From the Back Room – Mead

To go with the meat pies and cheesy goo from another post, here is our recipe for mead, the honey wine that is all through history and fantasy.  Here’s your warning: MAKE THIS EXACTLY BEFORE YOU TRY TO SCREW AROUND WITH IT.    We’ve had far too many people rave about our mead, then whine when theirs doesn’t come out right.  It’s because they didn’t listen and its a shame to waste all that relatively expensive honey.  The most recent batch we made came out to 13.9% alcohol.  Recipe after the break….

all of the equipment and supplies can be found at your friendly local home brewing store and you can scavenge a lot other places. Our local one is Scotzin Brothers.  Just google around and find your local.  

Mead Recipe

Ingredients:
1 Gallon Water
Honey, 5 Lb. for Sweet, 4 for dryish
1 in. Cinnamon Stick 
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
Tea bag
1 packet Champagne yeast – we use Red Star Pasteur Champagne yeast. It’s tough and can take a lot of alcohol.  There are indeed special mead yeasts. We just haven’t bothered since the champagne yeast works so well.

Equipment:

pot that can hold at least a gallon and a half (6 quarts), preferably more.  Think canning kettle or stockpot sizes.
4 litre wine jug empty
1 gallon jug, empty
Vapor lock (also known as a fermentation lock) w/ rubber stopper with hole in the center (“the bubbler”)  This is the kind we like: http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Image:Airlock-three-piece-1-.jpg   
Funnel
Clear plastic tubing (food grade) at least 5 feet, and at least a 1/4″ in diameter.  You’ll be using it to siphon.   
Cork + whatever type of bottles you intend to store it in when it’s done.

While bringing water to a good roiling boil:
Add tea bag, use your favorite herbed/spiced tea. Note this is to provide the tannin, so be sure it has some real tea in it. We use various ones:  Vanilla Almond tea from The Republic of Tea, Constant Comment from Bigelow, Chai Spice tea from Stash
Add lemon zest, lemon juice, cinnamon stick
Remove tea bag (s) when brew is a light amber…really weak tea.
Add honey once water is boiling…keep the jars of honey in a warm place (like a pan of hot water) so it’s easier to pour. Save one of the jars and a lid.

When the pot returns to boil, begin skimming off the foam. Yeah, this removes the zest, that’s why we put it in early.
When you are sick and tired of skimming, and have most if not all the foam gone, and the thing has been boiling for around 45 minutes or more, turn off the heat and cover and let cool.
When the proto-mead is down to around 80 Degrees F. dip out about 1/4 cup and dissolve yeast into it.

Clean the larger wine jug out really really well. Rinse thoroughly with lots o’ hot water. And let cool

Put the big jar in the sink, in case you spill. Using the funnel, pour the yeast mixture into the jug. Then pour in the proto-mead, only filling to the bottom of the neck.

If you use 5 lb. of honey you will probably have some proto-mead remaining. If making sweet mead, pour it into one of the empty honey jars, put on the lid and put it into the fridge. You’ll use it later. If trying for a dryer mead you can discard the remaining proto- mead.

Fill the bubbler/ airlock about 1/2 full of water. Shove it in.

You should start to see the bubbles shortly. The better you mixed the yeast the longer it takes to start bubbling, but that’s a good thing. Too active too soon and it will foam into the bubbler. If that does happen, just rinse out the bubbler and put it back on.

For the first 12 days shake the mead daily. Doesn’t have to be a lot of shaking, just enough to wake up the yeasties and get them going. Let it sit quietly for 2 more days

First decanting: The Splash
Clean the gallon jug very well. Siphon the mead into the gallon jug, allowing it to splash onto the bottom.  Siphon off as much as you can, try not to disturb the residue at the bottom. You should be able to get a gallon out of it easy enough.
Replace the bubbler and let the mead sit quietly for a week. Wash the 4 litre jug out very well.

2nd decanting
Siphon the mead into the 4 litre  jug, no splashing this time, let it run down the inside of the jug. Once again, leave the residue. Transferring from the gallon to the wine jug will leave the jug not quite full. If making sweet mead use the remaining proto- mead from the fridge. If making dryer mead, use water to top off to the neck.
Let sit quietly for another week.

3rd decanting
From the 4 litre jug to the gallon jug. Let sit quietly another week.

Continue alternating until the mead clears. Once clear, the alcohol content should be around 12%, a goodly wine. A hygrometer will give you an exact reading. The percent alcohol is a factor of how much honey is dissolved, so you need to take a reading before fermentation. Bottle as you will.  We use 16 oz glass with caps, the lever style bottles,  and wine bottles with corks.  Make sure it’s done fermenting or there is the distinct possibility that your bottles may burst if tightly sealed. To stabilize the mead for long periods, you may add a crushed Campden tablet, these contain sulfites and act as preservatives. If you use one it should be added at the 3rd decanting. These tablets are found in the same stores that you can find the yeast and the fermentation locks. 

If you age this mead, it does oxidize which can be good to a point.  The mildly oxidized stuff tastes a lot like sherry or tawny port.   After that, it just gets bitter.

Any questions, use the comments.

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2 responses to “From the Back Room – Mead

  1. Pingback: From the Bar – Stonekeep Mead and a review of our local garden show | Club Schadenfreude

  2. Pingback: From the Kitchen and From the Bar – experimenting with roots, a pie and a bottle of mead | Club Schadenfreude

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