Mead, or honey wine, is an alcoholic beverage made using honey, water, and fermentation. Alcohol content? Yes, most definitely. What better act of radical homemaking than to make our own alcoholic beverage using only water, honey, and the wild yeasts around us?
As the popularity of homemade honey wine increases, there are many supplies and fermentation kits available. But learning how to make mead is not complicated and you can enjoy homemade honey wine using only honey, water, and wild fermentation. I like to experiment with adding a variety of herbs for flavor, color, and other qualities. Let me show you the easy way of making herbal honey wine without a big investment in time or special supplies.
Making Homemade Honey Wine
– Homemade Mead
There are plenty of kits available for making homemade mead, but really, you can do without the complicated supplies. After all, our ancestors made mead thousands of years ago, and didn’t have Amazon or brewing clubs to supply them. While many instructions for homemade mead include the addition of yeast, the method I use does not require added yeast. Instead, this process relies on the naturally present yeasts in our environment. You can learn more about Wild Fermentation from the excellent book: Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Katz
How to Make Mead – The Basics – Click Here for an easy print pdf recipe
A 1 gallon, wide-mouth mason jar. (I use a recycled gallon-sized pickle jar I got from a local restaurant.)
A 1 gallon glass jug with a small top like this one. (I purchased a gallon of apple juice from the grocery store just for the jar.)
A jar with a lid for bottling the finished mead. I do recommend investing in the Grolsch flip top bottles.
An airlock (I use a balloon instead – see step 3 below for an explanation)
Cheesecloth or a piece of muslin
A wooden spoon
3 cups of honey
12 cups of water (untreated or filtered)
Time frame: 2-4 weeks.
- Mix honey and water in your wide mouth gallon jar. Stir several times daily using your wooden spoon – don’t rinse or wash the spoon in between! Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and lay your wooden spoon on top.
- When you start to see bubbles in the honey water, you will know the fermentation process has started. At this point, transfer the honey water to the gallon-sized jug with a narrow top.
- Most people use an airlock to capture the carbon dioxide released from the fermentation process and to keep bacteria from entering the brew. But we use a simple balloon. I like to watch the balloon slowly inflate as the yeast does its work, and I can monitor the process daily as I lift one corner of the balloon to “burp” the honey wine.
- Continue to release the Co2 from the balloon daily (lift the corner off the jar). As the yeast use up the honey, there will be less Co2 released and the balloon will no longer inflate. Depending on the temperature in your home, this could take days or weeks.
- Once the fermentation process has slowed, your honey wine is ready. At this point you will want to place a cap on the bottle. But be careful – there can still be some fermenting and Co2 produced – so you will want to either drink your wine soon, or check it occasionally and let some of the gas out to prevent the bottle from breaking due to gas build up.
This is it! Time to enjoy your homemade mead!
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A few notes:
I keep my fermenting mead on the kitchen counter where I am reminded to “tend” to it. Using a wooden spoon, without washing or rinsing between stirs, helps draw the wild yeasts to the spoon, which will then be incorporated into the wine.
In the old days, women kept their wooden spoons hanging from a post in the kitchen. When they married and left home for their husband’s house, they took their wooden spoon with them, thereby taking their “culture” with them.
Cool temperatures will make the process take longer. If your house is consistently cold, then maybe you could use an electric heating pad set on low temperature beneath the bottle of honey wine? This should be sufficient to start and maintain the process.
The mead will continue a slow fermentation process, and the flavor will change gradually with time. I enjoy drinking some of my homemade mead as soon as it is ready, and saving some for later.
Making Herbal Honey Wine
There are so many ways to alter the flavor, aroma, and color of your honey wine. The type of honey you start with makes a difference. The addition of fresh fruits and herbs add delightful flavor and aroma. During the winter holidays we enjoy mead with cinnamon and clove, and summer meads with fresh seasonal fruits and herbs add variety.
Making your own mead at home is a satisfying way to enjoy a process that has been used for thousands of years around the globe.
“Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read.”
~ Francis Bacon
Herbal Fermentation Course at the Herbal Academy
The Craft of Herbal Fermentation Course offers a unique opportunity to take our relationships with plants even further through the art and science of herbal fermentation. Discover the excitement and liberation that comes from creating herbal fermentations including herbal beer, herbal mead, herbal kombucha, herbal water kefir, and herbal lacto-fermented foods through both written instruction and video tutorials. You will also be introduced to exclusive recipes and techniques and supplied with the resource and supply lists that you will need to get started on your own herbal fermentation journey.