Summer Fruits Mead

This is something of a work in progress and as is often the case on this site: it's about making a record as I go along so I can refer back.

Motivation

Summer FruitsMy father-in-law, like most allotment holders, does it for the enjoyment of growing things and ends up with more fruit and veg than he can use. Consequently I was offered a substantial quantity of summer fruits and, fearing for the effect it would have on my waistline where I to turn it into pies, I decided to have a go at making mead.

Recipe

I happened to have a copy of "How to Make Home Wines and Beers" by Francis Pennegar on my shelves. Pennegar's recipe for raspberry melomel seemed close enough but specified the use of acacia blossom honey and a half pint of red grape concentrate... which I worked out would cost me about 18 UKP for honey and grape juice, and kinda went against the ethos of what I wanted to do i.e. make it for cheap. So instead I bought 4 UKP worth of the cheapest 100% pure honey I could find at the local supermarket. Grapes schmapes - forget 'em.

As I understand it, much more important than those subtleties (read up on wine making if you are unaware), is ensuring that there is no contamination by foreign yeasts and minimal introduction of air while racking and bottling. I figure that so long as I don't brew up a gallon of vinegar my end product can, in a worse case scenario, be employed as the starting point for a hot punch or mulled wine come yuletide 2015. In a best case scenario we'll be having a few merry picnic next year. :-)

Fruit Prep & Yeast Starter

Yeast StarterThe fruit I was given had already been washed and separated from stalks etc. In fact it was my father-in-law's 2013 crop that had been frozen and was having to be cleared out to make room for the 2014 crop. I figured that it still needed soaking in a solution with Campden Tablets for 24 hours so while that was happening, I set a starter in progress.

For the starter, Pinnegar suggests boiling 6 tablespoons of freshly squeezed orange juice with an equal quantity of water and stirring in 1oz of sugar. I went with this except that I used juice from a carton instead. I also scolded out an old mayonnaise jar and it's lid with boiling water. When cooled, I added a sachet of high alcohol wine yeast.

Yeast Meets Fruit

The following day, after the Campden tablets had done their stuff, I added the yeast starter plus two 340g jars of honey. I didn't see any point putting all of the honey in at once. I CAN see the point when you're dissolving sugar, but not with honey... and I figured that I'd be less likely to get a crazy initial reaction by adding it over a few days.

1 day after adding the yeast.The photo shows the must the day after adding the yeast. Yes, I know I'm supposed to use a plastic container but I don't have one and our pressure cooker isn't doing anything else in these summer months. I do of course have the top covered by a tea towel when I'm not taking photographs.

The kitchen smelled lovely for the next few days. I gave it a stir a couple of times a day as the fruit solids tended to float to the top. I also added the additional honey, resulting in the following schedule:

Day 1 - Mash fruit and add Campden tablets.
Day 2 - Add yeast and 2 jars of honey.
Day 3 - Nothing.
Day 4 - Add a third jar of honey.
Day 5 - Add the fourth jar of honey.
Day 6 - Strain into a demijohn.

In The Demijohn

Once in the demijohn it bubbled nicely. I left a descent gap at the top in case it went a bit wild but this proved unnecessary. Incidentally: what you see in the background of the image below right is ginger beer.

Mead after straining into a demijohn.After about a week it started to slow down and, given that I want the end product to be sweet I figured: why not max out the alcohol? So I added another jar of honey.

The extra honey perked it up a bit and I left it along for another 2 or 3 weeks.

By this time it was slowing right down and a layer of crud had settled to the bottom. I decided to syphon it off into a clean demijohn.

In the process of syphoning I got a couple of mouthfuls of the stuff; it was delicious and went straight to my head. However it wasn't overly sweet... so I figured that it would stand yet another jar of honey!

Post Fermentation

When it had stopped fermenting I gave it a couple of months before racking it into a clean demijohn. BEAR IN MIND that I had already racked it as it was slowing down (see above), so there was very little sediment at this point. I topped up the demijohn with some red wine that I just happened to have in. ;-)

I'm inclined to leave it in the demijohn for a while before I bottle it.

Watch this space.