Updated: Feb 16
Has my honey gone bad? DOES honey go bad? These are the age old questions we ask about honey.
If your beekeeper has extracted honey properly, your honey should not be spoiling. Beekeepers can tell that a honey frame is ready to be extracted when the bees have capped the honey comb with wax. The bees do this when the nectar they collect is dehydrated to form honey at a moisture content of roughly 17%. At this moisture content, honey can be extracted and bottled raw, and never spoil. If honey is extracted too early, the moisture content will be too high and the honey can ferment and cause botulism. To check the moisture content of honey, you can even purchase a refractometer and place a few drops of honey on it to see the results of the extraction.
(Great set of instructions for refractometer use at BetterBee.com)
Due to the over-saturation of glucose in raw honey, it may crystalize. This is a sign that your honey is raw, and has not been filtered or pasteurized. Some beekeepers may pasteurize their batches for one reason or another. Ex. preserving liquified state for ease of use in baking, esthetics for honey favors, making honey blends that provide different cooking purposes, the list goes on. If one is consuming honey for its health benefits they should look for a raw honey where the pollen, bee propolis, and raw
nutrients have not bee filtered out or boiled to lose its nutritional value.
Crystalized honey and raw honeycomb can be spreadable on toast or crackers and can be a nice addition to a cheese plate or crudite. Some prefer crystal honey for their coffee and tea because it melts beautifully in a hot drink. Whipped or Spun Honey is raw honey that has been whipped mechanically into a delicious spread.
If your honey has crystalized and you would like to reliquify it without losing the nutritional value, put your glass jar in two inches of water on the stove set to medium for one half hour to one hour, stirring once in a while. Microwaving your glass honey jars is said to pasteurize the honey, although I find it s a usefull way to use that last drop and clean out the bottom or a honey jar before sending it to the dishwasher. Do not heat plastic containers! Storing honey in a warm place near the stove or a sunny windowsill may delay crystalization as cool temperatures can often expedite the process.
Some honey varietals take months to crystalize where others can take weeks. This all depends on where the bees are foraging. There is no "one size fits all" answer to honey crystalization. The beauty of honey is that every batch, every frame, every extraction will be slightly different. As the season changes your wildflower honey will change from month to month. Different regions of the world also have longer and shorter extracting seasons and make for all types of varietal honey. Learn more about different honey varietals in our blog post about regional honey!
Feel free to reach out with questions at any time!!