In an effort to make our lives more complicated and possibly waste a lot of honey, we decided to try making mead. Well, I decided we would. After tasting the elixir made by Darling Daughter’s Partner, I bought the equipment as a Christmas present for The Engineer.
I bought two books on the subject as a present for myself.
It turns out there are almost as many recipes and methods for making mead as there are ideas on how to keep bees. So after reviewing the books (me) and watching the YouTube videos (both of us), we decided to follow the instructions provided by our local Vine N Hop Shop.
After all, our success would mean they gain two regular customers.
I bought the set-up for a five gallon batch, not realizing most people start with just one.
Go big or go home, right?
But making a lot of mead also meant we’d be able to experiment with a variety of flavors (quite possibly ruining several gallons of it in the process).
We decided to try hot peppers, ginger, and grapefruit (not all together, of course).*
These additions can be made at the start of the fermentation process, in the secondary part of the process, or even when bottling. Or so I’ve heard.
Having initially read that it was best done in the second stage, we missed the opportunity to add it at the start and so decided to add it when “racking.” This is when the mead maker moves the mix from its initial container to a second container, leaving the yeasty “lees” behind.
Today was Racking Day, and we were ready to go — plenty of airlocks (to let out the air from fermentation and keep bacteria from getting in), growlers to store the various mixtures (believe it or not, we had to buy some beer so we’d have enough), and bungs (to seal the growlers).
At least, we thought we were ready.
Unfortunately, we made a major miscalculation in thinking our big growlers held a gallon each when in fact they held a half.
The ensuing mad scramble resulted in a variety of containers (above). Although we weren’t desperate enough to use the vodka bottle and cup — they were for the airlocks and tasting, respectively — my canning jars and a whiskey decanter were fair game.
You’re probably wondering about the rubber gloves.
They’re because we didn’t have any balloons.
I’m not kidding. There are a plethora of mead making instructions that use balloons for airlocks. I suppose that’s in case you don’t want to spend $2 on a plastic one.
But we didn’t have any balloons. What we did have was sterile latex gloves, thankfully powder-free.
And that’s what we used.
When the airlocks stop bubbling, and the mead begins to clear, it will be time to bottle.
Meanwhile, we wait … and drink mead from Honeytree Meadery (Nashville) in the meantime.
*If you’re curious, for the ginger, we made a tinture by chopping ginger and soaking it in vodka for about a week. The pepper was a serrano, quartered and stuck in the bottom with half its seeds. There can be issues with acidity when you make mead with citrus. Supposedly, using only the zest can impart flavor without bitterness, so that’s what we did — used the zest of a single large red grapefruit. We added each of these to the bottom of a growler before siphoning in the still fermenting mead. Will these amounts be too zesty? Hot? Sour? We’ll let you know.