removed from our yard last night, and the beekeeper, who did the removal, gave us 2 honeycombs filled with honey.

  9. Oh that’s exciting! If you want to have the liquid honey instead of comb, look at my harvesting post as it gives some ideas for when you do not have an extractor.

  10. What about botulism with unfiltered and processed honey. How do you approach this topic with out freak out..I have found that most adults tolerate botulism because our intestinal tract is mature and allows the botulism to move through before toxin develops.

  11. Following medical recommendations of course never give honey to babies under 1 yr of age. But all of the studies I have seen show raw honey to be safe. Botulism

  12. Charlotte Reed says:

    More than ten years ago my son went to Bulgaria and bought me a small clay pot of honey. The pot is very pretty. I have not even broken the seal. If I did would it still be good?? My ex and I had a bee hive many years ago. Thanks from one Charlotte to another!!

  13. Hi Charlotte! As long as the honey is real honey and the pot is sealed against moisture – yes, it should be just fine. Now it may taste stronger but real honey doesnt spoil.

  14. BeeKpr Charlotte
    When our honey crystalizes we were told to microwave it for a few seconds. We have been doing this for many years. After microwaving it does turn back to liquid and makes it usable. Are we damaging it by heating it to return it to the liquid state? Thanks glad we found your website

  15. Fred, I would think that microwaving is very damaging to your honey. The way in which the unit creates heat would surely damage some of the nutritional properties. I know it is slower to have to do it the gentle way but it would be best.

  16. I have some honey frames with a mixture of capped and uncapped honey still in them. More uncapped then capped. Can I place in freezer and reuse in super in spring to start new honey season? Also how do you feel about reusing the comb on frames year after year. I see some people do and other start fresh each year. New bee keeper trying to learn what’s best!

  17. Hi Linda. Yes, it is a great idea to freeze that honey and save it for new bees! Most beekeepers do use their honeycomb for more than 1 year. The majority of beekeepers that I know who do not- do so because they dont have access to an extractor. We dont want to keep older comb in the hive for years and years. I rotate my honey super comb out when it starts to darken. I am so glad you are striving to be the best beekeeper possible. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a “what’s best” in beekeeping 🙂

  18. I am thinking seriously about trying beekeeping. my question is on an average medium or large supper how much honey is generated average . and how often do you check the hives, besides setup and harvest how much work is involved on our part.

  19. Hi Jayson, I hate to start my answer with – it depends. But, it does depend. In my region, after the first year (when we dont expect a harvest), a healthy hive may produce about 2 boxes (shallow-medium) of honey. Other regions of the country produce much more – it depends on how long the warm season is and the availability of nectar. I check my hives twice a month in early spring – monthly during the summer and fall. Beekeeping involves hard work – I wont mislead you on that. However, if you prepare yourself by learning about hive management before your bees arrive, your chances of success greatly increase. Best of luck.

  20. Hi Charlotte.

    I am a beekeeper in New Zealand, who works for a reasonably big company. I was fascinated by the apparent differences in beekeeping between America and NZ.
    Here in NZ, it can be the hobbyists who pose the biggest risk, as we have certain plants that make a honey that is fine for the bees, and toxic for humans if it is eaten in raw, comb honey.
    Also, the company I work for doesn’t “superheat” the honey; its merely a case of the pipes being heated somewhat so that the honey doesnt granulate in the pipes, but moves freely. And the creamed honey has nothing added to it, so it is still completely natural. I’m not sure how that differs between the countries, or even between individual countries.

    It is always interesting to hear other beekeepers viewpoints and experiences.

  21. Yes, it absolutely depends on the company in question! I am sure that each one is processes honey differently and that some are much more concerned about the end product. Here we have creamed honey that is natural and some with flavorings – its quite good actually.

  22. Mavis Clerke - Fiji says:

    Absolutely great information and thank you for sharing it.

  23. Your posts are really interesting and easy to read. Storing honey- a good read thanks
    I use your info for new beekeepers
    Steve( beekeeper in Engand for 40 years)

  24. Is it safe to keep honey in those cute yellow honeybee hive shaped ceramic containers with the cute honey dipper? And how long can we store them in these type of containers?

  25. The only danger is that the honey would absorb moisture from the air and ferment. You could smell the sour odor if that happens.

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