Saturday, March 29, 2008

Latest brews (more mead)

So, last weekend was Easter. 2 public holidays so apart from cleaning up the plastic demi-john caps, I was at a bit of a loose end.

I did some digging and found a few recipes at Gotmead. As it happened, I went round to the local supermarket for some milk and noticed that they had their own brand honey on offer - 2 jars for £2.50 - which was too hard to resist. I got as many jars as they had (about 12 I think it was), and as most honey of this nature is a bit mediocre for "proper" mead i.e. it tends to make quite unremarkable meads, I figured I could make a fruit mead (a.k.a. melomel) or a spiced one (a.k.a. metheglin).

Anyway, I decided an "easy" recipe would be best so I decided to make some "Joe Mattioli's Ancient Orange Spiced Mead" (yes I know, strictly speaking it's both melomel and metheglin).

Here's the recipe

1 gallon batch

3 1/2 lbs Clover or your choice honey or blend (will finish sweet)
1 Large orange (later cut in eights or smaller rind and all)
1 small handful of raisins (25 if you count but more or less ok)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 whole clove ( or 2 if you like - these are potent critters)
optional (a pinch of nutmeg and allspice )( very small )
1 teaspoon of Fleishmann’s bread yeast ( now don't get holy on me--- after all this is an ancient mead and that's all we had back then)
Balance water to one gallon


Use a clean 1 gallon carboy

Dissolve honey in some warm water and put in carboy

Wash orange well to remove any pesticides and slice in eights --add orange (you can push em through opening big boy -- rinds included -- its ok for this mead -- take my word for it -- ignore the experts)

Put in raisins, clove, cinnamon stick, any optional ingredients and fill to 3 inches from the top with cold water. ( need room for some foam -- you can top off with more water after the first few day frenzy)

Shake the heck out of the jug with top on, of course. This is your sophisticated aeration process.

When at room temperature in your kitchen, put in 1 teaspoon of bread yeast. ( No you don't have to rehydrate it first-- the ancients didn't even have that word in their vocabulary-- just put it in and give it a gentle swirl or not)(The yeast can fight for their own territory)

Install water airlock. Put in dark place. It will start working immediately or in an hour. (Don't use grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away in the 90's)( Wait 3 hours before you panic or call me) After major foaming stops in a few days add some water and then keep your hands off of it. (Don't shake it! Don't mess with them yeastees! Let them alone except its okay to open your cabinet to smell every once in a while.

Racking --- Don't you dare
additional feeding --- NO NO
More stirring or shaking -- Your not listening, don't touch

After 2 months and maybe a few days it will slow down to a stop and clear all by itself. (How about that) (You are not so important after all) Then you can put a hose in with a small cloth filter on the end into the clear part and siphon off the golden nectar. If you wait long enough even the oranges will sink to the bottom but I never waited that long. If it is clear it is ready. You don't need a cold basement. It does better in a kitchen in the dark. (Like in a cabinet) likes a little heat (70-80). If it didn't work out... you screwed up and didn't read my instructions (or used grandma's bread yeast she bought years before she passed away) . If it didn't work out then take up another hobby. Mead is not for you. It is too complicated.
If you were successful, which I am 99% certain you will be, then enjoy your mead. When you get ready to make different mead you will probably have to unlearn some of these practices I have taught you, but hey--- This recipe and procedure works with these ingredients so don't knock it. It was your first mead. It was my tenth. Sometimes, even the experts can forget all they know and make good ancient mead.

The only differences I made was that of the 3 batches I've made, 1 used the Orange suggested in the original recipe, whereas the second has lemon and the third has lime.

All three batches are now bubbling away, under the side table in the dining room. I can't wait to see how they turn out.

Just for info, I have made this recipe before, but I used wine yeast. When it had finished (I actually let it go until the fruit had dropped on that occasion), it tasted strongly of cloves. I thought I'd screwed it up. I hadn't really because I just racked it over into 1 gallon jars and chucked it under the stairs to bulk age.

That worked very well, because the strong clove taste faded into the background and it was a pleasant, rich tasting drink. I'm guessing that the strong flavour of cloves originally experienced was caused by both the cloves and by the use of wine yeast which must have fermented it to dry and leaving a bit of a "hot" alcohol taste.

Anyone thinking of having a go at making mead should try this - follow the recipe and apart from the sanitising/sterilizing of the jars etc, it actually takes about 20 minutes to make the must, then it's just a case of waiting it to cool enough to pitch the yeast - then just swirling it around and stoppering the container with a bubbler valve.

All three of these batches were bubbling/fermenting within the hour - in any case, it shouldn't take more than about a day for it to start bubbling/fermenting.

So now I just have to leave it alone and wait.

Oh and I just wrapped the jars with newspaper so to exclude light.

Pip pip!

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