Did you know that pots of honey were discovered amongst Egyptian tombs’ artifacts? Amazing, right? But, the fact that Egyptians considered honey as something extremely valuable isn’t the most fascinating thing about this discovery. What’s more incredible is that the honey was still preserved. This means that honey managed to stay unspoiled for thousands of years. So, the question is – can honey go bad? We know that honey can last a long time, but does it ever get spoiled?
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about honey’s longevity and whether it can ever go bad. But, let’s start from the beginning.
What Is Honey?
It’s a natural substance created by bees from the secretions or nectar of plants. The composition of the sweet substance depends on the plants and flowers used and on the species of bees. Honey is available in a wide range of colors and flavors, from colorless and yellow to dark amber.
Basically, honey consists of about 80% sugar and up to 18% water. It also contains gluconic acid and other organic acids, as well as small amounts of amino acids, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and proteins as part of the pollen.
Does Honey Go Bad?
Natural honey that’s properly preserved can’t get spoiled. This is even proven by the Egyptians. Even though you don’t need to keep your honey that long, the Egyptians have shown that if properly stored, natural honey can last for a surprisingly long time.
According to the National Honey Board, if you keep honey in sealed containers, it will stay stable for centuries.
But, what’s the secret to the incredible longevity of honey? The key is in its biological content. Thanks to the low pH of honey, high amounts of sugar, and the bees’ honey-production process, organisms that may turn food bad aren’t able to survive in honey. This, however, applies only to natural honey that’s sealed properly.
If you store it improperly, honey can lose a great part of its antimicrobial properties, start to degrade, or become contaminated.
When incorrectly sealed or left open, the water in honey can increase to more than 18% which is considered a safe level. This, in turn, raises the risk of fermentation.
If you leave the container or jar open, it can become contaminated with microbes from different outside sources. If the water levels rise too much, these microbes can grow.
Also, you shouldn’t heat honey at high temperature as this can increase the degradation of flavor and color and increase the levels of the harmful substance called HMF or hydroxymethylfurfural.
What If It Crystalizes?
Your honey can crystalize even if you store it properly. But, don’t worry as this process is perfectly normal. It doesn’t mean that your honey has spoiled, but that it contains a higher amount of sugar than it can be dissolved.
Crystallization, however, does changes the color and texture of honey. Namely, honey becomes lighter and brighter in color, grainy, and opaque.
If your honey crystallizes, feel free to consume it. Once again, a crystallized honey is not a spoiled honey.
In addition, if you keep your honey for a very long time, it may lose its flavor and aroma as well as become darker. This, however, isn’t a health risk, but it does affect the flavor and appearance of honey.
Honey can be adultered as it takes a lot of time and money to be produced. That’s why many producers add cheap sweeteners to reduce costs and increase volume.
How to Store Honey Properly
If you store your honey properly, it can last for a long time together with its beneficial properties. Moisture control is key to proper storage. You shouldn’t let too much water get into it to prevent fermentation and spoilage.
Here’s how to store it properly:
- Use an airtight container – store your honey in a glass jar, store-bought bottle or jar, and stainless-steel container with airtight lids.
- Store it in a cool and dry area – keep your honey below 10°C (50°F) or at a room temperature which should be somewhere between 10-20°C (50-70°F).
- Refrigerate it – keeping your honey in the refrigerator is generally ok, but it may become denser and crystalize faster.
- If it crystallizes, warm it – warm your honey with constant stirring if it crystalizes, but make sure you don’t boil or overheat it to prevent its flavor and color from degrading.
- Avoid contaminating it – be careful not to contaminate it with dirty spoons or knives as this can allow molds, yeasts, and bacteria to grow.
- If you’re not sure whether your honey is still good to consume, discard it. This applies for honey that’s foamy, with weird taste, or with a lot of free water.
Keep in mind that different types of honey can have a different taste and appearance. Therefore, take the storage instructions printed on the label into consideration.
Only Real Honey Lasts
Only natural honey can last for a very long time. Altered or processed honey lacks honey’s natural benefits. Thanks to the enzymes and vitamins in honey, this natural sweet substance is considered a natural sugar substitute.
To make sure you get high-quality honey, make sure it’s raw and unfiltered. Unfiltered honey means that pollen and other beneficial ingredients stay inside the honey. Raw honey, on the other hand, isn’t overheated at high temperatures.
Honey is one of the healthiest foods on the planet, and people have always been aware of its value. You can see that in Egyptian tombs that include honey. It was found out that this honey dating from centuries and millennia ago wasn’t spoiled.
So, does honey go bad? The answer is yes, only if it’s contaminated or improperly stored.
If your honey is 100% pure and natural, as well as properly stored, it means that it has a long lifespan. Even if it crystalizes over time, it’s still safe to eat. Crystallization is a sign of real, natural honey.