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Honey in can still good?  RSS feed

 
Vicky Barton
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Location: Chattaroy, north of Spokane, WA
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We have about 40 1-gallon cans of Honey. My husband bought it in 1979. Yeah. SEVENTY-NINE. Some of the cans are bulging. Ten years ago, we opened a can and consumed the dark sweet liquid. We ate for about a year and still have part of that gallon in a jar. Obviously, we're still here, but we've been afraid to try it again. It doesn't smell bad, but we wonder if the dark color is something leached out of the metal cans. It was packaged in Cucamonga California.
It's such a large amount of honey that we can't bear to throw it away. What should we do?? How can we test it for toxins?
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Generally it is recommended that honey should be stored in glass or ceramics - I believe that it is slightly acidic and can leach and corrode metal containers.

I wouldn't be able to say if it was safe or not - it won't have "gone off" but might have been tainted by the metal.
 
K Nelfson
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I was reading about passive solar a while back and someone had used metal honey cans, filled with water, as the thermal mass. So I poked around a bit and found that indeed, honey can keep for a long time in a metal can.

http://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?228524-honey-in-metal-cans


However, a bulging can really scares me. Can you boil it before disposing of it? That's what you're expected to do with jars of food that go off.

 
tel jetson
steward
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Location: woodland, washington
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bulging cans of food is generally a sign that botulism is a risk. honey, however, shouldn't support the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium responsible. C. botulinum endospores can survive, which is why raw honey shouldn't be fed to infants, but they can't reproduce because of the high osmotic pressure. so botulism shouldn't be a risk.

I would guess that the bulge is due to a low level of fermentation which can occur when honey starts to crystallize. as the glucose in honey precipitates forming crystals, the water released can sometimes dilute the remaining fructose solution enough that fermentation can sometimes take place. again, not really a problem, though it can change the flavor a bit. some folks prefer it.

the metal, though, could cause some trouble. if it's corroding (and after this much time, it almost certainly is), it will at the very least affect the flavor of the honey. depending on what metal it is, it could also pose some toxicity risk, though probably not much.

it probably won't help the folks who bottled this honey several decades ago, but these are good reasons to avoid metal in honey storage. also a good reason to avoid metal inside a beehive.
 
K Nelfson
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You could always make mead and distill it. That would take care of the botulinum toxin, which is a protein. And you could double distill it if you were worried at all. .....If distilling is legal where you are.
 
Michael Cox
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Location: Kent, UK - Zone 8
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Making mead won't help with metal contamination though...
 
K Nelfson
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Right. It's a 2-step process. Make mead (don't drink) and then distill.
 
Lynn Jacobs
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Location: At home with my soulmate <3 Living in a hot dry place.
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I know that honey itself is good forever, even if it crystallizes. Whether honey in metal cans goes bad I do not know. Personally I would taste it, and if all seems well I'd use it. You could, perhaps, scoop out most of it, leaving the inside of the can coated and not eat that part if it worries you. Bulging wouldn't bother me as much as if the outside of the can is showing lots of rust. And even then I would still taste it. I have a plastic jar that still has the price label $12.50 for the gallon of honey that was in it. I'm pretty sure my mom bought it in the late '70s. It was crystallized, but still perfectly edible.
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I remember way back then grandma and grandpa going to the local Sue Bee buyer/processor, taking their OLD coffee cans along and getting them filled with honey. They canned ALL the honey in gallon cans to ship to the main packing plant to be bottled.

Gallon jars were not common or had a deposits back then. Plastic that big wasn't common at all. Bulk shipping totes and barrels were EXPENSIVE. Gallon cans were still common as all coffee came in them. And they were drop and quake proof.
 
Logan Simmering
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Edible honey has been recoverd from egyption tombs, so the odds are in your favor.
 
K Nelfson
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Maybe. Can you find a reference? I've heard that too but I don't know if it's true. If you can find a source, maybe there will be a clue about how it was stored. I'll bet a buck that it wasn't a metal can.

 
Vicky Barton
Posts: 24
Location: Chattaroy, north of Spokane, WA
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~ Thanks all for replies. You've given us lots to consider. I took pictures of the honey yesterday. I'd called them '1 gal. cans', but they're actually labeled "5 lbs" each. Six cans to a case. Sad loss if that's how it ends up.
We had no other means to store this food, except under a huge steel roof shed that my husband built out of trees he cut down. No walls. The honey along with many of our belongings needed to sit there under tarps for 6 years while we went to Oregon to care for our ailing folks. The last passed away in early 2011, so we moved back to WA and bought our own land. Two weeks ago, we hired some young guys to move a huge load of our stuff. They were careful but stacked too high, one of the honey cans obviously broke.
It took us a few days to clear a path to the cases. When I took these pictures, I noticed the obvious lack of insects. I saw ant trail, but none feeding on that oozing black liquid honey. Same with bees. None going near it. That's a sure sign the black stuff is no longer safe to eat by any means.
We have yet to pop open one of the less damaged cans.
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Cases of honey bought in 1979. We were not able to store them properly.
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Close up view of the honey and leak.
 
Lynn Jacobs
Posts: 40
Location: At home with my soulmate <3 Living in a hot dry place.
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Personally I would open each can before throwing it away, just to check it out. Of course that makes for a messier throw away than unopened cans, but you might get lucky! And it could still go into compost, couldn't it? A little at a time...
 
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