Does Honey Expire?
If there is one simple food item one can find in any household because of its versatility, then that is honey. You can use it with your morning salad or a glass of milk or a cup of tea or a bowl of cereal or just a spoonful on its own. Maybe, this is why you end up buying honey so frequently at your house. As a result, you may have never cared about honey’s expiry date. In fact, you might be wondering about does honey expire or what honey’s shelf life is just now for the first time. In this article, we will answer all this and much more. To begin with, let us explain some of the basics of honey to give you an idea of why honey does not really expire.
How is honey produced?
Honey is produced by bees with the help of the nectar of the flowers or from the secretions of other insects through various processes. Simply put, bees collect nectar from the flowers and store it in their special stomach called the honey crop. The natural design of this honey crop is such that it mixes the nectar with the natural enzymes to change its pH and chemical composition. The foraging bees then share this liquid to the house bees through the process of regurgitation.
Post this, things turn even more interesting, as this process continues for more than 20 minutes before the house bees drop the liquid in the honeycomb. As soon as the bees do this, they start fanning the liquid with the help of their wings. The idea here is to dehydrate the honey and improve the process of evaporation. Lesser the water content, easier it is to keep the bacteria at bay. Now, when the honey is dry enough, the bee secretes the liquid from its abdomen, which eventually hardens to become the beeswax. This ensures that the honey is locked away from the harmful environment and ready to be preserved in the right manner. This honey is what we call raw honey, as it consists of zero preservatives and involves zero human contact, and does not include any use of heat in the process. In such cases, the honey life can be way longer than you can imagine.
So, does honey have an expiry date or not?
How long can honey be stored? The answer is quite simple – as long as you want, if you preserve it in the right manner. This also answers the question of honey's expiration – it does not expire. It has to meet just two conditions. The honey must be pure and raw and the storage should be done in the ideal manner. In fact, archaeologists have found pots of honey from the various tombs in Egypt, which just shows that honey can be preserved to stay fresh and fit to consume even for thousands of years.
Another thing to keep in mind here is the fact that even if you have opened a bottle of honey once, you can still preserve it for a really long time, if you cover it back in the right manner. So, to answer how long is fresh honey good for, the answer is forever. Also, the old honey benefits are just the same as fresh honey. All this just proves how you can buy a huge drum of honey if you may and last it for a lifetime if you can do it efficiently.
Does this mean the expiry dates seen on bottles of honey you buy from the market are a sign of the honey being impure? In most cases, yes! If the honey is completely authentic, then you need not worry about it getting expired. However, we should not disregard every bottle of honey out there because most bottles of honey now come in various flavours. All this requires the addition of syrups and other preservatives, which can roughly alter the composition of raw honey. Nonetheless, you can still preserve such honey for many years if stored properly. Moreover, the expiry date on these packages is primarily printed for practical purposes because the manufacturing company cannot take guarantee of the way you store the honey.
How to store honey safely?
Now we know that when it comes to raw honey, no expiry date exists, which brings to the next question of how we are supposed to store it safely. There are a lot of ways to store honey, depending on the kind of container you choose. The most important factor to keep in mind is that you need to keep it away from any kind of humidity.
Ideally, you should store honey in an air-tight glass jar that is away from sunlight or any other kind of heat. You may keep the jar in your kitchen cabinet that has an environment, which is neither way too cool nor way too hot. As a result, you should not keep honey in the refrigerator as well. The ideal temperature to store honey would be between 10°C and 20°C. This way, you can improve the honey’s shelf life drastically.
Now, what if you do not have a glass jar? Well, you should either go for a high-grade plastic that does not allow water seepage or cause any chemical reaction or go for a stainless-steel container. Any other metal container can cause corrosion and poison the honey. If you are to store honey in bulk for a long period of time, then stainless steel would be the best option.
Does honey remain just the way it initially was, throughout its lifetime?
Well, as mentioned, the taste and the natural goodness of the honey remains intact over the years but the same cannot be said about its colour and texture. Over the years, the colour of raw honey gets darker or cloudier and the texture gets grainier and thicker. Nonetheless, you have nothing to fear about consuming such honey, as it is still safe to have. You only have to worry about your raw honey getting spoilt if you see fermentation happening in it or, simply put, if you see microbes in it.
What happens if honey crystallises, and is it safe to consume?
If you have stored honey for multiple seasons, then you must have seen the honey getting crystallised. It happens because honey mainly consists of glucose, fructose and water. Over time, glucose and water separates to form crystals. Is it still good to have? Yes, it absolutely is. You do not have to worry about your honey’s expiration. In fact, crystallisation is a sign of how pure your honey is. So, if your honey crystallises, then you can be rest assured of it being pure.
In an event of crystallisation of your honey, you need not worry as you can bring it back to normal quite easily. One way to do this is by exposing the crystallised honey to the sunlight so that the honey melts. The natural sunlight will help you with the process without killing the enzymes within.
Another way to melt your crystallised honey is by putting the jar of honey in boiled water and let it do the job for you. You can use this method if you lack natural sunlight at the moment or want to melt the honey quickly. However, make sure that you do not overexpose the honey because then it can lead to pasteurisation, which will kill the nutrients in the honey. In such a case, you may still be able to enjoy the taste but not the health benefits.
How is processed honey different from raw honey?
As we have mentioned, it is the raw honey that can stay edible for thousands of years if preserved properly, let us tell you how it is different from processed honey.
Processed honey is that honey which undergoes the process of pasteurisation and has certain preservatives added to it as well. To pasteurise honey, it is heated at 70°C and then cooled down rapidly. This process gives that aesthetically pleasing look to the honey. It flows smoothly and has that tinge of golden colour to it. Furthermore, it contains certain preservatives to keep the honey liquefied even in winters, which means such honey won’t crystallise. All said and done, this honey has an expiry date and it is mentioned on the bottle of honey. If you want to use this honey for a long period of time, then you need to keep it ideally in a cold place. Since, the honey won’t crystallise, you need not worry about that aspect in this case.
In a nutshell, we would like to say that you can keep your honey safe for decades or even centuries if you store the raw honey in the ideal manner, away from any kind of moisture. For this to happen, the honey you buy should be of the highest quality, which has been produced in the purest manner, without the use of any heat. If you are looking to buy such honey, then head to the Eiwa Honey website.