Honey is a delicious superfood that can be used in so many different ways. “Is my honey real?” is a popular question these days because of quality and sourcing issues with honey. Let’s take a closer look at honey: its quality, authenticity, and other practical tips.
Why Your Honey May Not Be Real
When you buy honey in the store, it can come from all corners of the world. What is “industry standard” in the exporting country may not be in the importing country. “Industry standard” just means that if everyone in their industry does or adds something to a product it may not have to be labeled.
So if it is common practice for every producer to add a bit of corn syrup to their honey, then “industry standard” may not require listing corn syrup in the ingredients. These sketchy practices may leave you wondering, “Is my honey real?”
One way to avoid an inferior product from the store is to look for wording like “100% Honey.” Also, locate the source of the honey. Usually the label will say somewhere “Product of…” Avoid anything especially from China as that honey has a track record of being diluted with corn syrup.
The Easiest Way to Tell “Is My Honey Real?”
By far, the easiest way to determine what quality of honey you are getting is to purchase it right from the source. You can see where it came from with your own eyeballs.
I have a neighbor up the road who has honey bees. I take my gallon jar up there and he fills it up for me from his bulk tank of honey. Short of keeping bees myself, this is as close to home as it gets! I know and trust my neighbor to provide me with quality raw honey because I trust him and his practices are transparent.
Buying my raw honey from such a local source also ensures that my family is ingesting local allergens, as well. This is in keeping with the theory that small doses of pollen through honey can help with seasonal allergies.
Not everyone lives in the country so you may have to locate a reputable bee keeper at a farmer’s market near you. Yes, good food requires research sometimes. Take a Sunday drive out of the city and locate a beekeeper. Take your own container with in case they can fill it up! The great thing is honey goes a long ways and it never spoils so you would only have to make the trip a couple times a year.
The Most Fun Way to Tell “Is My Honey Real?”
This is a great experiment to try at home with the kids.
Warning: This can be messy!
Put about a tablespoon of honey in the middle of a smooth dinner plate. It works best to use a plate with a high lip.
Pour enough cold water on the plate to cover the bottom of the plate and some of the honey.
Gently swirl the plate in a circular motion keeping a consistent rhythm.
Allow the water to swirl over the honey for a while.
With real honey, you will see the honey form into the shape of honey comb!
For us lazy people out there, check out this YouTube video demonstrating this experiment.
Pure Honey Lasts Forever
Once you locate a trusted raw honey source, stock up! Pure honey does not go bad! Ever!
When I was growing up my mom and aunt would buy raw honey by the 5-gallon bucket. Granted, with a family of 6 we could burn through that much honey in less than a year. But it never went bad.
Five years ago I was helping my aunt clean out from under her basement stairs. You know, the spot where years of catch-all finally caught all? We find this 5-gallon bucket that weighs a ton. So I lug it out from under the stairs and we crack the lid open. It was a full bucket of pure, golden honey!
My aunt bust out laughing and I didn’t know why. When she finally composed herself she told me she hasn’t bought honey in 5-gallon buckets in over 25 years! That honey was at least 25 years old and still beautiful and delicious! [I cannot say the same for myself after 25 years of life…]
Honey’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties keep anything foreign from growing in it. As a precautionary though, always dip into a container of honey with a clean utensil so that you don’t introduce unnecessary pathogens. [Yeah, you, the late night snacker who just dipped your dirty dinner spoon in the gallon of honey. Get a clean spoon!]
Is My Honey Real if it is Pasteurized?
This is the main difference between raw honey and all the rest. Usually (not always, so read your labels!) honey from the store has been pasteurized. Pasteurizing honey is not a safety issue as in the case of milk. Honey is pasteurized to keep it from crystalizing. This keeps it in a pourable state for longer and therefore has a longer shelf life. The pasteurization kills off all the good pollens and allergens, though, that you want!
Unpasteurized honey will crystalize into a solid form. The honey is still good, though! It just becomes a little crunchy and is in a more solid state.
Varieties of Raw Honey
Now that we know the difference between raw and pasteurized honey, its time to look at all the raw honey options.
Honey Comb – Honey comb is the most natural form of honey you can buy and consume. It is literally a chunk of comb cut out from inside the bee hive. Wax, bee wings, pollen, honey – e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.
My favorite way to enjoy honey comb is on a piece of toast. The chewy wax is a great complement to the crunchy toast. I don’t recommend putting honey comb in a hot beverage. The wax melts and coats your cup, your lips and your mouth. Also, the melted wax floats on top of the hot beverage and traps in the heat. You have to be careful not to burn yourself since your beverage won’t cool as usual.
Filtered Honey – In order to extend the shelf life before crystallization, honey is filtered to remove any debris and air bubbles. Usually it is heated for this process. So unless you know your beekeeper filters without heat, assume that filtered honey is not raw.
So Bee My Honey…
…and get some of this golden deliciousness in your cupboard! Up to this point you may have thought that all honey was created equal. Don’t feel overwhelmed by all the labels of honey!
Check out my article on how to use raw honey for lots of common and not so common ways to use honey!
Just remember that with a little bit of farmer’s market time or label reading at the grocery store, you can answer the question yourself, “Is my honey real?”