Here's a generic recipe to show the ingredients and techniques involved. Meads like this are often called "Traditional Meads," though most of the older mead recipes I know of do call for various flavoring agents. In any case, this is a recipe that should get you started making good quality meads. Note that an unflavored mead really gives a delicate honey the chance to show itself off. It can also remind wine drinkers of a delicate, but slightly sweet, Chenin Blanc.
Follow this method for any of the recipes provided:
Heat the Water until warm, turn off the stove and stir in the Honey until dissolved.
Heat this mixture to boiling, and boil for 5 minutes, skimming the surface with a large spoon. Add the Nutrient, Acid, and Irish Moss/Whirlfloc.
Cool to room temperature.
Pour the mixture into carboys, or other narrow-neck (closed) fermentors, filling them no more than 75% full.
When the temperature of this "must" is down near room temperature, test the sugar and acid levels. If these are below the levels indicated above, make the necessary corrections. Slightly higher is okay.
Add Yeast to the surface. In 10 or 12 hours, stir it in.
Once fermentation begins, allow it to continue for two or three weeks until visible signs of fermentation have ceased.
When bubbles can no longer be seen rising through the mead, rack (siphon) away from the settlings into an open container. Fine with Sparkolloid, add 40-65 ppm of stock Metabisulfite solution or crushed and dissolved Campden Tablets (and Oak Essence if desired), and siphon into a narrowneck storage container, top up, and let it set for four weeks.
Rack away from the Sparkolloid settlings, top up again, and let it stand for three to six months.
Carefully rack into an open container, add 40-65 ppm of stock Metabisulfite solution or crushed and dissolved Campden Tablets. If you wish to sweeten the mead, do so now with sugar syrup while also adding Potassium Sorbate to avoid re-fermentation.
Siphon the mead into bottles, cap them, and set them aside to age for three to six months.
The Melomel Variation
Meads flavored with various fruits or berries are traditionally called "Melomels." These meads are extremely common, and as you might expect, almost any imaginable variation is possible. One of my favorites is made with raspberries. This is what the recipe looks like:
Notes on the Melomel Variation. Prepare as for unflavored Traditional Mead (above) with the following exceptions:
Add Tannin during the boil.
Add Berries and Pectic Enzyme after cooling, along with the yeast.
Fruit or Berries should be tied up in a large nylon straining bag, and lightly smashed before being combined with the rest of the batch.
Stone Fruits such as: plums, cherries, etc. can be substituted for a different fruit flavor but must be pitted before use.
With fruit or berry pulp present, fermentation must take place in a wide mouth container such as a 10 gallon plastic primary fermentor. (I use the stainless kettle I've been using for the boil). The pulp will rise to the top during fermentation, and should be pushed down into the liquid morning and night for four to six days. At this point, the pulp is lightly squeezed and removed. When the active signs of fermentation, bubbling and frothing have stopped, rack to a closed secondary container such as a 5 or 6 gallon carboy, and proceed with the rest of the steps.
Another really interesting change from still mead, is to make it sparkling. Bottled in Champagne bottles, and dosed with a priming sugar mix, the bottle fermentation will leave a yeast sediment, so pour off slowly to leave it behind. The effervescence is especially refreshing with the fruit meads.
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