Honey as We Know It
Honey begins its journey as liquid flower nectar, which bees collect and bring to the hive in a special storage organ in their body.
While they’re traveling back to their hive, the mechanism of mixing the nectar with natural enzymes happens. Once in the hive, they store the nectar in the wax cells, and the process of dehydration starts. This happens until the nectar reaches a 17,1 percent water content. Once this consistency is reached, honey is considered to be formed.
Honey that is not commercially or chemically treated is called raw honey. Pure and unadulterated in any way, this honey comes straight from the hive, and it’s the most healthy honey you can find.
Sugars and Their Impact on Storage
The nectar collected by honey bees has several kinds of sugar, such as glucose, sucrose and fructose. In the process of collecting the nectar, honey bees add enzymes to it that turn most of the sucrose into glucose and fructose.
Glucose granulates very fast, but fructose is resistant to granulation. Glucose is less soluble in water, which means that it will leave the solution faster and granulate, hence crystallization. Fructose will stay in the solution for a long time due to being soluble in water.
The separation of glucose from the liquid form of honey is considered the crystallization process. Even though this doesn’t mean the honey is off, there are steps you can take to prevent this from occurring.
How to Keep the Honey Liquid
- Sealed container: The easiest way to slow crystallization is to store honey in a closed container at room temperature.
- Freeze: You can stop it more drastically by freezing it, although it’s not advisable to keep it in the refrigerator, as you will get the opposite of the desired results. Fermentation can happen if the honey has too much moisture.
- Dark areas: To avoid the degradation of the aroma and flavor of the honey, the best thing to do is to store it in dark places.
- Containers: Try to store honey inside glass, stainless steel or ceramic containers, all with rubber seals. Since honey is acidic, you should forget about metal and plastic containers.
- Filtration: Some beekeepers use filtration to slow down crystallization. This removes the components that cause the transition to occur in the first place. If you decide to do this, be aware of the type of filter used. When the filter has very tiny holes and the honey is forced through, the pollen can be removed too.
Storing Honey in Honey Frames
Beekeepers need to take steps to control the amount of honeycomb that they store. Processing the honey as soon as it’s created isn’t necessarily achievable.
A common practice for storing honey here is to freeze the honey frames. As an added layer of protection, wrapping them in plastic seals the frame. This ensures they’re safe from mold or fermentation, but be sure to pay extra attention to the possibility of getting moisture leaked inside.
When it’s time to take the frames out of the freezer, let them rest at room temperature with the plastic still on it. This protects the surface of the combs from condensation.
Storing Honey at Home
Honey is very easy to keep in storage. Simply place it in a location with a moderate temperature, away from the sunlight and make sure that the container is tightly sealed.
Using the original container is recommended. Although, if you replace it with a glass jar, it will work as well. Avoid using metal because it can oxidize.
If you decide to refrigerate honey, have in mind that the honey will solidify, making it hard to use when you need it.
Prefer Creamed or Crystallized Honey?
Although, in North America, the preferred format of honey is the liquid one, in some parts of the world, crystallized or creamed honey is the favorite.
Creamed honey is accomplished by adding a little bit of crystallized honey to a portion of liquid honey. This process will make the honey crystallize quicker by producing more crystals. The final result is a smooth and spreadable consistency.
Store creamed honey in the fridge, inside a sealed container.
Honey is not the hardest substance to store in your pantry. In fact, it all comes down to the simple action of how to seal the container and where to store it after. If the original container remains unopened, there’s less of a noose around the storage recommendations.
Glass jars are the best option, and room temperature is the perfect way to keep your honey stored daily. If you want to store it for longer, consider freezing it. Storing honey in a fridge will speed up the crystallization process.