Saturday, July 31, 2010

New addition

Our new daughter, Hattie Elisabeth, was born July 21.

Cherry pickers

With so many colors and shapes of cherry tomatoes, Nora and Paul have had fun picking and sampling in the tomato patch this year.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Mead and How to Make It

  Mead is the proper term for alcohol fermented from honey.  In mead's simplest form, honey is diluted with water to about the same sweetness as juice and then allowed to ferment like wine.  Mead is one of the very few kinds of alcohol we're able to make from all local, homegrown ingredients grown without the use of chemical pesticides.  (Traditional wine grapes are almost always grown in very pesticide-intensive ways, and most other fruits can't be made into wine without added sugar.)  If made only with honey and water, mead assumes its flavor mainly from the particular flowers from which the bees collect the nectar to make the honey.  Alternatively, honey can be combined with fruits that are otherwise unsuitable for fermentation on their own to make fruit meads, for example: blackberries, elderberries, muscadines, or strawberries.  Although most people assume that anything made with honey would have to be sweet, by using more or less honey, mead, like wine, can be made in a range of dry to sweet styles.  The alcohol level of mead is comparable to wines.
   Mead is very easy to make.  Begin with very good tasting honey.  Mead making generally amplifies the underlying flavors of the honey.  It takes about a quart of honey (slightly more for added sweetness) to make a gallon of mead (or about 5 standard wine bottles).  Mix the honey in with the water until it dissolves, then let it ferment.  Naturally occurring yeast strains could be used, but we've always added a selected yeast strain to our honey-water mixture.  Enough wine yeast to ferment 5-6 gallons can be purchased for well under a dollar.  We think it's best to ferment mead in what's called a carboy, a large glass container with a narrow opening that can be fitted with a stopper and airlock.  Once filled with water, the airlock allows the carbon dioxide given off by the yeast to escape but seals the mead off from the air, which helps prevent the mead from turning to vinegar.  It typically takes one to three months for the yeast to do their job and another three to nine months for all the yeast to drop out of suspension and for the mead to turn clear, which is when we like to bottle it.  Adding fruit can greatly accelerate the process.  If you've made wine before, you should already have all the equipment you'd need.  If not, you could spend anywhere from $40 to $150 for equipment that would pretty much all be reusable.