Honey provides a naturally sweet substitute for processed sugar in your favorite recipes. The flavor and color of the honey is influenced by the variety of flowers the bees used to make it, so it can have a light golden color or develop a darker hue. Properly stored honey doesn't spoil, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, which allows for long-term storage when properly packaged.
Honey naturally contains little moisture. Bacteria, molds and other pathogens that cause spoilage can't grow in this low-moisture environment. Improperly stored honey may absorb moisture, which can cause these microorganisms to grow. Visible mold growth, foaming, or an alcohol odor means the honey has spoiled and must be discarded. This rarely occurs, so you can usually store honey for as long as desired.
An airtight glass jar provides the best method for storing the honey for as long as possible. Only use clean jars with tight-fitting lids, or keep honey in its original container if the lid fits tightly. Honey tends to crystallize and harden during prolonged storage, so a glass jar is preferable over plastic because you can heat glass without fear of melting.
For best storage, keep honey in a dark pantry or cupboard. Keeping the honey at room temperature, or 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, slows crystallization. Honey will darken over time, but this is not an indication of spoilage. Avoid storing honey in humid or moist locations, because this may introduce water into the honey and limit its shelf life.
When honey has eventually crystallized during long storage, you can melt the sugar crystals using heat so it returns to its liquid state. If it's stored in a glass jar, place the open jar in a pot of hot, but not boiling, water until the honey once again becomes liquid. For quicker melting, heat it in 10-second intervals in a microwave oven. The honey may crystallize again quickly, but you can melt it again before each use.
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Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.