Protecting Your Honey
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. To preserve it’s natural goodness, you need to know the proper way of storing honey.
Your best intentions may lead you to do the absolutely worse things for your honey! You do not store your honey in the refrigerator, do you? Whew… I hope not.
If you have placed your honey in the refrigerator, don’t panic. It will be okay – just maybe not the best place to preserve the desired qualities.
If you buy raw honey, it may become gritty and solid over time. Gritty honey is not spoiled but it often concerns the user and is mistaken for being spoiled.
It is not – don’t throw it out – more on this in a bit. Crystallized honey is not spoiled but it is often thrown out – what a waste!
This Honey Dispenser has a tight sealing stopper and lid. Great for a family with kids (young or older) that are prone to being messy. It is a perfect companion to larger storage jars.
Its a great way to serve honey in smaller amounts. You will love it – I have one of my very own! I leave it sitting on my stove.
How to Start with the Best Honey
You are in luck if you have a hobby beekeeper in your area. Because, the best raw honey will come from small scale beekeepers. Why?
Because we can focus on each jar much better than a large producer who sells thousands of jars a month.
And, because small-scale beekeepers sell less product, they usually bottle the honey themselves. Your jar of honey travels through fewer hands to make it to you.
Once you find and purchase real honey, you will want to learn the ins and out of proper honey storage.
Choose a small producer if you are unable to find a local beekeeper. They will usually have the most pure honey products.
If you find that your jar of raw honey has turned gritty and sugary – don’t be discouraged.
In fact, that gritty jar of honey may actually be healthier 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? More on that to come.
Long Term Honey Storage Challenges
Once you have gone to the effort of buying good quality honey, you want to protect its nutritional value.
This is especially relevant to those of you who want to keep your honey in a liquid (pour-able) state.
This is where we have to talk about the best temperature for storing honey to keep it liquid.
In order to understand why honey storage temps matter, we must first have a better understanding of raw honey.
The story of how honey bees make honey is a fascinating tale of survival. Honey doesn’t spoil easily. It is the perfect food for long term storage in a bee hive.
Then, we humans come along and sometimes try to improve it. We help things sometimes but not always. Problems happen too.
In addition to enjoying the good aspects of honey, we want to be able to mass produce it and store it on a shelf in a pristine state.
Consumers desire that perfect jar of golden honey. Alas, looks are not everything.
The practices used to create a beautiful product for the grocery shelf are not necessarily kind to our nutritious honey.
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 some honey packers use intense filtration.
If honey packers push honey through a filter under pressure, the end product is beautiful. It will look good on a shelf for a long time.
But ultra filtration removes some of the micro-nutrients and pollen in honey. Thereby, lessening the nutritional value of the product.
But, you don’t have to be a slave to modern processing. Local beekeepers across the US produce “table honey” each year. Yes, it will cost a bit more – or should.
With proper harvest and storage techniques, we can enjoy all the natural goodness of honey and not waste any.
Storing Raw Honey
If you purchase a jar of honey that does not say it is raw, it probably is not. That does not mean it is not real honey – simply that it has been altered in some way.
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 honey is a better option for them.
Why choose raw honey? Many people believe that the nutritional properties in honey are at their best in raw form.
Honey can only be called “raw” if it has not been processed, super filtered or heated.
Even small scale beekeepers need to strain out huge pieces of wax. Letting the honey drip through a sieve under no pressure does not harm.
Raw honey is unique. Because each season different flowers may or may not produce that same amount of nectar as in previous year.
In my bee yard, it is not unusual to have one bucket of honey that is very light in color and another very dark. Flavor and color will vary.
Best Method for Storing Raw Honey
The best way of storing honey is in a tightly sealed jar. Kept at room temperature and in a dark cabinet preserves color and flavor.
Properly stored honey never spoils because bacteria doesn’t grow well in acidic honey.
Because honey can absorb moisture and odors – please don’t re-use an old pickle jar. Unless of course, if you are wanting 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 storing honey for long term use. The glass is easy to see through, and does not give the honey any strange tastes.
If the honey thickens over time, the large opening makes it easy to scoop out.
These large containers will hold a lot of honey but are not too heavy to lift. Smaller amounts can easily be transferred to a serving container.
Bright light doesn’t harm your honey but it can cause honey to darken. (It’s dark in the hive – right ?)
My favorite way to store honey in the house is with glass jars. They allow me to see that state of the honey without opening the container.
If it is cold and slow to pour, I can put the jar in a bow of warm water for a few minutes.
Storing Honey in the Dark
Over a long period of time, honey exposed to light can darken. It does not affect the taste so it doesn’t matter to me.
If you prefer to keep the lighter color choose a cabinet in the warmest section of your home.
( I break the rule and store a small jar of honey right on my stove top. – I am a rule breaker that way. ) Any “tight sealing” honey pot or container is okay.
Does Raw Honey Need to Be Refrigerated?
No, no, no. Pure honey will not spoil. It does not require cold temperatures or a vacuum sealed jar. Please never put your honey in the refrigerator.
It will not make it last longer or keep it fresher. Putting honey in the refrigerator can promote some changes that you do not want. It may become solid.
What happen to my honey? It has become a solid! This is a common cry among consumers who do not understand the nature of raw honey.
The turn often used is “my honey turned to sugar” meaning that the honey has thickened. This is a natural process!
Honey is a super-saturated sugar. When honey goes to this solid state, we call it crystallization.
The rate of crystallization depends on the nectar sources of the honey, storage temperature and other variables.
But it does not mean that your honey is spoiled!
People ask how to store raw honey to prevent crystallization. The answer is that sometimes you can not completely stop crystallization.
Raw honey contains pollen, tiny bits of wax etc that encourages the change to a solid.
Because cool temperatures quicken the process, the refrigerator is the last place your honey jar should be kept.
Honey that is stored in the refrigerator will crystallize faster.
But if you put your jar of honey in the frig, that’s okay – it is still good. Just maybe a bit gritty! Crystallized honey is okay and safe to eat.
But most people want their honey to stay in the liquid non gritty form. If you want to change your gritty honey back to liquid – read my post on crystallized honey here.
How to Store Honeycomb
Though not as common today, you may still be able to purchase a jar of honey with a piece of comb.
First the bad news, if you have a piece of honeycomb inside your jar of liquid honey – it will crystallize faster. Solution?
Eat it first! But, what if you have several pieces of honeycomb that you want to save for later.
This is common if you are a beekeeper or perhaps you want to buy a few frames of honeycomb from your local beekeeper? The best way to store honeycomb long term is in the freezer.
I love my Food Saver. It is good for so many uses around the farm. And it is a great way to seal honeycomb in preparation for freezing.
One option for honeycomb is to cut your sections of comb into smaller manageable pieces.
Wrap tightly with foil or other type of wrap to seal out moisture. And carefully place in the freezer.
Even better, you can cut the comb into smaller pieces, place them on a plate and put them in the freezer.
Once frozen – use a food sealer to vacuum pack each section of honeycomb.
No ice crystals will ruin your food when stored in this vacuum sealed bag.
Now you can remove small amounts as you would like. A few hours on the counter and your honey will be ready to enjoy.
You Can Store Honey In the Freezer
Did you know that you can freeze liquid honey? I know it sounds crazy. But, freezing is a good storage method for honey that you don’t plan to use for a long while.
I don’t normally go to the effort because honey stores so easily on a warm shelf. But, this is an option.
Honey can be stored frozen in the comb or place liquid honey in a container with room for expansion. Freezing protects the integrity of your raw honey.
Honey can be frozen for several years. When you are ready to use, thaw honey at room temp in sealed containers.
Do not thaw honey in the refrigerator-we want it to come to room temperature quickly.
What if you are not a honey lover but want to keep some on hand? Freeze small amounts of honey in ice cube trays and then seal them in plastic bags.
This makes it easy-peasy to take out just a small amount for use. Even those of you who are not honey-lovers, may enjoy just a bit of honey on occasion.
Use silicone trays to freeze small amounts of honey. A great way to seek relief for sore throat pains or coughs, just pop out a frozen “honey-cube” and put it in hot tea.
How to Store Honey Even After Opening the Jar
The value of pure honey makes it important to learn how to store raw honey properly.
And finding small farmers markets to purchase directly from the farmer increases your chances of getting real honey. Expect to pay more from smaller producers.
But no mater where you get your honey there is one thing to remember. You do not have to store honey in the refrigerator after opening the jar.
Pure honey will last a long time. Give some careful consideration to finding the best place for storing honey and you will be able to enjoy every last drop.