Honey is an ideal longer term food storage option. It is the only food which will never go bad when appropriately stored. It contains naturally flavored complex sugars as well as trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids along with a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants. Honey is an all-natural sweetener with 17 grams of carbohydrates and 64 calories per tablespoon. Raw honey has medicinal properties. Honey flavor varies depending on the type of pollen the bees gather, allowing for delicious range of unique flavors.
It is possible for honey to remain stable for decades, or perhaps centuries, if appropriately stored in sealed containers. As honey ages, it may undergo physical and chemical changes which results in darker honey, a decline in aroma and flavor, and crystallization. It remains edible through the aging process. Commercial, filtered liquid honey will last the longest in storage. Honey has an indefinite shelf life due to its resistance to microbial growth.
Advantages in Baking
Honey may take up less storage space than other sugars. When substituting honey for granulated sugar you may only need half of the amount. Honey has a high fructose content which gives it more sweetening power than granulated sugar. Honey is hygroscopic and attracts moisture to the bread or dessert, which is a very valuable trait in baking.
Crystallization is a natural process and does not affect the quality of the honey. Simply warm the honey and it will return to its original liquid form. Do not allow the honey to boil as it will change both color and flavor. Methods to re-liquefy honey:
- Place a jar of honey in large container of hot water until crystals have dissolved.
- Place honey in an uncovered microwave-safe container and microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Repeat until crystals dissolve.
- Place a jar of honey in a warm place.
Honey is Heavy
Honey is quite heavy. One cup weighs 12 ounces which is 50 percent heavier than water. One gallon of honey weighs about 12 pounds. A five gallon can weighs 60 pounds which makes it quite difficult to handle. For most storage plans, we recommend storing honey in smaller containers.
Ideal storage containers depend on individual preferences.
Glass containers do not react with honey to change or alter original quality. The honey we harvest from our bees is stored in canning jars. Dark or non-transparent containers protect honey from light.
Metal cans will work for storing honey. Do not remove oxygen. Honey is slightly acidic. It will cause rust in metal containers or on metal lids. Use lined, food-grade metal containers and lids when storing honey in cans.
Honey is often purchased in thin plastic containers. While this is fine for shorter term storage, some plastic is not ideal for longer term storage of honey because plastic is permeable and may allow for the absorption of surrounding smells. The plastic will begin to break down while the honey remains good.
Food grade plastic buckets will work for storing honey. Be sure to store off of concrete and away from chemicals. This is not our first choice due to the weight of the bucket and difficulty in rotating. However, buckets enable you to store a lot of honey in a small space.
Five gallon metal buckets will also store honey. We had one metal bucket of honey, which was 30-35 years old, that began to develop a hole in the bottom seam of the bucket. The small lid on the top made it challenging to use so it just sat in storage. We hauled it through seven moves and finally decided it was time to use it. The honey had crystallized and was much darker in color. It had a deep, robust flavor. The process to transfer to smaller containers took several days as it had to be slowly heated and poured from the can. We lost a few quarts in the process.
We prefer to store honey in smaller, more manageable containers since that experience. It is easier to slowly warm a smaller container, it reduces waste, and makes rotation simple. However, a large bucket of honey takes up little space and could store indefinitely. It is all about personal preferences.
Warning: Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores which may cause infant botulism. Honey should not be fed to infants under one year of age! This is a rare, but serious disease which affects the nervous system. Adults and children over one year are not affected by the spores in honey.
Honey is a great longer term storage basic food. Don’t be fooled by some products containing a little bit of honey mixed with corn syrup. Buy the real stuff. Raw honey has anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties you may want to investigate. Pasteurized honey is heated to kill yeast which may result in fermentation and to slow down the granulation process. Honey has an amazing shelf-life along with nutritional benefits not found in sugar. Consider adding honey to your family food stores.