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Does honey go bad?
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jducoeur
I'm cleaning out the pantry, some of which is -- well, let's say "vintage". And I've just come across Jane's honey stock. It's not fancy stuff -- this was basic brewing honey -- but there's a good deal of it. (Around 20 lbs, most of it conventional but 5 lbs of good-looking blueberry honey, and a sampler of many types.) And it occurs to me that I have no clue whether it's still good or not.

So a basic question: if kept decently well (dark, not excessively hot or cold) does honey have a lifespan limit? This stuff is at least three years old, likely more like five. It still *looks* fine -- a little crystallization in some bottles, but nothing remarkable. Any ideas? And for that matter, does anybody want it? I don't expect to do any brewing in the next year or two...

(EDIT: and for that matter, same question about maple syrup...)

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Huh. There you go, then; there's something special about honey, particularly when kept sealed, that prevents or retards spoilage.

It's possible for honey to go bad (I mean, it has sugar; something could eat the sugar and turn it into something less pleasant!) But mostly, I haven't seen it; we had honey that stuck around for -years- without a problem when I was growing up; maybe a bit (or a lot) of crystalization -- but that's nothing a bit of water and a microwave (or a double boiler) won't fix.

I think if it went really bad, you'd notice; after all, it involves something growing on it.

Honey is a natural antimicrobial. Between antimicrobials found in nectar, and more that bees pump in, it's quite effective. In addition, the extremely high sugar concentration absorbs water from other things, preventing microbial growth unless it is diluted substantially. Full strength honey should be fine for years, although it would certainly be expected to crystallize. 5 years is well within acceptable storage for honey as long as it was well sealed.

This. My wife and I actually use it on wounds. Clean, brush with honey, bandage. No scars!

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The shelf life of honey is approxiamately 2,000 years! :) They found amphora full of amber crystals in Eqyptian tombs and had them chemically analyzed. Pure honey. They heated a few up, spread it on bread and ate it. They said it was no different than modern honey. Honey simply does not spoil. And if I lived closer to you, I'd grab it in a heartbeat. I have to start making mead for Viking Village this summer.

I wonder if Avalder would want to brew something with it?

I'll take some. I've promised to try a mead for Cohasset Wars bribery purposes.

It is both slightly anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. Its sugar content is so high that it is hygroscopic (which, I gather, is its secret to stopping most contamination). I gather that it does not go bad if sealed, undiluted and if no contaminants are added.

It can crystallize if it's water content drops low enough through evaporation. But that does not affect its flavor or longevity, just its texture.

You can keep it until you are ready to brew again. :-) If not, I'd give it to Don L: he's one of the best and active local brewers that I know - trade it for a few bottles of whatever he makes with it.

Nope! Not the same thing at all! We have to keep maple syrup in airtight containers when we make it (and we're making it this weekend!) And even then it has a limited shelf life with the air already in the container. The 'good' thing about it,is it's so sugar-rich that there's never a question. Fine one day, solid mold the next!

Yeah that was shocking when I saw it happen.. Just fine then boom, mold.

Some sources say that one can skim the mold off the top of the maple syrup and be fine. Lord knows we've been fine, but usually maple syrup doesn't last long enough in our house for this to be a problem.


This. But that may not work if it's been around for *years*.

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Honey does NOT go bad

The honey found in Egyptian tombs has been mentioned, so I'll mention they preserved Alexander the Great's body in it. "Old time" (let's assume mid 19th c.) cooks were said not to be willing to use honey for baking until it was at least three years old. I think that that's because it's easier to bake with when crystalized. The time they had that botulism in honey scare was an example where it had been adulterated with water. What a surprise, if you add water to honey, things will grow (can you say mead?). But really, it's used for everything from bedsores to diaper rash, as well as many, many other medical as well as culinary uses. (I don't feel secure unless I've got at least 100 lbs. in storage.) I collect local honeys. I have over 50 varieties. I do wonder if after long storage some of the more delicate flavors given by individual plants (harvested by the bees) may fade, but I'm not sure about that. My suggestion is that you take it to events- you'll get buyers. If you just want to get rid of it, you might donate it to an auction if you don't want to store it. Arasstorm

While Maple Syrup doesn't have the antimicrobial properties of honey, the business about boiling and skimming it is true, and it's also quite easy to do -- so even if it's moldy, it can be restored.


I'd also be interested in some honey. Let me know what's left after Rufinia takes her pick.

I'd be interested in honey as well...that is, if there's any left after everyone else takes their share. :-) If you're worried about the maple syrup, I'll take that as well.

Not really. Others above have talked about the properties of honey that keep it edible. Early archaeologists (ok, more likely treasure hunters in all but name) found honeycombs buried with pharoahs and the honey was still edible. One of my classics instructors relayed a story (perhaps apocryphal) of one mummy that was buried in a vat of honey, because of honey's preservative powers. Archaeologists found this vat of honey, and, not knowing there was anything else in it, began to eat, until they discovered the body underneath...

So the short answer is that Honey is incredibly shelf stable, perhaps only needing to be in a heatproof vessel dunked in boiling water to restore its liquidity.

I have a separate way of looking at it.

Honey does have qualities that help retard spoilage, yes. But the are not foolproof. And, by your statement, this stuff is three to five years old...

How much is the risk worth to you?

Yum. We don't need any honey, and mindways would probably look at me with a long suffering expression if I asked for any, but I love the idea of posthumous mead. I may need to write a short story about that...

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