The consumption of honey dates back to the earliest times of human history, as evidenced by numerous archaeological findings. It is still one of the most popular foods worldwide today.
So how can we store honey properly, and should you keep it refrigerated?
Honey is most often consumed in its natural form, but it is also included in many recipes and has been present in the cuisine of many cultures since ancient times. Before the use of refined sugar, honey was used as a sweetener. It is still a frequently used ingredient in confectionery.
You don’t need to refrigerate honey, as the best temperature range for its storage is between 15 and 22°C (59-72°F). You don’t have to worry about the honey spoiling if you keep it at room temperature sealed and protected from moisture and direct sunlight. Storing honey in the refrigerator does not adversely affect its quality, but its texture will change. Honey solidifies and crystallizes due to the cold temperature, which makes it difficult to use.
Does honey expire?
One of the best properties of honey is that it does not spoil if stored properly. Due to its high sugar concentration, honey is one of the natural foods with the longest shelf life.
Over time, the physical and chemical changes in honey affect its taste, texture, and appearance. If stored for a long time, it may lose some of its aroma and fragrances, and its color may darken. However, it will not deteriorate.
Manufacturers most often define the shelf life of honey as 2 years, but with proper storage, honey will retain its quality much longer than that, as proven by archaeological findings.
During the excavation of the tomb of the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, Howard Carter and his team found honey among the treasures. The ancient honey was in good condition and Carter reportedly tasted it. Talking of ancient honey, you may be interested in my article on the oldest honey ever found by archaeologists.
Can bacteria grow in honey?
Microorganisms can enter honey during production by bees or from the environment. Another source of honey contamination can be human activity during handling and storage.
Most of these microbes are inactive and cannot survive in honey due to the low moisture content, acidic environment, and the presence of hydrogen peroxide. Based on research, the flavonoids in honey also have an antibacterial effect.
Honey may contain C. botulinum spores, which may pose a danger to children under one year of age, so it is not recommended to give honey to babies. C. botulinum spores often occur in our environment, and they are not dangerous for children older than one year and adults.
In ancient times, honey was used not only for food but also for medicinal purposes due to its antibacterial and antifungal activity.
According to Smithsonian magazine, ancient Sumerian clay tablets contain the first record of the medicinal use of honey. It was successfully used in ancient Egypt to treat wounds.
What is the best way to store honey long-term?
For long-term storage of honey, it is best to keep it in well-sealed jars in a dark, cool, and dry place. According to experts, storage at 12°C / 54°F is ideal.
One of the properties of honey is that it is hygroscopic, which means that it can absorb and retain moisture from the environment.
The most important thing is to protect the honey from moisture, as it can cause spoilage processes to start. It is also recommended to keep it away from direct sunlight and extremely high temperatures.
It is also worth paying attention to always use a clean and dry tool to take honey out of the jar to protect it from contamination.
For more information on food safety, you may wish to read my article on the benefits of good food hygiene,
Which container is best for storing honey?
Well-sealed glass or ceramic jars are the most suitable for storing honey because they protect it from humidity and other impurities from the environment. Glass is, therefore, an ideal storage material, as it does not oxidize like metal, and it does not leach chemicals like plastics.
Exceptions to this may be the use of stainless steel and some good-quality food-grade plastic containers.
Containers made of metals other than stainless steel are not suitable for the long-term storage of honey. The acid content of the honey reacts with the metals, which started the oxidation process. This creates harmful compounds in the honey.
What is the true color of honey?
The color of honey varies mostly between different shades of yellow and amber and is similar to the color of caramelized sugar. The color of honey varies, from completely colorless and transparent to dark, almost black.
The color of honey is influenced by the plant it comes from, the conditions under which it was stored, and its age.
How clear or cloudy honey is, depends on how many particles it contains, such as pollen.
Is it OK to use honey that has crystallized?
It is perfectly fine to consume honey in its crystalline state. No adverse changes in honey quality occur during the crystallization process.
The glucose content of honey causes crystallization. Different types of honey crystallize to different degrees. You can easily make crystallized honey liquid again if you heat it carefully.
The best and fastest way to melt crystallized honey is to place the jar containing the honey in a bowl of warm water. But you have to make sure that the water does not get into the honey.
The quality of the honey deteriorates as a result of too high heat, as it breaks down the valuable nutrients and may even start to caramelize. Therefore, honey should not be exposed to high temperatures.
How do you store honey so it doesn’t crystallize?
Crystallization occurs above 14°C / 72°F. By keeping the honey at room temperature, the crystallization process can be slowed down. Honey stored in a cooler place can quickly crystallize.
Raw honey with a high pollen content is more prone to crystallization. Commercially available kinds of honey are less prone to crystallization, as their pollen content is reduced during processing.
According to the National Honey Board, processing does not reduce the nutritional content of honey, and the levels of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants remain unchanged.
So, what we can learn from all this is that honey does not need to be stored in the refrigerator, it can be kept at room temperature.
However, it is important to store it in a well-sealed glass jar at 15-22°C (59-72°F) in a dark and dry place. Stored under these conditions, honey will remain edible for many years.