Monday, October 13, 2014

Nan Chase: Mead Season

’Tis the season to give in to honey’s charms.

Nan Chase’s farmer’s market find
It’s time to buy honey for making mead this winter. I didn’t know it was time to buy honey until I stopped at a local farmers’ market yesterday to pick up some muscadine grapes. But the lustrous golden jars of honey caught my attention, and the saleslady said, “Better get it now. The good stuff goes fast.”

By “good stuff” she meant this season’s newly processed local honey. I chose a beautiful amber jar of wildflower honey. Imagine bottling up a season’s wildflowers and then drinking that marvelous aroma and glowing color. It shouts health! There was also some new sourwood honey, a real delicacy.

I already know what I want to do with my jar of wildflower honey (and yes, it is a little more expensive than grocery store honey from distant lands) and that’s craft a half-gallon batch of apple cider mead, using fresh apple cider with honey and an interesting wine yeast, plus spices like cinnamon and cloves — a new and possibly outstanding beverage. Making mead is a nice winter activity using any kind of fresh or canned juice from the past season.

More about Mead

  • Mead is a fermented fruit, herb, or flower beverage in which honey, rather than cane sugar, is fed to the yeast. The alcohol content can vary substantially, and may depend on the type of yeast used or the proportion of honey to water; some kinds of mead produce up to 18 percent alcohol, others as low as 11 percent, and still others even less. An expert at a home brew supply store can be a good adviser on types of yeast. The higher the alcohol content, the less chance there is that the mead can spoil.
  • Mead actually predates wine by many accounts, since honey is nature’s original sweetener. It is savored all over the world in its many marvelous forms. The flavor is always rich and complex, often brushed with soft remnants of honey. When properly made, mead will come out crystal clear and sometimes sparkling with effervescence.
  • Use raw or unrefined honey, not the commercial brands sold in the grocery store, which have been pasteurized, a process that kills off most of the natural yeast and will affect the flavor of your mead. The closer to home you can find honey for sale, the more authentic your mead will taste, with more of the microscopic bits of pollen that reflect the local flowers. Purchase honey in volume; quarts or even gallons are more economical than smaller jars. In recipes, honey is often called for in pounds — one quart equals one pound. 

To find recipes for making your own apple cider, mead, and other beverages from your garden, discover Drink the Harvest, available wherever books are sold.
Text about mead excerpted from Drink the Harvest © 2014 by Nan K. Chase and DeNeice C. Guest

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