The Drink of the Month - MEAD
The last couple of months we have talked about mixing
up a drink. This month I want to go into more depth. In this article we will be
discussing how to make mead - just a simple one to start with - and what a few
of the possible variations on recipies are.
The first question you will ask, of
course, is what you need to make mead.
You will need:
1. Slotted spoon - for removing
large particles and foam
2. Paring knife - for peeling fruit and cutting spices
3. Stove - for heat
4. Honey - 1.5 to 3 pounds per gallon of mead
5. Spices - depending on the recipie
6. Pot - ceramic if possible - must hold 5L per gallon
7. Fermentation vessel - glass or plastic bottle - large
8. Fermentation lock - allows gasses out but not in
12. Yeast - a wine, beer, or mead yeast - NO OTHERS
A little bit of history to begin with.
The mead most of you will be expecting to make will be a honey wine (12-15%),
but historically mead came in several variations. The first is actually an ale
mead made with hops and brewers yeast. There were other classes such as melomels
- fruit meads such as pyment (grape juice and honey), and Cyser (apple juice and
honey); hippocras - yes this is a variant on last month's recipie; metheglin -
spiced mead; and of course there are many honey based winter drinks.
distinction that must be made is the difference between short or quick meads and
long meads. A short mead will be drinkable in anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months
depending on the recipie. A long mead, on the other hand, may take up to 9 YEARS
Another method of affecting the taste of the mead is through the honey.
Each type of flower has a different taste which is imparted to the mead. Clover
honey and heather honey are two of the most common types. (Yes Jamie heather honey
is ONE of the tricks to making heather mead and NO I won't ever be releasing that
recipie.) There will be quite the difference in taste between a cyser made with
clover honey and one made with apple blossom honey. At this point I should note
that the majority of the differences I am commenting on here will only be noticeable
in the properly aged long meads as they can be quite subtle.
Enough history, on
to the making. I will begin with a recipie from Cariadoc's Miscelleny (you might
have noticed that this is a very useful book).
"Weak honey drink (more commonly
called small mead) Digby p 107/147
Take nine pints of warm fountain water, and
dissolve in it one pint of pure White- honey, by laving it therein, till it be
disolved. Then boil it gently, skimming all the while, till all the scum be perfectly
skimmed off; and after that boil it a little longer, peradventure a quarter of
an hour. In all it will require two or three hours boiling, so that at least one
third part may be consumed. About a quarter hour after you cease boiling, and
take it from the fire, put to it a little spoonfull of cleansed and sliced ginger;
and almost half as much of the thin yellow rind of Orange, when you are even ready
to take it from the fire, so as the orange boil only one walm in it. Then pour
it into a well-glased strong deep great Gally-pot, and let it stand so, till it
be almost cold, that it be scarce luke-warm. Then put to it a little silver- spoonful
of pure ale-yeast, and work it together with a ladle to make it ferment: as soon
as it beginneth to do so, cover it close with a fit cover, and put a thick dubbled
wollen cloth about it. Cast all things so that this may be done when you are going
to bed. Next morning when you rise, you will find the barm all gathered in the
middle; scum it clean off with a silver spoon and a feather, and bottle up the
Liquor, stopping it very close. It will be ready to drink in two or three days;
but it will keep well a month or two. It will be from the first very quick and
11 pints water
1 pint honey = 1 1/2 pounds
1 T peeled, sliced fresh
1/2 T orange peel
1/2 t yeast
Dissolve the honey in the water in a large
pot and bring it to a boil. Let it boil down to 2/3 the original volume (8 pints),
skimming periodically. This will take about 2 1/2 to 3 hours; by the end it should
be clear. About 15 minutes before it is done, add the ginger. At the end, add
the orange peel, let it boil a minute or so, and remove from heat. The orange
peel should be the yellow part only, not the white; a potatoe peeler works well
to get off the peel. Let the mead cool to lukewarm, then add the yeast. The original
recipie appears to use a top fermenting ale-yeast, but dried bread yeast works
[ wine yeast still tastes better - Ragnar]. Cover and let sit 24- 36 hours. Bottle
it, using sturdy bottles; the fermentation builds up considerable perssure. Refridgerate
after three or four days. Beware of exploding bottle. The mead will be drinkable
in a week, but better if you leave it longer.
This recipie is modified from the
original by reducing the proportion of honey and lengthening the time of fermentation
before bottling. Both changes are intended to reduce the incidence of broken bottles.
Using 2 liter plastic soda bottles is unaesthetic, but they are safer than glass"
Of course you could try the original recipie yourself. Let me know how it turns
out if you do so.
That is a good starting point for a new vintner as it allows
you an almost instant result. The next recipie is for a much longer mead (my preference).
1.1 kg honey nutrients
10 g tartaric acid
15 g malic acid
1.5 g tannin
water to 4.5 litres
Dissolve honey in 2 litres warm water together with
the nutrients, acid and tannin. Make up the volume to 4.5 litres with cold water
and add 100 ppm sulphite. After 24 hours add the yeast starter and allow to ferment
to dryness. Rack within a week of fermentaton finishing, taking care to avoid
too much aeration. Add 50 ppm sulphite (1 campden tablet per 4.5 litres). Rack
a second time as soon as a heavy deposit forms or after 3 months whichever is
soonest. Add 50 ppm sulphite. Rack again every 3-4 months sulphiting 50 ppm every
second racking. Mature until the wine is at its peak (about 2 years) although
it may be drunk much sooner (say 6 months).
You may have noticed a few differences
between the two recipies. I will try and explain them now. The first recipie is
dated to the mid 1600's I believe whereas the second recipie is a modern winemakers
recipie. As with most modern recipies a LOT of fiddle work has been done to get
the so-called "perfect" flavour. Hence two different types of acid are used in
place of the orange peel (citric acid). For reference a must (the unfermented
honey-water mix) that doesn't have enough acid will throw off a lot of by-products
that will alter the taste. The nutrients are to allow the yeast to function as
far as possible (up to 15% with some the of the modern yeasts as compared to the
8-10% you will get with the older recipie). The tannin provides a bit of a bite
to the mead (historically added through hops or herbs). Each of the different
yeasts (bakers, brewers, wine, mead, and champagne) provide a different taste.
The further to the right you go in that list, the purer your mead will taste (less
by-products). The water is a final adjustment. Water from different places carries
a different set of additives which WILL affect the taste, so make sure you like
the taste of your water before you brew with it. The sulphite is used to stop
trace fermentation and solidify the dead yeast and nutrients.
Now some rules for
the longer meads. The idea behind racking the mead is to remove any of the left-over
deposits. Hence when you transfer the mead from one bottle to the next be careful
not to disturb the sediment, you only want to transfer the liquid. Top up the
maturing jar with tap water to remove large air spaces (which will sour the mead).
Extra must may be used for this to prevent diluting the mixture. One final note
the sulphite added to the must is used to sterilize the honey itself (which contains
ALL kinds of interesting things).
Anyway this is MORE than enough for this month.
Next month I will go into a few more recipies and perhaps talk a bit about the
difference between historical and modern meads.