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Storage


One of the finest foods we can store for later use is pure, raw local honey. Honey stored under proper conditions will last for thousands of years, and can be used for cooking, canning, and general health maintenance.  (Honey has been found in the pyramids that was still good.) 

Honey sold in stores, unless otherwise indicated, is not pure, raw honey. It is often blended, heated, and in many cases has been found to not generally be of origin in this country. America is one of the few countries in the world where most honey is sold in liquid form. Note that honey is sold by weight, and not by volume. To attain and maintain a liquid state for a long shelf life in retail stores, honey must be heated, which destroys most of the inherent good qualities of honey. Indeed, the heating produces the chemical hydroxymethyfurfural (HMF), which in Europe is considered an unwanted adulterant, and heated American honey is therefore illegal to sell in Europe due to their pure food laws (Dr. Roger Morse, "Gleanings in Bee Culture," March, 1985).

It has been said that "honey is honey, as long as it has FDA approval, so you might as well buy it from a discount store." Nothing could be further from the truth. The Clinton Administration allowed the importation of Chinese "honey" as early as 1992, which sold for $0.25 per pound, wholesale. Studies in Canada found that Chinese "honey" was at least 40% corn syrup, contained caramel coloring, and Canada joined Europe in banning its importation.

Charles Mraz reported ("Gleanings," Dec. 1978) that unfiltered, unheated honey contains active glucose oxidase which supplies oxygen to the digestive tract. Such natural honey is reputed to prevent botulism poisoning, relieve constipation and prevent congestion in the intestinal tract...and that heating and pressure filtering will destroy and/or remove the valuable enzymes in the honey.

Studies since 1978 have shown that pure, raw local honey is excellent in the prevention and cure of various allergies, as it contains minute trace amounts of pollen and mold spores, and acts as a homeopathic medicine.

Small scale beekeepers (less than 24 hives) remove the honey supers from the hives and extract it at hive temperature (about 94 F), as the viscosity of honey at that temperature allows easy extraction through centrifugal force. Ideally, you would want them to then filter the honey through a fine grade filter immediately, and pour it into food grade buckets you provide. Expect to pay slightly more for such service than you would for store purchased honey, but the expense is certainly justified.

Raw honey as described in the paragraph above can be expected to granulate or crystallize rapidly, the actual rate depending upon the floral source - 2 weeks to 2 months or more.  Honey granulates quickest at 57 F, and slower at temperatures above or below 57 F. Proper storage, then, would be at temperatures as close to 57 F as possible, but cooler is preferred over hotter; basement storage is excellent.

Granulated honey is normal.  By law, honey is sold by the pound, not by liquid measurements.  The reason for the weight measurement in poundage is very ancient.  In England, heather honey will gel extremely fast - right in the comb - and could not be extracted by any methods then available.  So honey was traditionally sold as a solid block of honey and wax, by the pound, and the weight measurement laws have remained intact for hundreds of years.

To liquefy the honey for normal use, the honey must be heated slowly in a double boiler to below 130F until clear.  Just be sure to have a wire rack, a circle cut from expanded metal, or something similar, on the bottom of the stock pot or container used for the double boiler, so that water may circulate under the bottom of the honey bucket. And always loosen the lid of any honey being liquefied, as it gains considerably in volume as it is being heated - it might burst a container!

If honey is stored in glass containers, the water in the double-boiler must be high enough to cover the top of the honey in the container.  The honey must be able to expand upwards into the neck of the container, or the bottom of the container might be broken right off.