Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Wendy Jehanara Tremayne: Mead Makes a Special Gift

Give skill and knowledge that outlast the holiday season. Buy gifts in kit form and give things that make other things.

Illustration © Kate Bingaman-Burt, excerpted
The Good Life Lab. All rights reserved.

Kits teach us how things work. Kit-made gadgets and goods are lessons in and of themselves. Kits are available for all interests: making wine and cheese, building electronics, making soap, sewing, building, and cooking and fermenting. Kits prevent waste because kit-made goods are more easily fixed by those who originally assembled them. Things that make other things include (in addition to kits) tools like sewing machines, pasta makers and soldering irons; trees (they make fruit and shade); and microorganisms, like sourdough starter.

Holidays pass, trends expire, and many gifts wind up in landfills months after they’ve been given, but skill and knowledge endure. As gifts they show those you love that you know what is truly valuable.

Alternatively, gifts that you make yourself have special appeal. They embody your time, labor, and love. My partner, Mikey, and I enjoy transforming the honey produced from our beehive into mead. We bottle it in repurposed wine bottles obtained free from local restaurants and add a personalized label of our own before gifting it to friends and neighbors.

 Wine and Mead

Few things are more exciting and empowering than making homemade wine. People are wildly impressed when they receive a bottle, whether it’s made from vintage grapes — or dandelions and clover. While we wait for our fruit trees to grow at Holy Scrap, we’ve been learning about winemaking by using wine kits. Kits have taught us the process, showed us the ingredients and additives to use, and helped us understand the things that affect the taste. Making kit wine requires one-time equipment purchases — things like a hydrometer (which measures the amount of alcohol in liquids), a carboy (a large glass container), a plastic bucket, and a corker. All of these can be found at wine supply stores; some starter kits include them. Wine kits come with the grape juice needed to make wine. You can choose your favorite varieties: chardonnay, pinot noir, zinfandel, and others. Kits cost well under $100 and produce 30 bottles of wine. Wine bottles are easily obtained from local restaurants and can be used over and over again.
Art © Miyuki Sakai, excerpted from
The Good Life Lab. All rights reserved.


Making mead is alchemy. For the cost of three pounds of honey and some of your time, you can produce $100 worth of wonderful mead, a sweet alcoholic beverage. Unlike most beer, mead is gluten-free and hard to find. It makes a special gift.
What You Need:
2 one-gallon glass jugs
approximately 1 gallon water
3 pounds plus ½ teaspoon honey
plastic airlock
yeast (Champagne yeast, for a relatively dry mead)
4 to 6 wine bottles and corks or 4 to 6 swingtop bottles
  1. Heat ½ gallon of water to 100 degrees F and mix well with 3 pounds honey in a 1-gallon jug. Put an airlock on the jug’s opening and let stand for 24 hours.
  2. Add water without filling the neck of the jug.
  3. Heat ½ cup of water to 100 degrees F and mix with ½ teaspoon honey. Sprinkle yeast on top of the water mixture to activate the yeast. Let yeast activate for 30 minutes before adding it to the honey–water mixture in the jug.
  4. Return airlock to the jug's opening and let stand for 3 weeks, away from sunlight and in a moderate-temperature room (78 to 82 degrees F is ideal).
  5. After 3 weeks, the mead is fermented. Dead yeast will have settled at the bottom of the jug. Remove the airlock and carefully pour the jug’s contents into a second 1-gallon jug, leaving the bottom layer of sediment behind.
  6. Top off with water, this time filling the neck of the jug. Return airlock to the jug's opening and let stand for 2 more weeks.
  7. Pour the mead into wine bottles, leaving behind any sediment and leaving a little room for expansion. Seal each bottle with a cork if needed. When bottling, you can add additional flavor in the form of a fruit concentrate. Add concentrate one tablespoon at a time until the taste is to your liking. The added sugar in the concentrate helps to carbonate the mead and bring out its flavor.
Finishing and Storage: Aging is critical; let the mead stand for at least 3 months after bottling. Temperature matters; to get a good carbonation during this anaerobic stage, store your mead in a place where you can maintain a constant temperature of 72 degrees F. To help the cause, consider wrapping the jug or putting it on a small electric heating pad.

Wendy Jehanara Tremayne was a creative director in a marketing firm in New York City before moving to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, where she built an off-the-grid oasis in a barren RV park with her partner, Mikey Sklar. She is the founder of the textile repurposing event Swap-o-Rama-Rama, which has spread all over the world; a conceptual artist; a yogi; a gardener; and a writer. She has written for Craft’s webzine and magazine and, with Mikey Sklar, keeps the blog Holy Scrap.


Amin said...

It seems like Wendy's Life Lab pretty much sums up in one book what Storey has been about all these years. Make it. Do it. To paraphrase from the Health Food world: "You are what you do!" Can't wait for the book. Any thought of serializing it? It seems like a lot to take in all at once.

Kate's virtual Home said...

I want this book.. I have been following your blog for a while and I would love to have more of your work in print.