Honey is the nearly miraculous, edible product of nature’s most busy of all creatures: bees. For those of us with a sweet tooth, it gives us the opportunity to indulge knowing that at least we’re getting nutrition along with our sugar rush.
It’s called liquid gold for a reason, and if you’re lucky enough to find yourself with a large supply, you’re going to want to store your prized possession in the most protective way possible. This may lead you to wonder whether or not you can freeze honey.
So can you freeze honey? The truth is that pure, raw, pure honey will not freeze. If you store it at temperatures of -4F, it will eventually solidify and appear frozen solid, but some component of the honey will continue to flow, very slowly. It won’t technically be frozen. Most home freezers only cool down to -4C, which is not nearly cold enough to freeze honey.
In this article, we’ll discuss the various magical properties of honey that make it resistant to both freezers and bacteria and coach you through the best ways to store your honey for long-term freshness.
Why Honey Doesn’t Freeze
You can put honey in your freezer without affecting the flavor or quality, regardless of whether or not it freezes as it’s a good way to maintain freshness if you don’t mind the crystallization. Always make sure it is kept in an air-tight container to prevent any possible oxidation.
You should always store honey in glass containers. This will protect your honey form soaking up any nearby flavors and odors and it also helps to prevent moisture from seeping through the container and into your honey.
Freezing Honeycomb or Frames
Many farmers choose to freeze their honeycombs or frames and this can be done without any damage to the honey or the frame whatsoever.
The benefits to freezing honey in the comb might be so that all the honey can be extracted at the same time, after its all harvested. Or possibly the honey will be sold inside the honeycomb. Since honey has such low moisture content, it doesn’t expand much when it freezes, not even enough to damage the fragile honeycomb.
One final reason it might be a good idea to freeze honey in the honeycomb is to kill any wax moths or their larvae that might have been living inside. Freezing does a great job of that.
The frames will need to be wrapped tightly in plastic before being placed into the freezer to protect the honey from exposure to air and moisture.
Does Freezing Honey Destroy Nutrients?
No, storing honey in your freezer will not destroy the nutrients. It will actually preserve the natural antimicrobial properties of the liquid.
Heating honey, or constantly subjecting honey to fluctuating temperatures, however, can impact the nutritional value. It will also impact the quality of your honey, as the crystals that form when your honey warms and then cools again will add moisture to your honey, which is not good for the quality and safety of your liquid gold.
If you’re going to freeze your honey, do so with a plan to thaw it all at once, allowing it to slowly come to room temperature. It will be crystallized, so you can warm it up once it’s thawed to bring it back to its smooth liquid state, but avoid extreme changes in temperature all at once, and try not to apply extremely high heat to your honey.
If you want a sweetener that does better in heat, you can try maple syrup.
Does Honey Go Bad?
You’ve probably heard rumors that honey is the only natural food on earth that will not spoil. These rumors are true, assuming you’re talking about raw, pure honey.
The reason for this unique, almost supernatural ability comes down to 4 main factors:
- It is almost purely sugar, which prevents the growth of most bacteria and fungi
- It’s very low in moisture, leaving no water to support the life of other organisms or even allow for fermentation
- Honey is acidic, which may sound surprising for something so sweet, but with an average pH of less than 4, it makes it even less hospitable to bacteria
- Bees leave a very special enzyme in the honey that preserves it and increases the antibacterial nature of the honey
If the honey is harvested too early or contaminated, it is possible to go off, however, it’s very rare and unlikely. Also, the more processing honey goes through the less naturally protected against bacteria it becomes.
Prevent Crystallized Honey
Honey crystallizes when the glucose starts to separate from the water in the honey. This is more likely to happen in honey that has more glucose than fructose and if or when the honey is cooled. There is absolutely nothing wrong with crystallized honey and some people, myself included, find it a little easier to eat when it’s not so runny.
In fact, the crystallization process actually protects and naturally preserves the flavor of your honey, so it is a good sign to see some thickening occur. It’s also a sign of good, raw honey.
Crystallization can be less than ideal, however. Sometimes it makes your honey feel gritty and sometimes the crystals sink to the bottom, leaving a thinner liquid on top, neither of them perfectly honey textured.
Honey that has higher fructose takes longer to crystallize, so if you dislike this effect, you’ll be safer with acacia, sage, and/or tupelo honey. Filtered honey also tends to be smoother because there won’t be tiny honeycomb debris particles encouraging crystallization.
To slow the process down in any type of honey you may have, store your honey in glass jars at room temperature or warmer. If honey is cooled below 50F it will start to crystallize quickly.
How to Decrystallize Honey
The best way to smooth out crystallized honey is to boil water, pour it into a bowl or pot and then let your jar of honey sit in the hot water until it melts back to its original, liquid gold state.
This should only be done if your honey lives in a glass container. Do not heat plastic, ever. Even if it’s BPA free. You never know what kind of chemicals are going to leach into your delicious pot of gold.
If your honey is stored in a plastic container, simply scoop out a portion and place it into a bowl or container that you can sit inside a larger bowl or pot of hot water.
You can also put a portion or glass jar of honey in the microwave if you’re very impatient. Start with 30 seconds and give your honey a stir. Only add another 30 seconds if it needs it.
If you’re planning on using your honey in a hot beverage, like a tea, it will decrystallize naturally as you stir it into your drink.
The same goes for using honey in your baking or cooking. It won’t need to be completely smooth going in, so long as you can get it out of the container, it will reliquify nicely in your recipe as it heats up.
Best Types of Honey
Honey is made from the nectar of flowers, and different flowers will give off slightly different tastes and nutritional components. Some kinds of honey are considered unifloral, which means it is made from the nectar of only one type of flower, and others are multifloral.
In general, unifloral kinds of honey are popular either for a specific medicinal purpose or because the buyer is a particular fan of the flavor of that honey.
Multifloral kinds of honey have a less distinctive flavor and they also benefit from the combined nutrients found in multiple different types of flowers. From a general nutritional perspective, the more flowers the more varied the nutrients will be found in the honey.
With that being said, honey is amazing and whichever variety you choose will bring joy to your life.
Flowers Honey Is Made From
Some of the most popular varieties of honey come from the flowers of:
- Clover – This is a plentiful flower, often considered a weed, so it makes sense that it’s also a plentiful variety of honey, which you’ll often find creamed
- Alfalfa – Also sometimes called Lucerne honey, this is a very common form of honey that is often praised as a prebiotic, which is not a common thread between all kinds of honey
- Sage, Lavender, Rosemary – These are all individual types of honey, but they’re all herbs that you’re probably familiar with, and the honey made from the nectar of each has a hint of the flavors we’re used to cooking with, but inside a delicate, sweet profile
- Eucalyptus – Coming mainly from Australia, this particular variety of honey is well known for being very supportive of immune system health
- Manuka – Imported from New Zealand this honey has risen to fame for its exceptional antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory benefits
- Acacia – One of the lightest in color and most clear honey options in the world, it’s also one of the sweetest in flavor
- Buckwheat – If you find a Canadian variety of this honey, be sure to grab a few containers, as recent research has shown that it’s healthy superpowers include defeating certain drug-resistant strains of bacteria
- Jamun – This type of honey is commonly used as a topical treatment for helping to heal wounds quickly, even successfully treating gangrene
This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the types of honey you’re most likely to be able to get your hands on. Remember, honey made from single flowers are often used as medicinal, which should give you something to think about the next time you accidentally cut yourself.
Raw vs Pasteurized Honey
Pasteurization is a process of heating honey to high temperatures, usually 145F or higher, in order to kill any microorganisms or bacteria that might be trying to live in the honey. Much of the honey that you find in stores is pasteurized, as it is thought to be safer by some.
Many critics will simply suggest that pasteurization gives manufacturers a better opportunity to dilute the pure honey with corn syrup, sugar or other additives, making it less expensive to produce but also impacting the natural nutritional value of the honey.
Raw honey, as you can imagine, is the most natural, crude form of the liquid that is extracted from a honeycomb. It is unrefined and may even have particles from the hive, such as bits of wax or the comb itself.
Raw honey undoubtedly has more value from a health perspective, being complete with antioxidants, antibacterial properties, numerous phytochemicals and much more.
Be aware that marketing will try to trick you by using terms like “pure” or “real”, but those are not synonymous with raw and they don’t have any actual health connection tied to the label.
You can find honey in a very smooth liquid state, creamed, granulated, in solid chunks or even still in the honeycomb. Liquid and creamed are the most popularly found in grocery stores, but there is some evidence showing that granulated or the thicker, solid types of honey actually pack more nutrition into them.
They’re undoubtedly harder to find and more difficult to use. Honey straight from the honeycomb will also have a lot of benefits, being the freshest and most pure source of honey you can find.
Is honey good for you?
This is a tricky question to answer. As part of a well-balanced diet, honey can be a great source of nutrients and antioxidants.
As a topical application, honey can help heal wounds and irritating skin conditions, acting as an antibacterial agent and giving support to the injured area helping it heal quickly.
In these ways, honey is good for you.
Unfortunately, few people these days seem to eat a well-balanced diet, and honey is sugar. Too much sugar in your diet has been proven to be incredibly harmful to your health, and this is just as true if you’re eating too much honey as it is if you’re eating too much table sugar.
One way I personally love using honey is to mix it into some pure, natural peanut butter. Delicious! And yes, you could freeze that mixture since peanut butter is freezable.
Are honey bees endangered?
There are currently 8 kinds of bees on the endangered species list, but honey bees are not one of them. That does not make the bee situation any less dire, however, because the health of the planet and the survival of human beings depends to a great extent on all the different types of bees.
There is a lot of research that suggests the use of pesticides is the leading cause of danger to bees, so if you’d like to do your part to protect them, instead of boycotting honey, opt for organic food to effectively place your vote for less pesticide and chemical use on our foods.
Is honey safe for diabetics?
Honey has a lot more nutritional value than refined sugar does, but that does not make it any less impactful on your blood glucose levels. Diabetics need to closely monitor their sugar and carbohydrate intake and honey is about 80% carbohydrates. In other words, it’s sugar.
It’s usually considered sweeter than sugar, so you may be able to use a bit less to get the same taste you desire, but it should still be consumed with the utmost of care if you have diabetes.
There is a very limited amount of research that suggests the insulin response will be smaller if you use honey than if you use refined white table sugar, but, and I can’t stress this enough, it is still sugar.