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.

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