Humans have had an absolute love of honey for a very, very long time. It is an incredible thought that if it were possible, we could actually eat some honey that was made when our first love of honey began (honey can last forever). I can only imagine that our love of honey will never fade as our basic love of salty and sweet (honey fitting into the latter) will probably never fade. But, there are other reasons that we can love honey. For some time honey has been used in healing of various maladies such as colds, allergies, and cuts. Honey has also been used to make alcoholic drinks with the basic being a form of wine called mead. It is this turning of honey into a wine that I would like to discuss a little as I have just entered into its making.

After having read a little on the subject of wines, wild wines, and mead I must say that I am not actually making a true mead-yet. But I do plan on doing this in the future. What I did start out with was a melomel which uses honey and fruits or berries to give it flavor.

So there are only a few necessary things to make a basic mead. Some people start extremely simple and just add water to honey. The idea is that there already naturally occurring yeasts in the air and therefore the honey that given the right conditions will start to ferment. The right conditions are enough moisture (water) to make the honey have a lower sugar content. Some honey will actually start to ferment on its own given enough time. In most cases this is because the honey was either not capped and has absorbed water, or the bees capped the honey when it was extremely humid such as during and after heavy rains. In most cases the bees ‘know’ when the moisture is too high to cap it, but it seems that busy as a bee means that the bees have a need to be doing something. So not using the extreme el natural approach of either just honey or honey and water here are the basic needs:

honeywateryeast

Honey

Water

&

Yeast

 

So that’s it, and you can see why people have been making it for so long.

There are of course some other things you can use to add a little spice to it (in some cases you can literally add spices). In my case since I love to garden and grow too much to eat at one time I have added frozen berries, melons, and fruits. Like some of the books that I have read say the only thing that can stop what you can add to your mead is your imagination. Sign me up! But I think I will avoid the garlic, potato, basil, or parsley versions for now.

One of the recipes that I used and changed a little due to what I had on hand was this:

  • 26 oz frozen strawberries
  • 32 oz frozen blueberries
  • 3 oz frozen grapes (for a small amount of tannin)
  • 3 small apples cored
  • 1 gallon of honey
  • 5 t pectic enzyme (to make the mead less cloudy)
  • 5 t yeast nutrient (to help the yeast get started)
  • 1.5 cups orange juice (to also help the yeast get started)
  • 1 packet of yeast
  • water to make 5 gallons

The basic steps are pretty simple with the most important being to have sterile things at every step of the way. It seems that the smallest amount of bacteria or ‘bad yeast’ in the batch can ruin the whole thing. Which would really be a shame considering it takes 1-2 years from what I have read to get a good finished mead. Here are the basic steps and if you are going to do it for yourself you should read up on the more in detail process as this is just the high level view

  • Clean all equipment with sanitizing solution (iodine, chlorine, or other)
  • Add honey and some water and heat to get rid of wax and other things that will make the mead cloudy
  • crush fruits and add to primary bucket (a bucket with an airlock on it)
  • add heated honey and water to primary bucket and add water to make 5 gallons
  • let mixture cool to room temperature or slightly above
  • add OJ, yeast nutrient, warm water, and yeast to small covered container to make sure yeast is active by seeing bubbling
  • add yeast solution to primary bucket and stir to mix
  • let sit for 7-14 days and stir 1-2 times per day (this is the primary fermentation)
  • siphon liquid to glass container and add airlock to keep air out
  • siphon to new glass containers once every 3 months or so to clear mead
  • bottle when all fermentation is done (1 year or so)

The basic equipment is pretty simple too.

Basic mead equipment

Basic mead equipment

The large glass container is used for the secondary fermentation and is where the mead is for most of the process. The plastic bucket is 6 or so gallons and has a lid with a small opening to stick the airlock into to keep air out used the first 7-14 days called primary fermentation. The liquid between the two is a cleaning solution with iodine in it to sanitize all equipment before use. The small rubber stopper has the airlock attached to use on the primary or secondary fermentation vessel to keep the air out. The 2 pieces of plastic tubing are used to siphon the liquid from one container to the next while keeping the solid materials behind to help clear the liquid.

The secondary fermentation should look like this. At first I did not have enough mead to fill the containers. So I had to combine some of my mead to fill to the top so there was not much airspace. The blueberry and strawberry have darkened the mead extremely as with just honey and water it is a golden color usually.

1 gallon and 5 gallons of mead

1 gallon and 5 gallons of mead

The last step which I am not to yet is to bottle the mead into wine bottles. I am not to this step yet, but the idea is the same which is to get the liquid from the big glass container into the smaller bottles by siphoning and then capping the bottles to keep the air out.

UPDATE!!! Well, it’s been over 2 years since this mead was brought to life and the quick mead batches that I made turned out great! The other mead with fruit was tested again Feb. 2016 and still has some time to go. I have read that mead is considered young at 2 yrs and may take up to 5 years to allow its taste to mature. Well, it still tastes like cough syrup now so I will try again next year!