Honey: How to keep it in fluid condition.
December 3, 2009 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Honey: how can you maintain its fluidity? Has it gone bad when it becomes semi-solid or can it be used?
posted by page123 to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Honey never goes bad, it just changes texture and can be used as is. I believe it is the only food that has this property. If you heat it it will destabilize again.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 3:02 PM on December 3, 2009

Yah, just microwave it, it'll be fine. Careful about microwaving it in plastic -- it can get hot enough to melt the plastic if you overdo it.
posted by musofire at 3:04 PM on December 3, 2009

The sugar has started to crystallize forming a very viscous opaque suspension of sugar crystals. Heat it up and redissolve the crystals or just eat is as grained honey.
posted by Fiery Jack at 3:06 PM on December 3, 2009

It's totally fine when it goes hard, just may be a bit crystally. Honey is thixotropic so will go soft again under pressure, although heating has the same effect. Heating it too much will cause some of the flavour and health giving compounds in there to break down so can change how it tastes (although if it was entirely runny and clear to start with this may not be a problem), so don't boil it. Just heat it gently to soften then stir to get it properly runny.

Honey doesn't really go off generally, there's too much sugar in there for bacteria to grow. So you can usually keep it in a cupboard to help avoid the hardening problem. However we have very persistant ants so our honey lives in the fridge and it's totally fine, just a bit difficult to spread.
posted by shelleycat at 3:07 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your persistent ants go straight for your honey, dissolve a pinch of borax in a teaspoon of hot water, mix that with a couple of teaspoons of honey, and leave it near their trail. They'll load up on it, take it back to the nest and kill the whole thing.
posted by flabdablet at 3:14 PM on December 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

I put the jar in a pot of warm water when this happens. FYI honey really never goes bad. Apparently the honey jars excavated from Egyptian pyramid burials was still edible. Probably a bit funky, but still edible.
posted by gnutron at 3:22 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I also remember reading that honey from the Egyptian tombs was still edible. And from a biological standpoint, honey is about the most shelf-stable thing there is. It's a very effective anti-microbial for several reasons - high sugar content, presence of the enzyme glucose oxidase (which produces, as a byproduct, hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic to many bacteria), and low pH. It also seems to help with wound healing and infections resistant to antibiotics, for unknown reasons.

So - just put it in a bowl of hot water and it'll soften up.
posted by Cygnet at 3:46 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Honey can go moldy if a bit of water makes its way into the pot. But, otherwise, honey is a very concentrated sugar with very low water content, so it is tough for bacteria and fungi to make a living off of it. If the honey gets flaky or crystalloid on top, just stir it up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:22 PM on December 3, 2009

So long as there's no signs of rot (ie mold), you'll be fine. Just put it in a microwave-safe container and microwave or put it in a double boiler. The crystals will break down.

When it's hot, it's also less viscous and sticky, so it's easier to measure for recipes, too.

I don't know any way to stop the crystalization, but since it's so easy to fix, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:45 PM on December 3, 2009

Be careful heating honey. Maybe do it in a double boiler. I never would have thought of this until I met a chef who had a badly scarred face from burns received when a pot of honey exploded. I assume it melted and steamed on the bottom, and the viscous surface held it in until it blew. I can't find any references to this on the Web, so maybe this is another one for MythBusters.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:14 PM on December 3, 2009

Buy Tupelo honey. It doesn't crystallize.
posted by shopefowler at 5:41 PM on December 3, 2009

I hold the bottle under running hot water, making sure the top is well away from the water (though the top on my brand seems fairly water-tight).
posted by cooker girl at 6:29 PM on December 3, 2009

Honey doesn't really go bad. I don't have time to look for the reference right now, but I remember reading about how they found honey in one of the Egyptian tombs and how it was still edible thousands of years later.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:37 PM on December 3, 2009

3,300 year old honey was reportedly found in the tomb of Yuya and Tjuyu by T.M. Davis and Arthur Weigall, according to a 1913 National Geographic, "still liquid and still preserving its scent". It is not recorded that they tasted it. This seems to be the only such actual citation. Davis, however, later determined that it was in fact natron. So this is an urban legend.
posted by dhartung at 7:54 PM on December 3, 2009

Assuming a glass container, my family's always done the "Nuke and stir". Microwave for 30 sec. then stir. It will get really hot, really quickly, so never microwave it for longer than 30 seconds at one time.

Once it's heated up, it will still be cloudy and won't have it's normal appearance, but once it's cooled back down, it should be back to normal.

And, nth-ing the shelf-stable comments. My dad actually keeps bees(free honey = yay!), and growing up I remember having 5-gallon buckets full of honey sitting around in our basement. So don't worry about sticking it in the pantry, and don't worry about it going bad.
posted by specialnobodie at 12:08 PM on December 4, 2009

Buy honey in glass jars and keep it sitting on the back of the stove. (This tip courtesy of my chef pal.)
posted by mollymayhem at 5:06 PM on February 8, 2010

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