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Storing honey, how? Watch out, fermentation danger!

Have you ever wondered how storing honey? Compared to many products of your kitchen, honey is a long conservation product, indeed, it keeps for long its nutritional values, the quantity of his simple sugars stays untouched for long. What it loses along the years is especially its peculiarities: it becomes more and more similar to a sugary substance, but not only: it loses its unique flower smell and its enzymatic/biological actions. It’s more a kind of slow degradation process of the product as natural process.

Keep in mind that in any case, the ‘old’ honey, even if very old, it’s not dangerous but it can be considered as a low quality one (even though still perfect for industrial use or for cooking, for example). Now you may wonder: how can honey be stored? When does it expire?

INDEED! wHICH IS THE BEST WAY FOR STORING HONEY?

It’s not that easy to reply to these questions, since it depends on several factors. A couple of years ago I attended a webinar whose title was ‘From the honeycomb to honey’. The moderator was Maria Lucia Piana (a great expert of the field!). It was really interesting and it was about this topic: honey, its quality and how to store it. According to the law, at least here in Germany, the expiry date mentioned on the honeypot must be maximum two years from its harvest.

Speaking of years is anyway limited, what really makes the difference is how honey is stored, especially the temperature and the wetness level. Hence, for a beekeeper it’s important to have a good storage room or in any case a proper room for this. The customer as well must be careful at where to store the honeypot once got it.

Otherwise what happens?

Some years ago, my cousin Eleonora (the one of the labels, do you remember??) told me that her chief gave as Christmas present to his employees some local products, among them honey as well (nice idea 🙂 ). I was quite shocked when Ele told me that her honey was literally exploded.

But how? Was it out of the pot?

Seriously, it was like lava from a volcano…it was continuously going out…you know maybe why?

It was the very first time that I was hearing something like this, did it ever happened to you? At the beginning I thought that maybe it was a very low quality honey, maybe treated, maybe they had put inside something strange and then we got that strange chemical reaction. After gathering more info, I found out that it’s important to stay careful because honey can ferment!

Really? Does it ferment?? sTORING HONEY SOUNDS NOT THAT EASY…

This fermentation is the same one that happens with wine or bread, but with different yeasts. The main reason is a too high level of wetness in the honey that make this natural process starting: the yeasts multiply, a part of glucose gets lost and ethyl alcohol stockpiles. Consider that honey has always yeasts inside, but they are inactive if wetness is lower than 17% (and temperature lower than 10 degrees – think of bread as well, when you want to make it growing, don’t you put it in a warm place?)

If honey ferments is not dangerous for our health, but for sure it has a lower quality. It’s ok for industrial use, but if it has already reached the consumer, the beekeeper has probably lost a customer and risk a fine as well.

Is it possible to do something to prevent fermentation? storing honey can be tricky…

Well, for sure, first of all the beekeeper has to try to get honey with a low wetness level, hence, it’s better to harvest from closed honeycombs (because when the cells are closed, this means that bees can’t do more than what already done and at that point the wetness is low). Another good practice is to check the level of wetness before harvesting.

If you – consumer – want to avoid the fermentation of honey, it would be helpful to consume honey in short-medium time (simply eat it, don’t leave it there for ever!). Try to store it in the fridge if temperatures are too high or anyway store it in a dry place.

Recap:

storing honey is not that easy...
Our honeypots
  • each beekeeper should check carefully the lever of wetness when harvesting
  • avoid to state a too long deadline (1 or 2 years is realistic)
  • store it at a temperature lower than 20/25 degrees and in an environment with a wetness lower than 60%
  • don’t leave the pots in the direct sunlight (it’s ok to keep them also in carton boxes, for example)

and the Gaeblini, what do they do??

As far as we are concerned, we proceed according to how bees and their status is. We follow the bees’pace and we harvest the honey when honeycombs are full and the cells start to get closed. We generally start from inspecting the first honeycomb, when the bees reach the last one, this means that the honeybox is full and when they start to close the cells, this means that honey can be harvested. An important point to highlight: here the climat is much dryer compared to the wet regions from where I come from. Indeed, I can see that many Italian beekeepers proceed with a phase of dehumidification once honey has been harvested. Here this is not needed.

At this point you may also wonder…but why you simply don’t harvest when everything is closed?

I wondered the same me too. The reply is that if we wait that all the honeycombs of the honeybox are closed, bees get lazy and won’t further collect honey.

From time to time, we use the tool to measure the level of wetness, but just as double check: the tool always tell us that in that moment the level of wetness is perfect and we can harvest the honey. We also sent some of our honey to a lab to get it analysed and it was excelent…so we continue to follow the procedure handed down by great granpa Walter!

We store in well closed pots in a proper room that is fresh and not wet, in carton boxes.


But now tell us, did you know that honey ferments? Can you storing honeypots in a proper way? If you found this article interesting, do not hesitate to share it…it could be useful for someone else too!

A hug,

The Gaeblini

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