Storing Your Soft-Set Honey
Honey ages over months at ambient storage (click to view blog on this): losing some health benefits and changing flavor. We recommend that you keep an amount of honey that you will use within 2-3 months at room temperature so that the honey is soft and spreadable. Honey that you expect to keep for more than 2-3 months should be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator (good), or freezer (best). You can freeze and warm your creamed honey as many times as you like without damaging the honey (unlike meat), just don’t melt the honey by exposing it to temperatures above 30°C / 85°F for extended periods.
We package our honey fresh on our farm, and then allow the honey to naturally crystallize in the jar over several weeks, just as it would in a Canadian prairie beehive. After it sets up, the honey is transferred to frozen storage where it will maintain its freshness indefinitely. When Wendell Estate Honey leaves our storage facility it is as fresh as the day it was harvested.
Raw honey does not have a “best before” date. How long the honey stays fresh is entirely dependent on storage conditions. Our soft-set raw honey will remain delicious at room temperature (20-25°C / 68 – 77°F) for a few months. However, the honey will very slowly darken over time (3 months or more) at room temperature. The colour change is a very sensitive indicator of the freshness of the honey: with slight darkening, the flavor changes will be virtually unnoticeable; with significant darkening you may start to notice subtle aroma and flavor changes. Raw honey often contains natural yeasts that can cause honey to ferment with continued exposure to warmth and humidity. The rate that this happens depends on temperature and humidity and varies from as rapidly as several weeks at 30°C (86°F) to a few months for an open jar at temperatures of 20-25°C (68 – 77°F) to many months to years in the refrigerator (~2°C – 5°C / 35 – 41°F) to indefinitely for a sealed jar in a freezer (<0°C / 32°F).
The process is slower if the jar is unopened as we ensure that any honey we package under the Wendell Estate Honey brand has a moisture content that does not permit fermentation to take place. However, honey readily absorbs moisture from the air and, unless you live in a desert, the moisture content of the honey does go up honey exposed to normal household air. Honey can even absorb moisture very slowly through the PET plastic or through the seal of the glass jars. Therefore, we recommend storing unopened jars in a refrigerator or freezer: the cold, dry conditions will keep the honey fresh longer, prevent colour changes, absorption of moisture and possible fermentation.
Fermented honey can be identified by a darker colour, foamy bubbles on the surface, a “yeasty” odor and a sour taste. Note that eating fermented honey poses absolutely no health risk, but many people find the sour taste unpleasant.
If you find that your honey is too hard, you can stir (knead or “disturb”) it with a strong spoon or butter knife for a moment and it will become much softer (click here for video demonstration). Or you can warm it gently by placing the jar in a warm (~ 30°C / 86°F) water bath for about 30-60 minutes.
Warming our raw honey above 30 – 35°C (86 – 95°F) will cause it to melt (liquefy) into a translucent liquid. Liquefying depends on both temperature and exposure time: the honey will likely liquefy if exposed to 35°C (95°F) for an hour or more, much more quickly at 40°C (104°F). If the liquid honey cools to room temperature, it can gradually re-crystallize into a harder, courser, granular form, losing the WEH signature smooth texture and becoming inconvenient to use. This honey can be re-warmed to a liquid if desired.
Finally, as honey is heated above 40°C (104°F), the natural enzymes that give honey many of its health benefits will begin to breakdown. How much the health benefits are decreased depends on the maximum temperature the honey has reached. This is one reason raw, unheated honey is healthier (and tastes better) than pasteurized honey. Keep in mind that even though the health benefits of raw honey are at their maximum if the honey has never exceeded 40°C (104°F), any real, natural honey is always a much healthier choice than processed sugars.