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Mead

A simple alcoholic drink to make

The best definition I have seen for mead is "The result of fermentation between honey and water in the presence of fruit acid". It really is that simple. Apart from yeast, yeast nutrient and tannin, any other ingredient, such as fruit, herbs or grain gives the drink another name. Over the years I have seen names like "Apple Mead", "Cherry Mead", "Strawberry Mead" and "Wheat Mead", but these are all inaccurate.

Much of the commercial mead available is not mead, but grape based wine with the addition of honey. As a fairly serious mead maker I have tasted some rather awful liquids that don't give proper mead a good name. This is probably why so many people, even beekeepers, think that mead is sweet and strong. There are some commercial meads that produce a good authentic product, but you will need to ask.

Mead can be made in any kitchen using the usual wine making utensils and principles. There are some recipes available for "quick mead" and they can be acceptable, but I believe that maturation is a benefit. That is no problem, as all you need do is to have a succession of batches.

Mead making is obviously cheaper for beekeepers because they have the main ingredient, but for the non-beekeeper it can be quite expensive to use local honey. I have tasted some very acceptable mead that has been made using the cheapest imported honey. The important points are to maintain cleanliness, use good wine yeasts, exclude air at all times and be patient.

The buttons on the left will lead you to recipes and instructions. You will notice that both recipes are very similar, but even with the same mead maker we often change things a little. You will notice that Brian Dennis uses about ½lb more honey than I use for the same level of sweetness. For the first time mead maker I would suggest using 3½lb honey, then adjust subsequent batches to suit yourself. It is a mistake to be light on the quantity of honey, then try to add more after you have found it is too dry for you. The added honey will probably start it fermenting again. Mead is not particularly stable anyway, without giving it some encouragement.

Instructions are simple. Just follow them, don't try to cut corners, otherwise failure may result. Many a potentially good mead has been ruined because someone did something daft. If you do have a disaster, don't tip it down the sink. It will still probably be good to cook with.

Roger Patterson.