Honey has a long shelf life. But, you still need to understand how to store honey properly to preserve its natural goodness. In fact, some of the things we do do to try to take extra care of it are detrimental. Whether your honey is raw, processed or flavored, proper honey storage is vital to protect the taste and texture that you expect.
Due to a long shelf life, you will likely have a honey jar sitting around for a while. Unless of course you discover all the other wonderful uses for honey. Take care of it, you can do a lot of things with that sweet elixir.
Importance of Properly Storing Raw Honey
Known to have some nutritional value and possible health benefits, raw honey has become a popular item.
The difference between honey vs raw honey has to do with what happens after it leaves the beehive.
Honey in the “raw’ state has not been micro-filtered or heated. It is unprocessed, non-pasteurized and in the same physical state as when it was made by bees.
To preserve the pollen, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, storing raw honey in a manner that protects them is key.
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.
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!
Expert Tips for Honey Storage
This task is really very simple – sometimes we make things more complicated than they need to be. Here are the top rules for storing raw honey:
- keep it in a tight sealing container
- store your jar in a dark location (if possible)
- keep in a warm location – it will crystallize slower
- preventing crystallization
Best Containers for Honey
The best thing you can do for your honey is to store it in a tightly sealed jar. This protects it from ants and other creepy crawlies and from moisture.
Honey is hygroscopic and can absorb moisture from the air! If the water content rises too high, your honey will ferment and spoil.
Glass, food-grade plastic or stainless steel are popular options. Ceramic honey pots are not the best choice unless they have a tight seal.
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.
You will love it – I keep mine sitting on my stove where it never gets hot but is in a warm environment.
Small containers (even honey pots) are a perfect companion to larger storage jars. It is a great way to serve smaller amounts.
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.
Excessive Light Darkens Honey
Bee produce honey in a variety of colors because they use different nectar sources. However, all of it darkens over time – especially if the jar is stored in bright light (or direct sunlight).
This does not damage your raw honey but if you like the light color – keep it in a darker location.
Extreme temperature can affect the nutritional value and consistency of raw honey. But, storing honey in a very cool location can be a problem too. Strive for a warm (65°) dark cabinet when choosing a good spot to keep honey.
Slowing Crystallized Honey
What happened? My jar has become solid! You may also hear the term “turned to sugar”. But, it does not mean that anything has been added-this is the natural process.
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.
The rate of crystallization depends on the nectar sources, storage temperature and other variables. A few types will never crystallize but most varieties of honey will do so over a long enough period of time.
If most natural honey “turns to sugar” in time, how can those supermarket bears be so beautiful and clear? How indeed?
The practices used to create a beautiful product for the grocery shelf are not necessarily kind to our nutritious raw food. It involves intense filtration.
To slow down the process of crystallization, keep your jar in a warm place. Cool temperatures below 57°F speed up the process.
Checking Honey for Spoilage
Pure honey does not go bad and has an indefinite shelf life-if protected from moisture. It does go through some chemical and physical changes. It may lose color and some flavor.
Honey is acidic with a low pH. This is one reason it never spoils – bacteria doesn’t 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 and moisture.
If water gets into the jar (or the honey is exposed to moist air), fermentation and spoilage can be the result.
When this happens, it will smell yeasty. This is part of the process of how mead is made but do not eat it.
Storing Honey in the Freezer
Honey can be stored frozen. Use these tips for freezing honey in small containers. 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 the lump of honey in hot tea.
Keep Honeycomb Fresh
Do you know that you can eat beeswax comb filled with honey? Some folks enjoy think it is the only way to enjoy honey.
First the bad news, if you have a piece of comb inside your jar (often called “chunk honey“) – 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, the freezer is a good place to store fresh honeycomb.
You can wrap the pieces of comb tightly in plastic wrap – or vacuum seal and freeze. I love my Food Saver for this purpose.
Please do not put honey in the refrigerator. It will not make it last longer or keep it fresher. But if you have already put your jar in the frig, that’s okay – it is still good. Just maybe a bit gritty!
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 against moisture.
If you want to enjoy a new taste experience, you can use a dehydrator to make your own honey powder. I warn you this takes some practice and is messy but it can be done.
A Last Word
Take a good hard look at that jar of honey in your pantry. Is it in the best location? Good honey storage means you will be able to enjoy every last drop. No other food has such a long shelf life and offers as much versatility as this natural sweetener.