Mead is a basic, Viking alcoholic drink. It is basically just fermented honey and water. Can't get easier than that! It's considered a "country wine", and thus, pretty hard to get a hold of. Can you believe that it's easier to get true absinthe here in Canada than mead?
My first taste of mead was at a RenFaire with my ex-girlfriend. It was delicious! It was flavoured with dark Bing cherries and basically didn't taste anything like honey. Complex as heck. I was love at first sip, but I couldn't find any retail meads for sale...which lead to me investigate home made wine...which lead to mead!
This is an effort to combat it, using ingredients that can be sourced from your local
supermarket! The only thing that is different in all meads is the ingredients and how to treat them!Styles of Mead:
Mead 1: Burnt Mead
Mead 2: Grocery Store Mead
Mead 3: Maple Syrup as MeadTangent 1)
Honey is a great product, but is pretty much antiseptic in huge qualities. (Dilute it with water to make mead!) The stuff you can get in the local megamart is pretty tasteless, and blended for mass consumption. Try not to get Billybee or anything else that is processed. (You can see I failed, but I don't have a car or access to one!) You can also try different gourmet honeys - I was tempted to break out my blueberry honey, but it's pretty expensive for a mead.
Empty BillyBee bottle:
Wine yeast creates a higher alcohol content, as it survives longer in an
alcoholic environment. It is also easier to clean up after, as it makes a more solid
sediment. Wine yeast can be found online or in your local homebrew (brew it yourself) shops. They even have some yeasts that are bred for meads! Yeast are rated at different percentages - this means they can work in different alcoholic environments without dying! (Mine is a bulk yeast - it is good 'til 18% alcohol by volume.)
Sanitize everything. Making alcohol at home is pretty easy, but
remember...there is bacteria on everything - you don't want your yeast to be overwhelmed by bad bacteria - it just doesn't taste as good! I like using vinegar, and rinsing like a madwoman, because it won't poison you if you ingest it!Basic Ingredients:
- honey/maple syrup (1 kilogram, 2.2 pounds makes a very sweet mead)
- baker's yeast
- wine yeast
- 2 liter soda bottle (empty!)
- cotton wool
- white vinegarFancy Ingredients:
- fruit (anything is good, I like frozen items, because you kill bacteria!)
- sieveBasic Procedure 1
--> Yeast Starter!
Brew a mug of tea a couple of days before your other procedures. Add sugar or a little bit of honey while it's warm. Stir well. Let cool to room temperature and stir in a half-tablespoon of yeast. Cover top with cheesecloth or a paper towel and elastic. Let sit for a couple of days...until it is frothy!Basic Procedure 2
--> Homemade Yeast Nutrient
Take a cup of water and boil it. Add a tablespoon of baker's yeast to the boiling water. Hold it there for at least ten minutes to kill off the yeast. Let cool, and set aside.Basic Procedure 3
--> Microwave Yeast Nutrient Method
Take a big microwave safe pot, add the tablespoon of baker's yeast, some fruit if you want, and enough water to cover all of it. Make sure you have enough space for the stuff to foam up - it will want to do so. Microwave for at least ten minutes to kill off the yeasties. Let cool, and set aside
* Notes: This creates a cooked fruit taste in the final product, but you can counter this stuff with raw fruit in the aging process.
* Notes: You might need to use a chopstick or another poking device to ensure that you get your fruit into the bottle!
* Burnt Mead:
Take your biggest pot, and cook the honey until it resembles dark maple syrup. It will want to froth over, but keep stirring and make sure that the honey doesn't overflow! Add a cup of boiling water, and dissolve any lumpy things. (There will be thermal drama, so watch out!) Cool mixture to room temperature and continue with the rest of your stuff!Make the Must/Young wine!
Clean everything throughly. Grab your honey bottle, and sit it in warm water. Toss the funnel into the 2 liter bottle, and decant your honey into it. Fill to where the label used to end with cold water. Shake to combine. Dump your homemade yeast nutrient into the bottle. Add fruit puree of choice, if using. Follow it up with the yeast starter, using the sieve to stop the tea leaves from getting in. Add your raisins. Shake gently to combine.Fermenting!
Plug top with cotton wool, and let sit for 1 - 5 weeks in a cool, dark place. Your wine should show signs of fermentation - fizzing and creating a head of foam. (Fruit meads create more foam...traditional meads do not.) If not, add more dry yeast, and hope that it restarts!
Left to Right (Blueberry maple mead, burnt mead, blueberry mead.)...oldest to youngest. (The burnt mead is still fermenting strongly - I'd give it one more week in the bottle. The blueberry mead is just starting fermentation, and is working slowly...)Aging!
After fermentation finishes, make sure that you decant the mead off of the sediment. (It can leave a bitter/bready taste in the wine.) Wash out the empty bottle, and put your mead back in. (Freeze overnight to kill the yeast!)
You can add a second dosage of your fruit puree of choice. You are now ready to age your young mead! Cap it off (make sure you have frozen your mead and thawed the bottle!), and let it rest for a couple more months. It is ready to drink once it completely clears!
Fining is a process where you add an additive in order to take out all the sediment in your wine. Last time I made wine with fruit punch, I ended up with a ton of sediment that refused to come out of solution.
Gelatin or egg white can be used to bring your dead yeast out of solution and to hasten the process.Gelatin
- use a half packet of gelatin. Dissolve in cold water for an hour. Simmer the stuff until it completely dissolves. Add to your bottle of mead when cool. Shake gently.
- use an egg white, beaten. If you worry about the safety of your eggs, get pasteurized eggs. Add to your bottle of mead and shake gently.
In a couple of days, you should see some particles at the bottom of your wine. You must take these away, as they can affect the flavour of your wine.
Cheaper/Easier Alternative: Cold-Crashing
(Make sure your mead is at the alcoholic point that you want...as you'd be removing a ton of yeast from your mixture!) Cold crashing slows active yeast down to a crawl. Stick your bottle in your fridge after freezing and thawing it. You'd notice your mead getting lighter in colour and more sediment at the bottom of your mead. Decant your mead off of it when there is a huge amount.
Let your mead age 3 months to 3 years. When you judge the mead to be ready, decant it off of any potential sediment, and clean out the bottle once again. If it is too dry, you can add some more honey or maple syrup to balance it out again. You can bottle in old wine bottles or put it back into your 2 liter bottle. Cap tightly.
Drink and be filled!
(Mead is good ice cold or warm. I've put half a shot of maple mead in my morning oatmeal in lieu of flavouring it - and it can also be used to marinate meat!)Burnt Mead:
Tastes of vanilla, dark caramel. A friend of mine tasted this one, and said...marshmallow. (Very weird!) Not readily identified as honey. Very much of a kick! Probably a heavier, richer mead. (Was made with store brand honey.)Blueberrry Mead:
Cooked blueberry notes. Lighter in taste. (Made with billybee honey, frozen blueberries.) Also, kicks like a mule.Blueberry Maple Syrup Mead:
Simplest mead, but very rich. Still tastes of real maple syrup, very woodsy, very complex. Blueberries are hinted at. (Made with dark maple syrup, frozen blueberries.) Very strong, but sweet....will sneak up on you! Blueberries were chucked in during the aging process.Not Sure You Like Mead? Try Faux Mead
- Aging Time: 2 weeks
- Ingredients: 1 pound of honey, 1 (750 mL) bottle of cheap dry white wine, 1 clove, 1 pinch of nutmeg, 1 pinch of cinnimin.
- Simmer all ingredients on low. Skim the scum off the top, and simmer it until it reduces back down to one quart. Put it back in the bottle, and re-cork it. Leave it to age for two weeks!