safe to use honey that's started fermenting? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm cooking steaks for tonight. I got the idea to cook them with honey, 'cause I really liked a friend's roast that was cooked that way. So I opened our honey, and it had a very strong fermented smell like beer.

I got to thinking that that could be even better for cooking meat, 'cause I've heard of people cooking meats in beer before. So I've punctured the meat with a fork, poured the honey on, added other seasonings, and started cooking it, covered with foil, on low heat in the oven. My plans are to cook it on about 200 all day, then raise the heat to 350 later this afternoon for a while to make sure it gets hot enough to kill bacteria.

But now I'm wondering --

a)Is the honey safe, since it's started fermenting in a plastic container? I've always seen alcoholic beverages in glass or aluminum, not plastic -- but while browsing some sites I see that some say it's fine to ferment foods in food-grade plastic containers.

b)Is the honey safe, since I haven't followed any technical fermentation process, it just sat there for a long time and started to ferment? It's raw unfiltered honey. I'm hoping that cooking should kill any potentially harmful stuff.

If I hear any concerns pretty soon, I think I've got time to rinse off the meat and start over. But I've gotta admit, I'm kind of intrigued to be trying out this experiment, as long as I'm not endangering my family in the process.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#2 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:26 PM
 
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Fermented honey and beer are not the same thing.

I am not a cooking or honey expert other than I love to eat it.
However, if it has fermented I would stay away until I talked to someone that harvests/makes honey and can tell me if it is ok or not. I don't know but just personally I would not use it until I knew for sure what the fermentation process would do to the honey and its reaction to other foods.

Just my 2 cents
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#3 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks! Anyone else?

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#4 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow! I just read on WikiAnswers that honey doesn't ferment -- it crystallizes, and can still be used in crystallized form, though some people don't think it tastes as good. I'm still hoping that maybe the heat would kill any harmful stuff -- but I probably better not let it go too long before changing what I'm doing if I want to actually be able to use the meat.

I'll be glad for any other advice!

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#5 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:41 PM
 
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Honey does ferment--it turns into mead.

I wouldn't use it if it smelled bad.

DD 01/2007, DS 09/2011

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#6 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:42 PM
 
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nak

not sure if this will help, but i believe that if it has fermented, it's because something else has gotten into the honey. pure honey keeps indefinitely, but even adding water to honey will eventually cause the honey to "go bad" (water and honey is how you get mead). if you knew that the contaminate was just water, you'd probably be OK, but i don't know how you'd figure that out. sorry i don't have an answer for you .
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#7 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by AlexisT View Post
Honey does ferment--it turns into mead.

I wouldn't use it if it smelled bad.
It smells like beer, and beer smells bad to me -- but for some reason it sounds good for cooking purposes. I guess I'm in a weird mood today.

Wouldn't mead smell kind of like beer -- which might smell "bad" to those of us who don't drink beer, but "good" to those who do? Too bad dh's at work today, and can't smell it for me yet, 'cause he'd be the best judge of whether it smelled like "the good stuff."

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#8 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:48 PM
 
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This got me curious so googling happened

Here is a link: http://www.draperbee.com/index.htm
Click onto the "honey info" page in the left menu column, and see point #2.

Would it be weird to give them a call? The apiaries number is on their site.

Let us know how it turns out
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#9 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:57 PM
 
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I've made a few batches of mead over the years, so I have a great love for fermented honey. However, I've always done it with packaged yeast. I don't know what to look for as to what would be a "good" wild yeast or bad. I don't think mead smells much like beer. It should smell closer to white wine. Of course, that largely depends on what kind of yeast you might have caught. If there was beer in the house, you could have beer yeast in the air and that'd be what you'd have.

I would call Drapers. They're nice folks. We were out there a few years ago.
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#10 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:58 PM
 
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I make mead maybe I can help. Some people make wild mead just leaving watered down honey open to pick up any yeasts in the air and letting it ferment. That *can* end up with very off tastes but sometimes it's great.

Typically mead isn't much like beer at least not what I've made, it's more like wine. Beer has grains and is bitter often.

Normally honey can't ferment because the water is under 20% but if it crystallizes you get pockets or higher water content and it can grow stuff.

Bringing it to 150F for like 25 minutes should kill anything in there and keep that new flavor somewhat. If you don't know what landed in there you have a bit of a crapshoot eating/drinking it without the heating first but many people do it anyway and once again, sometimes it's great.
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#11 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 01:58 PM
 
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Pure honey acts as a preservative and inhibits microscopic life. But if the honey is diluted with water it becomes a stimulating medium for airborne yeast to land in, feast upon, and reproduce. In a short time you will have mead. If you know it was just water I don't see a problem with using the honey. Mead is one of the oldest ferments, as old as 12,000 years.

Do you remember the last you used the honey? Was the spoon wet?

If you KNOW it was just water and the unintentional mead smells fine I say use it. If it smells and tastes bad pitch it in the compost.

wife to DH 2/03, mama to DS 3/03 & DD 1/09
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#12 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boadhagh View Post
nak

not sure if this will help, but i believe that if it has fermented, it's because something else has gotten into the honey. pure honey keeps indefinitely, but even adding water to honey will eventually cause the honey to "go bad" (water and honey is how you get mead). if you knew that the contaminate was just water, you'd probably be OK, but i don't know how you'd figure that out. sorry i don't have an answer for you .
I can't remember for sure -- but it's possible that at some point I added warm water (cold water that I heated, not warm straight from the tap -- I know that can have increased contaminants) to the honey to make it pour better. But actually, I'm more inclined to soak the container in warm water to accomplish that, so I don't think I did.

It's one of those big jug-type containers that you don't really dip your spoon into -- we pour it into one of the smaller bear-shaped containers. But I'm honestly not sure how long we've had it. Could've been more than a year. We haven't been very big honey-eaters for a while.

But then, maybe it's not actually fermented -- maybe crystallized honey can have that same smell?

I'll have to check into it some more, and of course anyone's input is very welcome. I'm thinking I could cook it like this -- then serve dh and the girls something else for dinner, and just eat some of this myself and wait a day or so to see if it has any ill effects.

I have a very strong constitution: I think it's because my mom grew up in the depression so she never wastes anything. She's the mom who sends you home with the cake that's sat on her kitchen counter for a month ... she just can't finish it, but hates to see "good food" go to waste, so we say "Thanks!" and then empty it into a trash-can when we stop for gas .

But of course, as a kid I didn't know better and just gobbled whatever was in front of me. I just know that everyone around me can be laid up with food poisoning -- but I can eat the same dish and be fine.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#13 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:03 PM
 
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Well, raw honey does have a little bit of a funky smell to it.
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#14 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by JamieCatheryn View Post
Bringing it to 150F for like 25 minutes should kill anything in there and keep that new flavor somewhat. If you don't know what landed in there you have a bit of a crapshoot eating/drinking it without the heating first but many people do it anyway and once again, sometimes it's great.
This reassures me. I sure wouldn't want to eat it raw -- but somehow I just have this feeling that it will make the meat taste awesome! I guess we'll see.

Thanks to everyone for all the great responses! And thanks to mynetname for the link!

Since I'm cooking at around 200F for a good part of the day, it sounds like any harmful stuff will be killed.

And also, after googling about meat-cooking, I'm thinking maybe I don't even have to increase the temperature 350F at the end; it sounds like, from what I'm reading, 200 is plenty to kill most stuff ... one chart I saw showed 260F as the highest temperature necessary for killing stuff, so maybe I'll just turn it up to that for the last hour or so to be on the safe side. I'm hoping the meat will be more tender if I just low-cook it all the way.

I don't know if anyone wants to give input on this -- or if it's a subject for another thread? I'll be glad to hear more responses!

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#15 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, raw honey does have a little bit of a funky smell to it.
Well, but this is waaaay stronger than the smell of the honey when we bought it!

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#16 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:16 PM
 
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I think that should be plenty safe enough.

If you do decide to get rid of the rest of it, I'd freecycle/craigslist it to a local brewer. seems a shame to toss out what might turn into a really nice mead.
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#17 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:21 PM
 
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You can buy fermented honey from Really Raw Honey http://www.reallyrawhoney.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc

I have had some of there regular honey ferment and I have eaten it and lived. It is pretty much the same, just bubbly. It is stored in glass though so that doesn't address the plastic issue.
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#18 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:24 PM
 
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My DH is a homebrewer and has made both mead and beer. Mead smells fruity and sweet (like wine) to me, not like beer. The key thing needed for fermentation is some sort of yeast. It could be wild yeast from whereever the honey came from or your kitchen could be colonized by yeast. (This is especially likely if you make your own bread.) My DH usually pasturiezes whatever he is brewing so that he can add his chosen yeast from the brewing store. Yeast mutates quickly so some wild strain can lead to an off tasting product.

Your cooking method looks like it will kill off any yeast and also any botulism that might be in the honey. The thing that would worry me is that if it was warm enough and juicy enough to get the yeast going then something else might have started growning too. There are heat stable toxins that cause food poisoning. So, the fermentation itself isn't the issue. It is just a sign that your honey is a hospitable place to live.
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#19 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:44 PM
 
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I wonder if some water might have splashed into the container if you stuck it in warm water to heat it up. Or maybe you opened it up in a humid kitchen, then closed the container, and then the water droplets condensed inside the honey jar after it was sealed up again (and the kitchen cooled off.)

Honestly, that sounds a lot more likely than some other mystery liquid getting into your honey jar.

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#20 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 02:50 PM
 
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Slightly OT, but I'm glad I found this thread. I've never heard of mead before, but it looks easy enough to make. Yummy!
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#21 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 04:19 PM
 
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HOney can contain botulism. That isn't a buggie I'd mess with with regard to my family. Food posioning is NEVER a good time.

It's lonely being the only XX in a house of XYs.
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#22 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 04:42 PM
 
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HOney can contain botulism. That isn't a buggie I'd mess with with regard to my family. Food posioning is NEVER a good time.
Yea, really. It's not worth gambling your family's health. I would toss the meat (and the honey) and make something else for dinner.
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#23 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 06:35 PM
 
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I would totally eat it. Isn't the rule if you can't put the fork in your mouth don't eat it or something? If it didn't smell nasty I would go for it- in fact I have some steaks out- I might try it!

Iowaorganic- mama to DD (1/5/06), DS1 (4/9/07), DS2 (1/22/09), DS3 (12/10/10), DD2 (7/6/12) and a new kid due in early 2014

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#24 of 42 Old 04-28-2008, 08:28 PM
 
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Botulism is sorta a big deal.
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http://www.mothering.com/discussions.../t-695777.html

This link is an archived thread but it addresses the botulism spores a little further down the page

I say eat it, you'll be fine

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#26 of 42 Old 04-29-2008, 11:30 AM
 
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Another beekeeper here. If the honey still tastes fine, you can eat it. There is a tiny chance botulism is in honey, but that was in there from the beginning, not because of the fermenting. Also botulism spores are killed by your intestines if you are > 1 year old. That's why infants should not eat honey, their intestines might not kill botulism. B.T.W. maple syrup can also contain botulism.
Also anywhere where there is sugar and water there will be fermenting. About the yeast form the air, there are also beers that are brewed with yeast from the air, Kriek Lambic, very tasty Belgium beers!
Raw honey just means that it has not been heated. The heating is not done to kill botulism (it is not heated enough, botulism requires very high temperatures to be killed) but to change the honey such that it does not chrystalise anymore. Unfortunately heating also kills all the enzymes and most of the antibacterial properties in there. So I would say raw honey is safer than heated honey, it keeps longer.

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#27 of 42 Old 04-29-2008, 11:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
I wonder if some water might have splashed into the container if you stuck it in warm water to heat it up. Or maybe you opened it up in a humid kitchen, then closed the container, and then the water droplets condensed inside the honey jar after it was sealed up again (and the kitchen cooled off.)

Honestly, that sounds a lot more likely than some other mystery liquid getting into your honey jar.
Yes, we do periodically make our own bread, so that sounds likely.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#28 of 42 Old 04-29-2008, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, we did all eat some of the meat: My dd's and I are feeling great this morning. Dh is upset to his stomach, but it's hard to tell why, because he often does get upset stomach (he has gastric reflux), even after eating familiar foods that never gave him that reaction before. When he woke this morning, we thought it was all the fresh garlic I put in the salad that was coming back to haunt him. That's what he was tasting in his mouth, coming back up.

But he just called on his break, and now he's tasting the meat, too. I hadn't thought about the fact that it probably wasn't great for a type II diabetic to eat all that honey. But since my daughters and I ate a fair amount of the meat (though my 8yo didn't like it 'til I squeezed the juice out of it, as she thought it was too sweet), I think that if there were really something harmful in it, then we (or at least my dd's) would have upset stomachs, too.

So I'm praying that dh will start feeling better soon.

That said, the steak was the tenderest steak I've ever managed to make -- but that was probably due to the low cooking temperatures and not the fermented honey. I'm glad I've learned that it really is safe to cook at such low temperatures -- About 200F for most of the day. But next time, I'll warm it up to 350F for maybe the last few minutes. Just because I do like my meat hotter.

Dh has always been a fan of slow-cooking meats himself. Before we were married, he used to cook his Thanksgiving turkey overnight at about 200F -- but my relatives freaked out about that. He also likes the stuffing cooked in the bird -- another big no-no according to my relatives.

But now that we're staying home for holidays, we'll be doing it our way.

About the botulism: That was never a concern for me, because I checked into it back when my oldest was a baby. As Carma mentioned, it's a risk for babies under 1 -- and my youngest is 3, well past the danger-point.

I did like the sweet taste of the steaks -- but won't be doing them this way again, as it's not a good idea with dh's diabetes. But I will definitely continue the slow cooking!

Thanks for all this great input! We think we will be throwing out the rest of the honey, since it wasn't fermented under sterile conditions and I can't imagine anyone wanting to buy it online or anything (though that would've been cool if we could sell it). And dh and I would both have a ball making mead, if it weren't for his diabetes and liver problems.

Susan -- married unschoolin' WAHMomma to two lovely girls (born 2000 and 2005).
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#29 of 42 Old 04-29-2008, 02:35 PM
 
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Botulism is only a cause for concern for babies under one? Huh?!?
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#30 of 42 Old 04-29-2008, 02:40 PM
 
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Botulism is only a cause for concern for babies under one? Huh?!?
Botulism from honey is only a concern for infants because it can contain the spores that can cause botulism in infants not in adults.

The toxin itselfe can also affect adults http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Botulism

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