Mead, when not the ridiculously oversweetened novelty item sold at some liquor stores, is wonderfully delicious and fairly easy to make. I just made a batch with no prior mead-making experience, and it already tastes great.
Mead was hugely popular in the Norse countries and Northern Europe up through the Rennaisance, and has been invented and re-invented anywhere there are bees. Which makes it perfect if you want to make a Thor-themed or historical alcoholic beverage to impress your friends!
The ingredients for one finished gallon of mead will set you back about $12-$15, which with about 5 standard wine bottles per gallon, works out to about $3 per bottle. Affordable!
(Based on this wonderful recipe)
- Three pounds of honey. That's two large standard bottles of honey. (Honey is packaged by weight, you won't have to weigh it) Raw or especially tasty honey is great, but any honey will do.
- One gallon of good-tasting water. If your tap water tastes bad, don't use it, go out and spend a buck on a gallon of spring water.
- Some sun-dried, not sulfited, raisins. Not sulfited is important, sulfite impedes fermentation. One little raisin box or two tablespoons will do.
- An orange. This and the raisins are not for flavor, though they may add some. They're for chemical balance to keep the yeast happy. You could add some chemicals instead, but that's harder and not as authentic.
- One packet of wine yeast. Lalvin D47 or Red Star champagne yeast works great, and only costs about $1-$1.50. You can go to your local homebrew store or buy it online, but if you're feeling impatient, you can use bread yeast. It's not quite as ideal, but still can make good mead.
- Something to ferment mead in. A one gallon water or juice bottle will do, as will a large mason jar or - if you're getting fancy - a glass carboy. Personally,I used a $10 Mr. Beer fermenter barrel. Don't laugh, it worked great! If you're using a bottle, get some balloons, too, more on that later.
- Oxyclean, One Step Sanitizer, a little bleach, a dishwasher or some other sanitizing method. This is VERY IMPORTANT. You want yeast growing in your mead, not anything else.
The recipe doesn't make exactly a gallon, it makes a little more, but if you need it to fit into a gallon bottle, just don't add all the water.
If you're using tap water, boil it and let it cool to a little warmer than room temperature. Sanitize every single thing that will touch the mead in progress. The fermenter, your utensils, the plate you put the utensils on... everything. In a pinch, washing everything in a dishwasher on the hottest setting will probably work okay.
In a large pot or mixing bowl, pour in some of the water. Add the honey a bit at a time, mixing as you go. Warm up some of the water and pour it into the honey jars to get out the last little bits of honey.
Warm up two cups of the water to blood temperature (100-120 degrees F, or to the point where it is very warm but not painfully hot if you test a drop on your skin) and add in the yeast. Let it sit there for fifteen minutes, then stir and add to the honey mixture. Add the rest of the water and pour into your clean fermenter.
Now rinse and cut up the orange into about eight wedges, rind and all, and pop it and the raisins into your fermenter. screw on the lid or, in the case of a bottle, pull the ballon over the mouth of the bottle, and secure with a rubber band if you like. Leave the round part of the balloon to dangle. Put the fermenter somewhere warm but not hot. Humans and yeasts like the same temperature, so room temperature should be good. Your fridge or cold basement are bad.
If you're using a mason jar, unscrew the lid for a second to let out the gas as it ferments, then screw it back on quickly, every day or two for the first two or three weeks. Exploding bottles are bad!
Sit back and watch the fun. The yeast will bubble away for three to four weeks. Replace balloon whenever it inflates too much. Finished mead should be about the color and clarity of clear apple juice.
Once fermentation is done, you need somewhere to put it. A jug or jar or bottle with a fairly airtight lid will do. Personally, I love flip top bottles. Some brands of beer and soda come in them and they're infinitely reuseable. You can buy two big fliptop bottles able to hold a gallon between them for about $3.50 each at your local homebrew store if you feel like it.
Sanitize your bottles or jugs, as well as whatever ladles or funnels you plan to use. Gently pour in your fresh new mead, careful to leave as much sediment behind as possible. Close your bottles.
At this point you should put your mead in a nice dark cupboard or your basement or your refridgerator. Cool but not freezing is ideal, but anywhere you want to store it that isn't in the freezer or next to a stove or radiator should be fine. You can drink some now, and it will already taste good, but mead reaches full flavor at around six months. That means that if you start making some mead now, it should be fully mature in time for the Avengers premiere!
If you enjoy making your first mead, there aremany variations and options out there for advanced home meadbrewing. This is just a great place to start.
What if you taste it and want it sweeter? Add a little extra honey to each bottle when it gets time to serve it. Don't add it during fermentation, the yeast will just ferment that honey too.
Why this is different from most mead you buy at the store: Mead is made with honey, so most people expect it to be really sweet. Brewers, therefore, usually add sugar or a lot more honey to their mead once it's done brewing in order to live up to these expectations. This is sad, because it usually doesn't taste as good that way. (For example, Chaucer's Mead.)
Also, unlike wine or beer, there aren't vast mead lobbies pressuring the government to make rules about what you can and can't call mead. So a lot of what's sold as mead is white wine with some honey in it. (For example, Bunratty Meade.) They're often quite good, but they aren't mead and they don't taste like it. Read the ingredients!Brewing, it's like cooking, but with more explosions.
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