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How to Store Honey Properly: The Best Ways

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A jar of honey is found in pantries all over the world and is a popular ingredient for adding sweetness to recipes. But where's the best place to store that glass jar of raw honey, you might be wondering. Once you do know how to safely store honey, you can enjoy its delicious flavor for a long time.

Honey in a clear jar, on a white saucer with a spoon.
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Honey is a versatile ingredient and can be used in many recipes, both sweet and savory. Sweet recipes where honey works perfectly include butterscotch candy, brownies, and Greek baklava. You can also reach for the honey jar when you want to sweeten your hot tea or drizzle something tasty over your oatmeal in the morning.

Honey also has nutritional value despite basically being a type of sugar. Unlike sugar, honey contains copper and riboflavin, along with antioxidants and polyphenols which are believed to be beneficial for the body.

I like to make hot toddies whenever anyone in the family is feeling under the weather. I used honey, fresh lemon juice, and hot water. The honey helps soothe a sore throat while the lemon offers Vitamin C and the steam from the drink can soothe congestion. If I'm making this for the grownups then a splash of whiskey or rum is always good!

What is Honey?

Honey (Apis Mellifera) is made by a natural process from plant nectar by honeybees. It comes in an array of colors and flavors depending on which flowers the honeybees gathered the nectar from. There are more than 300 types of honey and these include clover honey, which is the most common variety, wildflower honey, which is darker and a little more intensely flavored, and acacia honey, which is light in flavor and color.

Manuka honey, which is made in New Zealand and Australia by bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, is sweet and slightly nutty in taste. It has more antibacterial qualities than other honey types, which is why it is sometimes taken as a supplement.

As for the history of honey, this golden liquid has been around for longer than records go back. Honeybee fossils dating back 150 million years have been found, so it's fair to say honey has been around for a very long time.

Honey is seasonal because bees don't make honey during the winter, only when they forage through the spring and summer months when flowers are in full bloom. Very high or very low temperatures can also affect honey production. Since honey has a long shelf life when stored properly, it is never hard to find. 

What to Look for When Buying Honey

The most important thing to consider is the authenticity of the honey. There is such a thing as "vegan honey" which is made with little more than sugar, water, and artificial flavoring. Some include lemon or apple juice. 

Fake honey has also been in the news, and this is made by combining a small amount of real honey with cheaper syrups and sugars. In order for honey to be considered real, it must contain pollen, because this is the only way it can be traced back to a legitimate source. 

Actually honey is the third most faked product on the planet after olive oil and milk. So if you see a honey pot for a suspiciously low price you might want to choose a trusted brand instead, or else your hard-earned cash is just going to the "honey launderers"!

Honey comes in glass or plastic containers. When purchasing, check there is a tight seal that is intact. Also, look at the use-by date. The honey might be in a liquid state or set state depending on the variety. Don't buy honey if it looks suspiciously murky, if the packaging is damaged or if the label is illegible or missing.

Honey dripping off a spoon into a honey jar.

How to Store Honey

The good news is honey is really easy to store and one of the most stable natural foods there is. This is how to store your honey for the best results and the longest lifespan:

  • Keep it in a dark place at room temperature or cold temperatures (not in the refrigerator). I keep mine in the pantry, but any kitchen cabinet or drawer would work.
  • If you do choose to refrigerate it, the honey will set hard and be tricky to get out of the jar.
  • Keep it out of direct sunlight and away from other sources of heat and moisture.
  • Although you can buy honey containers, I recommend keeping it in the original container. You could also transfer it to mason jars or another type of airtight container if you want to.
  • Don't store honey in metal containers because it will oxidize and become unusable.
  • Use a clean, dry spoon whenever you are dipping into the honey jar, since getting even a droplet of water in there can result in fermentation. And don't butter your toast and then dip it into the honey with the same knife!

Honey has a very long shelf life. When stored correctly, it can last almost indefinitely. The National Honey Board says honey should be safe for centuries, but you will still find an expiration date on honey jars because the shelf life also depends on variety, purity, and the container. Also, having an expiration date is useful for inventory and stock control in grocery stores so they can keep the freshest honey on the shelves.

Honey freezes well, either in an ice cube tray or other containers, but since it has an almost indefinite shelf life at room temperature, there really isn't much point in freezing it. But if you want to, it will probably outlive your freezer!

How to Tell if Honey is Spoiled

Honey lasts for many years thanks to the high concentration of sugars, but liquid honey can spoil if stored wrong or contaminated, just like any other kind of food. Spoiled honey might have a fermented smell or smell bad or you might see visible mold. If you smell or see something bad, you should throw it out.

Honey goes through a crystallization process over time. This happens when some of the sugar separates from the water. You can safely consume crystallized honey or heat it gently to make it liquid again. Don't let it boil or else the beneficial enzymes and yeast will be destroyed. I like to sit the jar in warm water to turn it back to liquid.

Common Questions

Do cool temperatures or high temperatures affect the quality of honey?

Excessive heat can cause caramelization and degradation, so keep your honey away from heat-producing appliances like the oven and put it somewhere cool instead.

Grade A honey vs Grade B honey: what is the difference?

The grading system is not about the quality of the honey but how it is prepared. Grade A honey is the most common type. While Grade A honey is clear and prepared with heat and hyper-filtration, Grade B honey is unheated, unfiltered, and uncooked. Try both to see which you prefer.

Does honey really keep forever?

As long as it's stored properly, it should last for many, many years. Edible honey has even been found in ancient Egyptian tombs!

Honey dripping off a spoon.

Fun Facts

  • One pound of honey requires 2 million separate flower visits by bees.
  • The honeybee is the only insect that is known to produce food for human consumption.
  • Because it's a microbial agent, honey can be used on minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, and has been proven to speed up wound healing.

The shelf life of honey depends on storing it in the right container and under the right conditions. Hopefully, the above tips will help you determine where to keep your jars of honey so they last for years.

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