Friday, March 1, 2013

March Mead-ness

As part of my "Febrewary" series, I wanted to share a mead recipe I came across.  There's only a couple of ingredients, commonly available at any grocery store, and the yeast does all the work.
Almost mead
So the recipe is three pounds of honey, half a cylinder of raisins, one orange, one packet of bread yeast, and almost a gallon of water.  This fits in a one gallon fermenter.  You will also need three bottles of wine.

Sanitize all the things

The first step is, obviously, sanitize everything.  Making a lambic (yeast wrangled from the wild) mead could be a fun bucket list activity but that's not today's goal.  I use a no-rinse sanitizer available at any brewing supply house.  Do your fermenter, cap, and airlock.  Also do scissors, a knife and cutting board, the outside of the yeast packet, a funnel, and a beaker.  There's no brew stage so you won't be sanitizing your siphon, hose, or bottle filler here.
Like any fermentation, the choice of ingredients will strongly influence the outcome.  In this recipe, the water, honey, and yeast you use have the most pull.  I use tap water.  The municipal water supply here is heavy, but I like to think that particular blend of minerals and metals gives a unique character to my brew that can't be copied.  Mesquite, clover, and alfalfa are the most common honey varieties here, along with house blends from some of the local apiaries.  I specified generic bread yeast because this is supposed to be a simple recipe; most grocery stores don't stock brewer's yeast.

Rise and Shine

Next step is to wake up the yeast so it's ready to ferment.  Fill your sanitized beaker with a quarter cup of warm water and stir in the yeast.  This will activate the dormant yeast and get it ready for work.  

Cut and Run

Fill the fermenter about a third of the way with water.  Peel and cut up the orange and dump it and the raisins into the fermenter.  Pour in the honey; this is where the funnel comes in handy.  Now pour in the activated yeast and fill the fermenter the rest of the way with water.  Install the cap and airlock per the included instructions and place the fermenter somewhere warm and dark.  I leave mine on the kitchen counter with a dish towel over it.  
Now comes the hard part.  Sit back and let the yeast do all the work for two or three weeks.  Drink the wine you bought and keep the empty bottles.  When the airlock stops bubbling, the yeast has eaten all that sugar, turned it into alcohol, and gone back to sleep.  It is now bottling day. 

Sanitize all the things, again

Sanitize the two or three empty wine bottles you've accumulated along with stoppers.  Also, sanitize your auto siphonhose, and bottle filler.  Following the instructions for the siphon, hose, and filler, transfer the mead from the fermenter to the bottles.  Or, since the fermenter is small enough to pick up, just pour it into the bottles through a sanitized funnel.  Doing it that way, with a coffee filter in the funnel, can improve the clarity of the final product.  I kind of like the unfiltered style and the siphon won't transfer much goop anyway.

Enjoy the fruits of you labor

I like to let my bottled mead sit in the refrigerator for at least a week before decanting but it is ready to drink now.  So invite your fellow vikings to join you at your hall and tell epic poems over a couple flagons.  Enjoy!

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