Yesterday, I gathered up our collection of empty wine bottles and began prepping them so that I could bottle up our mulberry mead that as been aging for the last few months. It's late winter, yet I am still able to enjoy the bounty from last summer. Our stash of mead is stacking up, which is always a good thing. I've currently have 3 meads in the works and once bottled, will give me up around 50 + bottles in the root cellar. Not too shabby for a novice like myself. Below is my experience of mead making after a big strawberry harvest here in Maine last summer.
Eat the Seasons
What I love about eating seasonally is that you can truly enjoy food at is peak freshness. For the next few weeks strawberries will begoing off and at their maximum flavor! What we can’t consume fresh will be turned into preserves or frozen for future use. But thats it, strawberries will come and go, but blueberries and raspberries are right around the corner. Eating with the seasons allows you to look forward to certain fruits and vegetables, which in turn, makes eating so much fun!
Preserving without Canning
30 pounds of fresh fruit is a lot to consume at once, so preserving methods are essential to enjoy the summer bounty in the fall, winter, and even the following year. One method of preserving is thru fermentation. A few friends here in Maine all started making mead around the same time, so it has turned into a bit of a club/hobby for us. For the New Year we break out our select meads and have a playful competition amongst ourselves.
By “brewing” mead, you not only preserve certain nutrients found in the select ingredients, but you also enhance them, make them more bioavailable, and give them a healing property when consumed. So, when I consume my strawberry mead in the winter, I am offering my body an antioxidant rich beverage high in vitamin C that is not usually present in the local food chain here in the winter.
Local Fruit Mead
**Please take note that I generally make mead without an exact recipe. Every fruit will yield a different amount of sugar and depending on the the end result you desire, you can add more or less honey. I prefer a drier mead, so I use less honey. In this recipe, you can add up to 1 gallon of local honey.
My first batch of mead was started with the help of my friend Jim who has a lot of great resources over at Bardic Brews. He also has an easy to follow ebook which shows the process in a lot more detail then my recipe, which you can find HERE.
Alright, so here’s the recipe, enjoy!
- Large non reactive stockpot
- 3 gallon glass carboy
- 1 airlock w/ rubber stopepr
- Stainless steel funnel
- 2 gallons spring water
- 3/4 gallon (roughly 9 lbs honey) *Using local honey is ideal
- 2 quarts fresh berries (mulberries, strawberries, blueberries, etc.)
- 1 packet Red Star Montrachet yeast
- 2 ounces chaga chunks
The whole idea here is to kick in the fermentation and allow the yeast to consume the sugars. Tannins from the chaga or black tea, will help start that process. Because this batch is going to be made with fresh berries, I did not add additional citrus juice. I have in the past used sumac berries for the additional vitamin C factor.
Add the water to a large stockpot and toss in the chaga. Bring the liquid up to a simmer and continue to decoct the chaga for 20 minutes. By then, the water should turn dark and be imparted with a nice vanilla like flavor. Turn off the heat and allow to the tea to cool.
Making an Elderflower Infusion
Once the tea has cooled down enough to where you can put your hands on the pot and not feel too warm, then you can stir in the honey.
Puree the fruit with some tea until smooth. You can choose to strain the fruit puree if you wish.
In a small bowl mix the yeast packet with a little bit of water. Allow it to start activating.
The yeast blooming
Pour the fruit puree into the carboy.
Adding the fruit puree
Add all the honey infused tea next. Gently shake the carboy to mix up all the ingredients. Apply the stopper and airlock and place the carboy in a safe corner of your home. You need around 70F to really get this fermenting, so find a warm place.
Don’t forget to label and date the bottle. Now wait…..
Waiting is the hardest part of the process!
Depending on the ferment, you mead should be “drinkable” in 6 weeks. At this point, the plonk should have settled onto the bottom of the carboy and the fermentation should have slowed way down. Now you can begin to enjoy your beverage. If you still find it too sweet, or you wish to age it, you will want to siphon off the mead being sure to not pick up the sediment while filtering. Apply the airlock and stopper again and continue to ferment for as long as you desire. This second bottling is where you are really going to age the mead. When you have decided you are done, bottle and cork.
Please note that the “plonk” is good stuff! Use it like you would wine and cook with it. The berry plonks are great to braise chicken, pork, or roasts.
Remember, you now have a “medicinal” alcoholic beverage. Drink responsibly, and most of all, have fun!