Mead, sometimes referred to as honey wine, may not be a popular fermented drink any longer but it is one of the most ancient ones and it’s very easy to make. It is made by fermenting honey with water, usually with some flavouring added. Depending on the concentration of honey in the water, and on how the fermentation in managed, mead can be sweet or dry, still or sparkling. Dry mead will usually be more alcoholic (up to 20%), as all the sugar in the honey is fermented, and if you bottle the brew before the fermentation is completed you will end up with a fizzy drink as the CO² from the fermentation is trapped in the bottle.
The recipe below which we use at Macalla Farm makes a sweet and sparkling mead with a low alcohol content, but it can also be adapted by letting the fermentation go on for longer to give a dryer and more alcoholic mead.
Because our honey production is very small, at Macalla Farm, we extract honey by simply pressing the comb through a sieve. As anyone who has ever extracted honey in this way knows, quite a bit of honey is left in the comb. As we’d hate to waste this, we wash the wax with warm water and use this water to make mead. One could, of course just take honey from a jar, dilute with water, and make mead this way.
80g of honey per litre of water is probably ideal, but you could use more if you want a sweet (or a fairly alcoholic) mead or a little less to make a dry fizzy drink.
I just taste the water and add more to dilute the honey further if I find it too sweet. I then add grated ginger and the juice of one lemon for every 2 litres of water (yeast prefers a slightly acid medium, so this will speed up fermentation, as well as giving a bit of extra sharpness to the final product). Cover the brew with a cloth and leave it in a warm place, stirring (and tasting) daily. After a day or two, the brew will start to foam, indicating that the fermentation has started. Keep stirring and tasting until the brew has reached the ideal balance between sweetness and sharpness (this, of course, is a matter of personal taste). As I like a sweet drink with a low alcohol content, I find 3 or 4 days to be ideal, but it would be possible to let the brew ferment longer to full dryness.
Once you are happy with the taste, filter and bottle in glass beer bottles (Swing Top). Note that no other types of bottles should be used (this is true for all fermented drinks; even Kumbucha can get fizzy enough to blow up an ordinary bottle– I’ve seen it happen).
Leave to ferment in the bottles for a day or two, by then it should be fizzy enough. Put the bottles in the fridge (this will slow down the fermentation), and drink (and enjoy!) soon.