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How to Care for Local Honey

Updated on July 31, 2015
A local honey lover
A local honey lover | Source

When I spotted a posting on a community bulletin board announcing 'Locally Grown' honey a few years back, I quickly made a friend in Andre Kruglikov of Alameda, California, whose passion for bees is evidenced by a half dozen hives in his side yard.

As a hay fever sufferer who happens to love honey, I've long bought into the theory that honey harvested near to where you live is a remedy for allergies. Factor in a worldwide depletion of honey bees due to pesticides, invasive species, and colony collapse disorder and I'm all too interested in reversing the trend and making life good for Apis mellifica. It's reassuring to know that your neighbors - even in very un-rural places - are doing their part to keep bees healthy and happy.

Trends, science and mythology aside - we all love a bit of honey now and again, but how to keep that sweet amber from going off? You know, crystallizing. The good new is, honey is a hearty, near indestructible substance if cared for properly, and can be returned to its clear, slow moving, sticky self with a minimum of effort.

Here are some tips from my now seasoned honey farmer friend Andre on how to keep and care for your (hopefully local grown) honey.

Freeze honey to stop crystallization
Freeze honey to stop crystallization | Source

Tip One - Crystallization

Do not refrigerate honey, before or after opening it. Putting honey in the refrigerator speeds crystallization.

It's debatable whether you can avoid it entirely but If you have surplus honey or aren't consuming it regularly, to delay crystallization, put the honey jar into your freezer. In the freezer, honey does not get hard - just very thick. As long as you have a clean spoon with a strong handle, you'll have no trouble getting it out of the jar.

Honey from the freezer is kind of chewy, almost like a soft candy, and tastes great. One of my kids tried with raisins, and loved it.

We usually do not freeze honey we keep for ourselves, but let it sit on the counter in the kitchen. (My wife likes the way it looks.)

Alas, all honeys eventually crystallize, some within days, others may take months. This is determined by the type of nectar that went into making the honey, or whether it was ripe when it was harvested. Bees cap honey when it is ripe, and I do not harvest uncapped honey. Another factor is how well the honey was filtered. Small particles e.g.) bits of wax, encourage crystallization.

Tip Two - Keep it clean

Even when crystallized, honey lasts a very long time, as long as one does not introduce impurities into it. Never use a wet or unclean spoon to get it out of the jar. Likewise, if bottling your own harvested honey, filtering the honey for particles and air bubbles will help ensure the purity - and reduce crystallization of the honey.

In addition to filtering honey, I usually let it sit in a bucket for a couple of days before bottling it. This allows an occasional particle that had escaped the filter as well as air bubbles that may have formed when the honey was pouring out of the extractor to rise to the top where I can scoop them out.

A jar of locally harvested honey
A jar of locally harvested honey | Source

Tip Three - Reconstituting crytillized honey

Try as you may to stop it, honey will eventually crystallize. But crystallized honey is still honey. If you take a jar of crystallized honey and heat it up to around 110 degrees Fahrenheit, it will get reconstituted, with no loss of flavor. If you heat it much over 110 degrees, it may change the flavor and color.

A simple trick for heating honey: put a pot of water on the stove and turn the heat on very low. Make sure that the jar lid is closed tightly - honey is hydrophilic - very good at absorbing moisture. Once the moisture content rises substantially above 16-18% - the point that bees declare it ready, and cap it with wax, the honey will go bad.

Use a trustworthy candy thermometer to ensure that the water does not get above 110 degrees. As the honey is heated, the air inside the jar will expand, so you may need to loosen the lid a bit to allow the air to escape. After some time, the honey will return to its original consistency, and stay that way, probably as long as it did before you had to reconstitute it.

Once the honey jar is out of the pot of water, loosen the lid to allow air to enter the jar as the jar's contents cool.

Resources: Where to look for local honey

So where can you find locally harvested honey? The Honey Locator from the non-profit National Honey Board provides resources for finding honey.

Local honey can be found in specialty food shops, "Mom and Pop" grocery stores as well as your neighborhood farmer's market. More and more urban homesteaders can be found selling their honey-goods at local stores and markets. Same goes for small farms and specialty bee keepers. Local Harvest is a non-profit organization dedicated to publishing resources about farmer' markets, including their locations.

Another good place to find local honey is at produce and farm stands that dot our rural roads and state highways.

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    • Peter Allison profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Allison 

      5 years ago from Alameda, CA

      Thanks Agnes

    • Agnes Penn profile image

      Maria del Pilar Perez 

      5 years ago from Nicholson, Pennsylvania, USA

      Great tips. Never thought of freezing, but have tried heating honey in water as you suggest and it works. Glad to have found your site. Will follow.

    • Peter Allison profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Allison 

      5 years ago from Alameda, CA

      I recommend it Jaye, it's worth a try :-)

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Perhaps I should eat more of this local honey in a (pleasant) experiment to determine if it will decrease my allergies. (I hope.) I'm open to the possibility.

      Jaye

    • Peter Allison profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Allison 

      5 years ago from Alameda, CA

      I really do believe it helps my allergies B.A. But if I am wrong, the honey still tastes great!

    • B. A. Williams profile image

      B. A. Williams 

      5 years ago from USA

      Great advice, well I never knew honey could be frozen but that makes sense. I read awhile ago that's the only food that will not go bad. Amazing how it helps allergies by eating local honey.

      A great informative read.

    • Peter Allison profile imageAUTHOR

      Peter Allison 

      5 years ago from Alameda, CA

      Thanks for reading Jaye!

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Hi, Peter....This is an interesting and useful hub. I buy a jar of local honey at the farmers market once a year, and it stays in the same condition on my kitchen counter until it's all used. It has a much better flavor than any commercial honey (most of which is adulterated, anyway), and I'm hopeful, as you are, that it is healthy. I also hope we are "supporting" the bees.

      Decades ago, my (then) husband harvested honey and went through the filtering, draining process in the kitchen. The overly sweet smell nearly turned me off honey forever! Fortunately, I learned to like honey mustard dressing and prefer to mix my own, so that brought me back to honey.

      Voted Up++

      Jaye

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