Is there anything more versatile than honey? It adds a unique sweetness. It stores forever. It has precious calories. It even has medical uses. Honey is the ultimate food for self-reliance folks.
Everyone with a passing interest in personal health or responsibility owes it to themselves to learn and practice the use of honey. Whether it is cooking with it or healing with it, using honey is a valuable skill.
While honey in its native state has a virtually unlimited shelf life, it is not without challenges. Eventually, a seal will fail, and it will turn to stone. The difficulty associated with getting the honey out of the jar leads most of us to just toss it.
Variety continues to be the spice of life, and dehydrating may be just the spice that is needed for the life of honey.
Why Dehydrate Honey?
OK, it lasts forever. Why dehydrate it?…
First, it only lasts in its liquid form when well-sealed. Left to its own devices and exposure to the elements it’ll crystallize. While that’s what we will be looking for in a little bit, it’s not what we want in a container.
Crystallized honey in a glass or plastic jar is infuriating. You have to re-heat it to get it out. Plastic bottles never seem to withstand the process. Warped and bulged they never sit in the cupboard the right way again. Once it has been re-liquified it just seems to solidify again.
Dehydrated honey crystals keep forever. Seal them up or add a food-grade desiccant packet, and you are good to go. Properly stored they stay the consistency of sugar and don’t solidify.
Finally, dehydrated honey is versatile. The honey powder mixes better than sugar, and even dissolves easier than liquid honey. In powder form, it distributes through baked goods easier with dry ingredients.
You can use your honey to add sweetness to baked goods without the additional liquid. This is especially useful with most pastries where the ratio of dry goods to liquid is a fine balance.
Sourcing Your Honey
Honey is honey is honey. Right? Nope. First and foremost there is storebought and locally sourced. You roll the dice with storebought.
Honey in the bear-shaped plastic container (it’s ok I have some in my cupboard too) can be pasteurized or can be only “partly” honey. Additives like corn syrup can affect your final product. Stick with local!
Honey straight from the hive can even vary widely. The flowers foraged by the bees can impact the honey as can the season. Some flowers such as heather and palm are said to contribute to thicker honey. Traditionally, the flower-rich spring makes for thinner honey while the cold of autumn makes for thicker honey.
Keep this in mind as you want both the best quality honey and honey that fit’s your need when making dehydrated honey.
Steps to Dehydrating Honey with a Dehydrator
Dehydrating honey is easy and done with minimal equipment and a little time. Left to its own devices it will crystallize on its own, but we want to seep that up a little bit.
- Raw honey
- Parchment paper or silicone sheet (a silicon sheet is highly recommended)
- Cookie sheet or dehydrator tray
1) Place the parchment silicone sheet on the cookie sheet or dehydrator tray.
2) Pour the honey on the sheets.
3) Spread the honey to a thickness of no more than 1/8th inch with the spatula.
4) Set your oven or dehydrator to 120 degrees Fahrenheit / 48 Celsius.
5) Dehydrate your honey until crisp. This may take over 24 hours or 48. Don’t be afraid to let it go in the dehydrator, just keep an eye on it for burning.
6) Once crisp, cool to room temperature in a dry location. At this stage, the honey will readily absorb water from the air even as little as 30 minutes will cause the honey to begin to stick together.
7) Crush (mortar and pestle) or grind (food processor):
8) Transfer the dehydrated honey to a jar
9) Add a descant pouch and seal the jar
If using an oven, monitor the temperature over the drying time. Temperatures much above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (48 Celsius) will cause the honey to burn and impart off-flavors.
After you have gotten the process down, experiment with different kinds of honey and different additives. Cinnamon is a favorite and combines nicely with honey! Try other “warm” spices like ginger and cloves!
Steps to Dehydrating Honey without a Dehydrator
Don’t have a dehydrator? Don’t fret, there is another way. While not actually dehydrating honey, you can go the candy route. Since honey is mostly sugar, you can use a candy-making technique to speed things up.
In this method, we are taking the honey to the “hard crack” stage. Heating the honey to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (148 Celsius) will alter the chemistry just enough that it will be hard when it cools. From this we just grind, and we are good to go.
- Raw honey
- Silicone sheet (parchment won’t cut it for this method)
- Pot large enough to allow the honey to quadruple in size
- Candy thermometer
- Cookie sheet
- Silicone spatula
1) Heat the honey in a pot, stir continuously to make sure to keep the bottom from burning:
2) Heat the honey to 300 degrees F / 148 C. Once it reaches that temperature, you can go ahead and remove it from the stovetop.
3) Pour the heated honey onto the silicone sheets. The progression is honey, soft ball, hard ball, hard crack, so be sure to pour it quickly after being removed from the stovetop, before it starts to harden.
4) Allow the honey to cool.
5) Crush (mortar and pestle) or grind (food processor):
6) Transfer the dehydrated honey to a jar.
7) Add a descant pouch and seal the jar.
Honey burns easily! Keep an eye on it. Have your sheets ready before your start heating the honey. Once it starts heating up, everything goes quickly.
How to Store Dehydrated Honey
I prefer to add a little caution to most of my food preservation. I treat dehydrated honey in the same manner as all my dehydrated goods – with dry canning. After I clean the storage jar, I pop it in the oven at the lowest setting for 10-20 minutes along with the rings and lids.
I transfer the honey into the jar, and let it sit still at the lowest temp for 10-15 minutes. I then pop in a desiccant pouch and seal up the jar. I turn the oven off and leave the door closed until cool.
Keep in mind desiccants only protect against residual moisture; they don’t remove any oxygen. You don’t want to use oxygen absorbers, though, as it could cause your honey to clump. A desiccant pack should suffice.
The initial time dries out the jar. The next stage drives out any residual moisture. The desiccant pouch ensures that even with a seal failure, the honey stays dry.
The final slow cooldown ensures a quality seal forms. This keeps the contents fresh for an extended stay in the pantry.
When you open a jar to use it, make sure to close it up as soon as possible. You’ve worked hard to powder your honey; don’t let a little moisture turn it into a solid block.
If you happen to encounter a seized block of honey power, don’t fret, you have a few options. First, you can take the chunk to a mortar and pestle. Gently break it up and back into a fine powder.
The second option is to leave it and use a micro-plane rasp. Take the chunk to the rasp and rasp off as much as you need for your current recipe.
Keep in mind that, although honey doesn’t spoil, time does affect honey, such as diastase, an enzyme found in this substance which decreases with time, and HMF (Hydroxymethylfurfural), an organic compound which increases with time.
Uses of Dehydrated Honey
Ok, so now you have a nice pile of this wonderful golden powder what to do?
First, keep the dehydrator running and dust fruit (especially bananas) with a very small amount. The honey adds a great sweetness to the bananas.
Next, experiment with it as a sweetener. Add a spoonful to drinks coffee, tea, spiced tea (I love Chai Tea), or smoothies. Unlike liquid honey, your dehydrated honey will dissolve quickly in any cold liquid. Start with a small amount and ramp up until you have the perfect honey accent.
Baking is an interesting use of honey powder. It adds sweetness, but unlike brown sugar, it won’t add a tenderness or chewiness to the baked good. A quick internet search yielded recipes for biscuits, cookies, cakes.
Switching to savory, the biggest advantage of dehydrated is that it creates an instant glaze. Sprinkled on roasted or barbecued chicken or pork. There is nothing like a hint of sweetness before the savory hits.
Coarsely ground or shattered into larger splinters, unleash your inner food stylist and dress up a cookie or cupcake.
Check out a few honey powder recipes here.
Reconstituting Dehydrated Honey
Let’s bring the world of dehydrated honey full circle. One last use is to make it viscous again.
Use about 4 parts dehydrated honey to 1 part of cold water. Mix the two slowly and then apply gentle heat. Do not boil, just warm until all the honey sugar dissolves. It will thicken as it cools.
The reconstituted honey can then be used as honey in the normal fashion in all your favorite recipes.
Long Term Storage of Honey
Honey stores for a long time… A really, really long time. Traces of honey were found in pots in Tbilisi, Georgia (not that Georgia, the one west of Turkey) dated at 5,000 years old. While it was only trace evidence it was on jars that appeared designed for the task.
Fast-forwarding a few thousand years. The most famous Egyptian discovery, King Tuts tomb, even had edible honeycombs within its crypt.
Honey has two factors working in its favor. First, low moisture. Deny microbes oxygen or water and they don’t live long.
The sugars in honey are hydrophilic and pull moisture out of the environment, whether it be a wound or an open container. The water binds with the sugars removing it from the environment and slowing the growth of pathogens.
Second, honey is acidic. As discussed in the medical section most molds, bacteria, and viruses prefer to grow in a neutral environment. The acidic nature aides in keeping microbe growth to a minimum.
Sealed up and away from sources of moisture, honey has an unlimited shelf life. Buy all you can. Keep it out of the light and in cool temperatures and check it periodically for intact seals.
As long as the seal is good the honey is good. If you happen to come across a jar with a failed lid, open it up and have a mug of tea!
If a jar starts to show signs of crystallizing it’s a good time to crack it open and dehydrate it.
Problems and Solutions When Dehydrating Honey
Failure to Dehydrate
The first batch I spread on a dehydrator tray refused to crystalize. The recipes I researched recommended 12-24 hours of dry time. After a week, the dehydrator was still running.
I had two issues. First, I spread the honey too thick. The outside sealed up and became a barrier to evaporation. I took half the honey and spread it on a new frame. Within a few hours, I finally had crisp and brittle honey.
The second issue was that I was using store-bought “honey”. A quick look at the ingredients showed a few additives. After switching to local raw honey I had much better luck.
Seasonality of Honey
The next batch had me encounter fresh spring, honey. Out of the jar, it was almost runny. It wasn’t nearly as thick as the honey I purchased over the winter. In general, spring honey is made from an abundance of nectar.
The result is a more fluid product with a slightly lower sugar content. Fall honey tends to be thicker, in part due to the scarcity of nectar. The fall honey dehydrated much quicker.
After the delays in the dehydration method, I tried the candy-making approach. With yet another pint of honey in hand, I went to the stove.
As with most things in my life, I got distracted. I took the honey to 310 degrees F instead of 300 F (154 C instead of 149 C). The result was not pleasant. Burnt sugar is not tasty. Burnt honey is worse.
Keep an eye on the thermometer. Don’t rush it, and pull it on time.
Honey is one of nature’s gifts. Recorded history shows our bond with honey goes back 8,000 years. For those willing to get stung a few times it was worth the reward. I’d even bet our relationship goes quite a bit longer.
We as the human race, separate ourselves from antiquity in the name of advancement. Ironically, we find ourselves looking to the past for answers. Honey is one gift from the past that keeps popping up.
The historical record demonstrated its use for food, medicine, and wellness tonics. Ironically, we now use it as food, balms, tonics.
Prepping and survival are all about taking command of your destiny. This comes in many forms and your skillset should grow every day. One such easy and valuable skill to add is dehydrating honey.
In its solid form, you extend both its longevity and utility. Properly packaged dehydrated honey will outlast you and your generations. As a powder, you will find new uses with each dish you prepare!
Give dehydrating honey a try and add one more self-sufficiency tool to your survival toolkit.
updated 10/01/2020 by M. I. Grey