Saturday, March 5, 2011

Medium Mead

For those unfamiliar with mead, it is a honey wine that likely predates all other fermented drinks. It is such an ancient and widely made drink that it's origins are hard to pin down, but in the west it is most popularly associated with medieval life. I love the idea of mead as an aspect of medieval Europe-- the mead hall where men would gather to boast... but this isn't a lesson on Beowulf, so here's my basic mead recipe, which I've had very good results with:

3 lbs honey
6 oranges squeezed
water to one gallon
1 tsp yeast nutrients
1 campden tablet
1 packet wine yeast

Combine honey, orange juice, water, and campden tablet in sanitized primary fermentor. This is necessary to kill the dormant, wild yeasts living in the honey. Let sit overnight. Add in yeast nutrients and yeast (Lalvin K1-V1116 makes a fantastic mead). Allow fermentation 14 to 18 days. Rack. Rack every three months until very clear. Fine sediment will likely appear on the bottom of the bottle, this is the nature of the honey.

Hint: One way to get beautifully clear mead and to avoid sediment in your bottles is to bring the honey and water to a boil before beginning. Once boiling reduce to simmer. During boiling and simmering a foam will come to the top of the liquid. Skim this off. If you do this for an hour, your mead will clear very well, and you'll see no sediment at the bottom of your bottles over time. This is also very effective at killing the natural yeasts so that no campden tablet is required. It is my preferred method.

Hint two: The better the honey, the better the mead. The local guy that makes honey likely cares about his product a lot more than the supermarket chain, and chances are his price is either lower or competitive.

Hint number three: Mead can be slightly astringent, almost herbal, but not at all unpleasant. This can also be complimented by paying close attention to the type of honey you're using. If you're using raspberry blossom honey, you might try throwing in a handful of raspberries into the fermentor. Wildflower honey might take on a summery twist by chopping a peach into the fermentor.

Related Recipes: meddyglyn, light mead, sweet mead, apple cider, pear cider

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