Does honey ever go off?

Now We Know: The antiseptic qualities mean bacteria doesn’t grow – but it can ferment

Mead is made from water, citric acids, yeast and, of course, honey.

Mead is made from water, citric acids, yeast and, of course, honey.

 

Is there a forgotten pot of honey hiding in the back of your store cupboard? Well, have no fear because, as you may already know, honey never goes off, even if it has crystallised. But why exactly is that? Why does honey never go off?

Aoife Ni GiollaCoda is a member of a bee-keeping dynasty at The Galtee Honey Farm (galteehoney.com) located in the beautiful environs of The Galtee Vee Valley in The Munster Vales. They care for about 150 hives located across Co Tipperary, Co Cork and Co Limerick. She learned the vocation from her father, Micheál MacGiollaCoda, who learned from his father before him, and so on. Over the August bank holiday weekend, their family undertook one of their annual traditions; a honey-harvesting meitheal where members of the extended family come to their family honey farm to lend a hand to the work of removing surplus honey from their hives and returning them to the main honey house on the family’s honey farm.

“Honey never goes off because of its antiseptic qualities,” says Ni GiollaCoda. “It’s a natural anti-septic and bacteria can’t grow or multiply. It can ferment, however, if it’s exposed to air. That’s why it’s so easy to make alcohol, like mead, out of honey.” Mead is a typically Celtic drink, and would also have been found in northern Europe where grape growing for wine wasn’t really an option. It’s made from water, citric acids, yeast and, of course, honey, says Ni GiollaCoda, and you can create a sweet mead, medium mead and dry mead, depending on your taste.

They’ve won awards at the annual honey shows for their mead and, though it’s just a hobby for the family at the moment, they would love to expand it at some stage down the line on a small, artisanal scale. “Mead wasn’t really a drink for the ordinary people,” explains Ni GiollaCoda. “It was a drink for the wealthier people.” Maybe it’s time to bring mead to the people. In the meantime, keep an eye out for pots of the award-winning Galtee Honey Farm’s honey.

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