Thursday, December 31, 2009

Honey in Storage

Honey is the only unprocessed food that will last indefinitely. It is made by the honey bee during times of plentiful food availability and stored until needed by the colony. Since a healthy, well-populated colony can produce more honey than is needed to sustain the colony, beekeepers can remove the surplus honey. Once the beekeepers have taken ownership of the honey, they have to do the same things as the honey bees to protect honey in storage. When the honey bees store honey, they ensure that it is fully ripened, meaning that the moisture content has been reduced to a point at which fermentation will not occur. This honey is 82 percent sugar solids and 18 percent water. The bees then seal the honey in clean honey comb cells with a capping of fresh beeswax. Beekeepers measure the moisture content honey using a device called a reflectometer. The purpose of this measurement is to ensure that the honey will not ferment. The beekeepers store honey in clean, food-grade containers. Common sizes for honey containers are five gallon honey pails holding 55 pounds or 55 gallon drums holding 600 pounds.

All honey crystallizes over time. The length of time required for honey to granulate is determined by the nectar source of the honey, particles of pollen or beeswax in the honey, and temperature. Honey crystallizes most rapidly at 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Honey held in the winter is likely to be highly crystallized when the containers are opened. This is not a problem, as crystallization does not alter the quality or flavor of honey. The honey can be returned to its liquid state by slowly warming it. Honey fully cured by the honey bee and carefully stored will not deteriorate; it will not even support the growth of bacteria or yeast. Honey is truly a unique food. There is a considerable amount of information available about honey including health benefits and recipes available through the National Honey Board at

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