Happy New Year! I can’t believe 2017 is already here!
The long nights are here (as well as the cold and snow!) and my husband and I have been brewing a lot and I mean a lot over this last year. We hosted a large Yule party this year with lots of food and drink to fuel partygoers with something delicious, seasonal and warming.
We also wanted to make something traditional which many of our friends had never had before (let along drink out of a giant drinking horn!) so we made mead and I want to share the recipe with you.
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Mead is one of the oldest drinks known to mankind, it was popular in northern Europe and most notably drank by my ancestors, the Vikings.
The drinking of this beverage lead to the term honeymoon, where Norse tradition was that the newly weds drank this to ensure fertility and happiness for 28 days or the entire lunar cycle!
Mead making is also one of the reasons why we are following my grandparents and getting bees in the near future (watch this space!) as well as to pollinate the garden better, make furniture polish and a long list of other reasons!
This time last year, my husband and I took a mini-moon trip to Tombstone, Arizona and yes I’m a big fan of the movie, I grew up watching Westerns and I like to visit places they depicted to show my family back home….Hey Dad, look it’s Boothill!
Ahem, anyway…I digress. Our time in Tombstone yielded several bottles of killer bee honey from The Killer Bee Guy and let me tell you, the stuff is AMAZING! It is sweet but complex in flavor from a heady floral to a deep aromatic (which is my favorite).
If you don’t happen to live near Tombstone, you can click here to purchase the Killer Bee Guy Killer Bee Honey.
We also went to the UK for our actual honeymoon to tour the Lake District and the bonny hills and moors of Scotland. On both of these trips we picked up honey to make into mead with the idea of making something we can drink on our anniversary from here on.
This is Castlerigg Stone Circle in the Lake District (Cumbria). There are many neolithic monuments and stone circles in England, Scotland and Ireland not just Stonehenge. All are beautiful, somber places full of mystery and magic. We picked up some local honey just down the road from here, will it make a magical mead? Only time will tell!
There are many mead recipes available, I use one that I have made in England but my husband uses another. Both are below for you to try as well as some other awesome mead recipes.
We used the killer bee honey with the English recipe below.
Twists on this recipe include adding dried lavender or heather flowers into the fermentation vessel to make something quite special. You can use any honey for this recipe but it is usually best to not mix it up. For example, keep the light, delicate and floral honey separate from the heavier, earthy and woody flavored honey.
Before bottling the mead, give it a taste to check the sweetness level. If it is too dry for you, add some more of the same sort of honey (or a similar type) to back-sweeten then bottle.
- 2 kg (4 1/2 lb) honey
- 4.5 litres (1.2 US gallon)
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Juice of 2 oranges
- 1 sachet Champagne or sweet mead yeast
- 1. Sanitize fermentation vessel, bung (stopper), airlock and spoon.
- 2. Mix the honey with the water in a large pan and heat until the honey has dissolved.
- 3. Carefully transfer to the fermentation vessel. Take care if placing into glass, hot liquids and cold glass will cause breaks.
- 4. Add the fruit juices to the honey, top up the water to 4.5 litres (1.2 US gallon) in the vessel and leave to cool.
- 5. Once cooled to the yeast packet temperature, sprinkle the yeast into the fermentation vessel and mix it in vigorously.
- 6. Attach airlock and bung (stopper) and leave somewhere cool and dark to ferment.
- 7. After about 2 months, clean and sanitize another fermentation vessel.
- 8. Rack (transfer) the mead into this new vessel using an autosiphon and leave for 6 months.
- 9. Clean and sanitize a fermentation vessel, airlock and bung (stopper).
- 10. Rack (transfer) the mead again using an autosiphon into the clean vessel and leave to ferment out (finish fermenting).
- 11. Once fermentation is complete, clean and sanitize bottles (swing top, wine or beer bottles) and bottle the mead by transferring into the sanitized bottle. Cap or cork the bottle and leave for at least a year.
- You may substitute the orange and lemon juice for 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrient.
- Boiling the honey water mixture will create scum, you can warm the jars of honey in warm water (with lids fully closed!) and pour the honey into the fermentation vessel then cover with 4.5 litres (1.2 US gallon) of water then stir.
- You can make heather mead by using heather honey or a delicate flavored honey and half a cup of dried heather flowers at the first fermentation (step 2).
- Lavender mead can be made by using a delicately flavored honey and half a cup of dried lavender flowers at the first fermentation (step 2).
- Check for fermentation completing by moving the mead to a warm area, if the airlock bubbles, it has not finished fermenting.
Big Batch Mead
If you want to go big then my husband’s recipe is for you! At a 5 gallon size to brew, stock up on plenty of bottles and caps or corks and 17 pounds of honey! My husband likes the honey to speak for itself in his mead and reserves 1/2 pound for back-sweetening.
- 17 lbs of single type honey (e.g. all wildflower)
- 4.5 gallons of water
- 1 teaspoon gypsum
- 1 sachet of mead yeast or champagne yeast.
- Mix the water, gypsum and honey together and boil for 1 hour.
- Clean and sanitize fermentation bucket, lid and airlock.
- Transfer to fermentation bucket.
- Cool to 65-70F.
- Aerate mixture for 5-10 minutes.
- Add yeast.
- Seal the fermentation bucket with lid and airlock. Place in a dark spot which is around 55-65F in temperature to ferment.
- Leave for 3 months then transfer to a second fermentation bucket or carboy and allow to ferment for another 3 months.
- Check the taste of the mead and decide if more sweetness is needed. Add up to 1/2 pound of honey to back sweeten to the desired sweetness level.
- You can bottle or allow to age again for another 6 months.
- If you want to bottle add a Campden tablet to stop fermentation and leave for 24 hours.
- Bottle the mead and allow to mature for a year in the bottle.
- Follow instructions of Campden Tablets, you may need more or less for 5 gallons depending on the manufacturer's instructions.
- Keep 1/2 pound of the original honey used in the recipe so you don't mix flavors.
If you are interesting in starting to brew your own and discover the wonderful world where alcohol, chemistry and biology combine together in glorious deliciousness with recipes cloning store beers, unique craft recipes, traditional country wines, liqueurs, hard sodas, meads, metheglin and so much more then take a look below to get you started.
This isn’t mead, but it was darn good beer!
Take a look at my previous posts below about kit you need when starting to homebrew.
We use my grandad’s old homebrewing demijohns (carboys) that I brought with me from England when we make something special. It’s like he’s still around helping me out.
Generally if you are wanting to brew mead you will need:
- glass carboy/demi-john/growler around 1 to 3 gallons in size as a fermenter
- Stopper for the container
Having more than one fermenter helps when you need to rack the mead off the dead yeast and other gubbins in the bottom of the container.
For other brewing recipes take a look at my previous posts below:
Do you homebrew? What’s your favorite mead recipe? If you have any tips to share with me or other readers please share them in the comments or at the Misfit Gardening Community Forum, we would love to hear your ideas and tips.
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