Mead–just the name evokes pictures of women in long velvet gowns and gents on white chargers. Mead is honey wine with benefits. Traditionally, mead was made with herbs and fruit from the garden. It was a medicinal beverage for winter ailments, imparting the actions of the herbs to the drink, and preserving them. The honey added additional medicinal benefits, as well as giving the yeast a source of food.
Honey wine can take a bit longer to become active than wine made with sugar. Each honey has its own antimicrobial actions, depending on the diet of the bees. This can inhibit the yeast somewhat. Bees feeding on medicinal herbs tend to have more medicinal honey, than bees feeding on white sugar. So get to know your bee keeper and choose the healthy honey from bees with a varied source of pollen and nectar.
Technically, mead is wine made with honey. When the wine is made with fruit, other than grapes, plus honey, it is called methomel. When mead is made with herbs and spices it is called metheglin. Today though, all honey wines are referred to as mead.
In Very Berry Mead, elderberry offers some immune boosting and anti-viral actions. The deep purple fruit is rich in antioxidants and healthy anthocyanins. Plus this tastes delicious.
Very Berry Mead
Yield: Five 750ml bottles
• 1 gallon of filtered water
• 4 cups of honey
• ½ packet of champagne yeast
• ½ cup dried black elderberries
• ½ cup of raisins
• 4 cups of frozen mixed blue and red berries including: blackberries, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries
• 1 gallon glass jug
• Fermentation lock
• Bung (or rubber stopper) to fit glass jug
• Various pots, spoons, spatula
• 2 quart glass measuring cup
• 1 cup glass liquid measure
• Stainless steel cone funnel for straining
• Cheese cloth
• Food safe plastic tubing used in wine making
• 5 wine bottles with spring tops or 5 wine bottles plus
• Corking tool
• 5 wine corks
• Potato masher
In a large sauce pan measure the elderberries, raisins, and mixed fruit. I used frozen organic berries from the grocery store that including blackberries, cherries, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. You can use just one kind of berry or a combination. This is a good opportunity to use some summer fruit from your freezer.
Add four cups of filtered water. Cover the sauce pan. Bring the sauce pan to a boil. Turn down the heat and gently simmer the berry mixture for 30 minutes to break the cell structure and release the juice.
Meanwhile, wash and sanitize a one-gallon glass jug, fermentation lock and bung, and a funnel. You’ll also want to wash and sanitize a glass measuring cup to measure your honey, a spatula, a large spoon, a potato masher, and anything else that might touch your mead preparation. I use hydrogen peroxide to sanitize my wine-making equipment. You can also use sodium metabisulphite, which is commonly available where you buy wine-making supplies.
Once your equipment is sanitized allow it to drain completely. If you are using sodium metabisulphite, when you can no longer smell sulfur, you are ready to use the equipment.
Remove the saucepan from the heat source and allow it to cool to lukewarm naturally, with the lid on.
Meanwhile, boil two quarts of water in a kettle. Remove from the heat source and allow it to come to room temperature. Set aside.
Use a potato masher to mash the berries to release as much juice as possible. Strain the juice while still warm, through a sieve or in a cheese cloth, retaining the juice. Discard the spent berries. Add the honey to the warm juice and stir well to incorporate. This will take a bit of stirring. Persist. It will blend in completely. Pour the honey and juice mixture into your one-gallon jug, reserving a half-cup of the juice in a glass measuring cup.
Once the juice in the measuring cup is lukewarm, sprinkle half a packet of wine yeast over the reserved juice. Allow the yeast to soften for five minutes. Stir into the juice. Wait 30 to 60 minutes until the yeast becomes active. It will bubble on the surface of the juice. Active wine yeast responds a bit differently than bread yeast. The bubbles are finer and remain on the surface of the juice, rather than increasing in bulk, like bread yeast.
Add the boiled and cooled water to the gallon jug, bringing the level up to about two inches of the neck of the bottle. Add the yeast-juice mixture to the now lukewarm mixture. Put on the cap and shake the bottle a bit to mix everything up. Place the fermentation lock and bung on the neck of the bottle.
Put away in a cool, dry place to ferment.
I recommend placing the jug on a tray to catch any overflow, just in case it goes crazy during the ferment and overflows the jug.
Allow the mead to ferment until you see that the active fermentation and all bubbling has stopped.
Decant your mead
Once the fermentation has stopped fully, decant your mead into five washed and sanitized wine bottles or bottles with two-part spring caps. You’ll need a corker if you are using regular wine bottles with corks, in order to place the cork securely.
The mead will be drinkable now but it will be even better if you put it away for six months. I open my spring mead in December. Mead does get better with age.