Monday, December 29, 2014

Homemade, Naturally-Fermented Honey Mead (part 2)

My kitchen smells so good right now!  Every time I stir my melomel (fruit mead), I get a sweet whiff of honey-wine... nothing smells better than fermenting fruit beverages, in my opinion.  I think my body craves them!  By now (day 6), my honey mead has been fermenting for a good two days.  Here are some wonderfully bubbly pictures of this naturally-fermented masterpiece...

Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere!  During fermentation, whatever fruit you put in your mead (if any) will be floating on top because of the wonderful effervescence.

Here's what my melomel looks like after being stirred up

Not too much longer and I'll be bottling...

Bottling Day!! (day 12) :

I am in heaven.  Right now, I am sipping on my finished fruit mead, and it is good!  This lovely fermented drink reminds me of a sweet fruit wine but with a hint of honey at the end.  The fragrance is very floral, and the color is beautiful- slightly pink from the blackberries.

I encourage everyone to try this project, if you are a wine drinker.  Unlike store-bought fruit wine, this drink is packed with enzymes and probiotics that are good for your tummy and promote good digestion.  It's just an added bonus that fruit mead tastes so darn yummy!  Enjoy!

To view part 1 of my mead project, click here.
For more information on aging mead, visit this website.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Homemade SCOBY for Making Kombucha

I refused to pay $20+ for another SCOBY, especially since you can make your own for about $3 and some items found in your kitchen.  Yes, you can make your own culture from scratch!  And I'm going to show you how...

I stumbled upon directions for making a SCOBY years ago, but since I always had a few of them on hand I never had the opportunity to make my own. Now's my chance!  I referenced the kitchn blog, just to make sure I was doing everything right, but honestly the directions are pretty much the same as brewing a batch of kombucha with a SCOBY.  If you've made kombucha before, this is a cinch!  (All the same, there are some fantastic pictures on the kitchn blog!  Check it out for more precise directions)

What you'll need:
about 7 cups filtered, non-chlorinated water
5 small tea bags (black or green-I used green)
1/2 c sugar
1 c store-bought, raw, unfiltered, non-flavored kombucha
A fermenting vessel (clear glass)

Start with brewing your tea.  Bring the water to a boil, then (off heat) add your tea bags.  Let the tea steep at least 15 minutes.  Remove tea bags and add sugar while the tea is still warm.  Let the tea cool completely.  Pour sweetened tea into your fermenting vessel and pour in the kombucha.  Cover with a towel secured with a rubber band.

If you have more than one culture sitting on your kitchen counter at once, be sure to separate them to prevent cross-contamination.  I have my sourdough and kombucha at opposite ends of my kitchen.

The SCOBY will be ready in 1-4 weeks, depending on the temperature in your home.  Since it is pretty cold here, mine will take closer to 4 weeks...

4 days later:

I noticed that "yeasties" were starting to form on the surface of my brew.  If you are familiar with kombucha, the "yeasties" are the brown tendril-like things that grow beneath (or between) your SCOBYs.  After all, SCOBY means: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.  The yeast isn't bad, but it does show me that something is alive in there!  In the upper left of the picture, you can see the baby SCOBY that was in my store-bought bottle of kombucha.  I included it in my cup of starter, just to get things moving along!  The bubbles around it tell me it is consuming the sugar in the tea and breeding more good bacteria.  Life is beautiful!

6 days later:

The new SCOBY is a thin film over my kombucha.  It is finally forming!  As I said before, it can take up to 4 weeks for the SCOBY to fully develop, so I will keep checking it daily...

1 1/2 weeks later:

As you can see, the SCOBY is starting to take shape!  The bubbles are normal- that's just co2 that was trapped underneath the developing culture.  The "yeasties" look a bit gross, but that's normal, too!

2 weeks later:

The SCOBY is gaining girth!  Since I am using a clear glass container, it is easy to see the thickness of my culture... in the pictures below, you can see its continued growth:

I still need to let the culture grow, as the thickness is not ideal.  I think one more week will suffice!

You can tell that the SCOBY is growing a bit unevenly, but it will smooth out after continued fermentation.  

3 weeks later:

That's what I'm taling about!  My SCOBY is finally thick enough and even enough to use full-time!  Other than the bubbles, my culture is an even thickness and a nice creamy-white color.  It looks healthy (no mold) and smells like a well-cultured kombucha.  

I am so pleased with how this project turned out!  :)  Now, go make your own SCOBY and enjoy some homemade kombucha!

For more info on fermenting your own kombucha, go to:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Homemade, Naturally-Fermented Honey Mead

I am fascinated by history!  I have been researching the history of mead (honey wine) and have been thrilled with my findings... Apparently, the first mead was probably a happy accident :)  A beehive may have been flooded with rain water, which released the power of natural yeasts contained in the honey and BAM!  fermented honey wine!  I know, it would have taken days or weeks for the mead to develop, but that's basically the story :)

Some other neat facts about mead:
*Mead was considered a drink of the gods in ancient Greece.  Ambrosia, they called it.  It was thought to make you stronger, live longer and give you better overall health.   
*Mead was thought to be the first things given to the Viking warriors as they entered Valhalla.
*Celts believed that a river of mead ran through paradise!
*Even the term "honeymoon" refers to the gift of honey mead for the newly-married couple.
*Mead is featured in 1999 version of A Christmas Carol, with Patrick Stewart.  During the Christmas party at Scrooge's nephew's house, they heat a bowl of mead with a hot poker from the fire.  That is the traditional way to heat a Christmas mead

The reason mead production declined was due to the discovery of wine made from grapes and ale made from grains- both of which are cheaper than honey.  But, since mead was considered to be a divine gift, it was still used in religious ceremonies.

So making your own mead isn't just a hobby- you are carrying on a tradition that has been handed down for millennia.  Honey mead is considered the first fermented beverage in the history of the world, and you can make it right in your own kitchen :)

Honey mead can be made with only two ingredients:  honey and water. You might ask, "Where's the yeast??"  Well, believe it or not, honey actually contains yeast, enveloping it and preserving it until you release it in water to make mead.  

Think about it... everything in this world has yeast on it- leaves, flowers, fruit, even your own skin!  So, it's no wonder that the little honey bee picks up some yeast as it's gathering pollen!  I am going to make use of this wonderful wild yeast and ferment some honey to make a delicious holiday drink.

Here's all you need to make your homemade mead:
3-4 cups raw, local honey (less will give you a dryer mead, more will be sweeter)
1 gallon spring or non-chlorinated, filtered water
2-gallon fermenting vessel (either glass jar or fermenting crock)
1 c non-sprayed fruit (optional)

I do not have well water anymore, so I purchased some mountain spring water along with a  bottle of local raw honey.

In your fermenting vessel, pour the gallon of water and 3-4 cups honey.  No need to heat, as heating too much will kill all the beneficial enzymes and wild yeasts in the honey!

Stir vigorously until honey and water are incorporated- maybe a couple minutes.  At this point, you could just cover with a secured cotton cloth and wait for your mead to ferment!  I have chosen to add fruit to mine:  1 lemon and about 1 cup blackberries.  I have seen other traditional recipes that incorporate cloves, cinnamon sticks, apples, pears and oranges. Even Queen Elizabeth I had a favorite recipe that called for rosemary, sweet briar, thyme and bay leaf!  

As your mead ferments, stir often every day (at least twice, preferably 3 times) to aid in yeast growth and hinder mold from developing.  Take care of your mead and it will turn out beautifully!

Here is my fruity mead (also called melomel), ready to ferment!  I am going to leave it on the counter, covered, for about 10 days.  When the bubbly, fermenting stage is over (it should start around day 4), you can strain and drink the young mead -or- bottle in a carboy and let it develop into a more alcoholic beverage.  Check out this blog for more info on long-term mead fermentation.

Day 4:

I was excited this morning when I woke up to... bubbles!  Yes, they were small.  BUT, later in the day (for stir #2), I saw this:

My melomel is well on its way!  I'll keep you updated on the progress... and let you know how it ends up tasting! Stay tuned!

For Homemade, Naturally Fermemted Honey Mead (part 2), click here!

This post was inspired by a blog post by Jesse Frost and countless other recipes for traditional honey mead.  Check out Jesse's original post here.  You can also find traditional mead recipes in the vintage cookbooks on  Mead fun facts were gathered from various websites, including Sky River Brewing.

Homemade, Crock Pot Chicken Stock

It's been a long time since I last posted something, BUT I have a good excuse!  For the past few months, my family has been prepping for a big move- to Colorado!  Well, we are finally here.  And, I am ready to start some new and exciting projects/experiments.  For one, I have to replenish ALL of my cultures... yes, I left them in Florida.  But, they are in good hands and being cared for :)

So far, I have started a new sourdough starter, and I am working on a new SCOBY for kombucha. (Here is the link for my sourdough starter, if you haven't seen it yet!)  Since sourdough is different everywhere, I am really excited to start using it next week!  As for the SCOBY, it is still developing... very slowly.  More to come on that...


My first project will be to replenish my freezer with homemade stocks!  I've had friends tell me how good my beef stock is... so, I've decided to demonstrate my crock pot chicken stock as well! 

You have probably bought chicken stock/broth at the store to make homemade soups and sauces, right?  Well, what was the consistency?  Did you read the label?  What about MSG?  Your mind will be blown if you just take the time to look at what is in store-bought stock... BUT, making your own chicken stock is so easy!   Not to mention how delicious it is in homemade soups, sauces and rice dishes :)  

If you use a crock pot, like me, you don't have to worry about a leaving a burner on all night.  It is also easier to control the temperature of your stock!  Back in the day (before electric stoves), women used to put their stock pot on the back of the stove- that was the place that stayed warm but not too hot- so that their stock would be hot but not boil.  For them, just knocking the fire down was enough to keep the stove at the right temperature.  Fast forward to the modern-day wonder- the crock pot! 

First, to make chicken stock, you need a chicken carcass or two and all the skin and left-over parts that didn't get picked from the bones.  Don't be stingy, throw it all in!  I even throw in the juices that are left after making my French roast chicken.  This time, I made two roast chickens and put all the unused parts into my large crock pot.

Fill the crock up so that all the bones will be covered and add a couple T apple cider vinegar to help draw out all the good minerals.  After about 30 minutes, turn the crock pot on high.  This will bring your stock to a simmer.  At this time, you need to keep a pretty good watch over it so that you can scoop out and discard any foam that rises to the top.  After scooping, you can add carrots, onions or garlic and some pepper corns (or leave plain to season later).

Turn your crock pot down to "warm".  My crock pot still allows the stock to "gurgle"- not quite a simmer, but with an occasional bubble.  If your warm setting doesn't seem warm enough, just set it on "low".  Now comes the waiting... I usually start my stock after dinner one night and strain it off after dinner the next night.  That way, it is "gurgling" for about 24 hours.  You can stop yours anywhere between 12 and 24 hours.  The longer it cooks, the stronger the flavors will be!

When you strain off your stock, place the liquid into cold storage overnight.  I placed mine in our sun room because it got down in the 20's last night!  And the above picture is what I found this morning- a beautiful layer of congealed fat on top of a wonderfully-gelled stock!  

You can discard this layer of fat or keep all or part of it in your stock.  I like keeping at least half of it, since it is not nearly as greasy as beef stock fat.  This stock goes into my 2-cup containers and then I pop them in the freezer!  This time, my son is begging for chicken and dumplings, so I can't put it all away :)

Have a wonderful Christmas holiday and may all your stocks gel!  Enjoy!