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Making Meadowsweet Mead

Mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man. It is made from honey and water, and is fermented through the action of yeast. Traditionally, wild yeasts would have been used, although we can only imagine what our ancestors believed to be the cause of the magical transformation of their ingredients into alcohol. Hieroglyphics suggest that that ancient Egyptians were using yeast and the process of fermentation to produce alcoholic drinks and to leaven bread over 5,000 years ago. Commercial yeast has only be available from around the start of the twentieth century after Louis Pasteur identified it as a living organism, and responsible for both the fermentation process, and bread leavening, in the 1860's.

 

Mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man. It is made from honey and water, and is fermented through the action of yeast. Here we try out making it at home using Meadowsweet flowers picked from our hedgerows.

Wild yeasts are found everywhere. On fruit, flowers, trees and in the air. It even grows all over us. Wine making gives us a big clue to where you might find wild yeasts in abundance, with fruits such as grapes, elderberries and blackberries being particularly popular ones from which to make wine. Here in the UK, look at the dark fruits you see in the hedgerows such as blackberries, damsons and sloes, on them it is easy to see the powdery bloom of the wild yeast.

 

Mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man. It is made from honey and water, and is fermented through the action of yeast. Here we try out making it at home using Meadowsweet flowers picked from our hedgerows.

So we have decided to try and make some Mead. It is our first attempt, so time will tell how successful our method will be. The kids loved the whole process, and the fact we now how a strange mixture bubbling in the corner of our sitting room - like a ditch water version of a lava lamp!

We came up with our recipe from reading a number of different ones, all of which can be found on our Celebrating Wild Foods and Herbs Pinterest board, as can a couple of really interesting articles on making bread using wild yeasts. We did decide for our first attempt to use a champagne yeast for our Mead, going on the theory that if we manage to produce a drinkable product, when can then use that as a benchmark for more experimentation next time around. Our honey is a raw British wildflower honey, from a small bee-keeper, and for our flavouring we used Meadowsweet, which is a traditional herb used for Mead making. You can read more about Meadowsweet and see our cordial recipe here.

 

Mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man. It is made from honey and water, and is fermented through the action of yeast. Here we try out making it at home using Meadowsweet flowers picked from our hedgerows.

Some of the recipes suggest all sorts of additives, such as nutrient tablets to help support the yeast, and other bits and pieces to balance flavour. We decided to omit all of them, and go for a more traditional, and simple approach. We also didn't worry about sanitising our equipment - the demijohn and air lock are new, and everything else went through the dishwasher. We started by heating 2 litres of mineral water until almost boiling then added the flowers from our bunch of meadowsweet, and left them to steep for about 20 minutes. We then added about 2lbs of raw honey, and stirred well. When cool enough, we poured it all into the demijohn with half a sliced lemon and a dozen sultanas. The recipes we saw all used raisins, but we didn't have any in the cupboard! We topped our mixture up with more mineral water, leaving a couple of inches head room and gave it all a shake to mix, and finally we added half a sachet of champagne yeast and popped on the airlock (primed with water).

 

Mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man. It is made from honey and water, and is fermented through the action of yeast. Here we try out making it at home using Meadowsweet flowers picked from our hedgerows.

Within the hour we had bubbles making their way through the air lock, and by the time we returned from an afternoon bowling our Mead was sporting a very fine looking bubbly head indeed. From what I have read, the mead should take 4-6 weeks to ferment, and then we will see if our slightly relaxed approach has been successful.

 

Mead is the oldest alcoholic drink known to man. It is made from honey and water, and is fermented through the action of yeast. Here we try out making it at home using Meadowsweet flowers picked from our hedgerows.

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10 Comments

  • Reply Nikki Frank-Hamilton

    Sarah, this is such a fun project, I love coming over and learning from you! I’ve never had mead but I’m thinking that needs to change. Elderflower and Pear sounds so delish! The ingredients look beautiful in the jug, it could be a cool decoration. And the airlock is so cool, it would be fun to watch this brew. You have to let us know how it turned out, I’m really curious!
    Nikki Frank-Hamilton recently posted…Stunning Shots – Delicate Pink RoseMy Profile

    August 9, 2016 at 1:42 am
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I definitely will Nikki, I’m hoping it’s going to be lovely, but time will tell! I’ve never had homemade mead before, although have tried shop bought once or twice – I can see me really getting into home brewing if this batch works :)

      August 11, 2016 at 11:59 pm
  • Reply Debbie

    Hi Sarah, I’d be interested to know how this tastes, but it’s not something I would make. Bet the demijohn sat in the corner f the room is a bit of a conversation starter!

    xx
    Debbie recently posted…Sunrise Over ZakynthosMy Profile

    August 2, 2016 at 7:21 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Fortunately my friends are used to my random projects, and in particular my odd alcohol concoctions Debbie – I’ll let you all know how it tastes when its ready :)

      August 5, 2016 at 6:24 pm
  • Reply Carol, The Red Painted Cottage

    I love reading historical fictions that take place around 800AD and up; and they are always talking about mead. I figured it was some kind of an alcoholic drink, like beer.
    Carol, The Red Painted Cottage recently posted…Patchwork Potato SaladMy Profile

    August 2, 2016 at 5:51 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I lobe historical Novels too, Carol – now I just need a costume (and a knight)and I’ll be well away!

      August 5, 2016 at 6:22 pm
  • Reply Katrin

    It looks really great, even though I have never tasted it or tried to make it and your photography is so beautiful! I’m curious to know how it turned out!
    Katrin recently posted…Watercolour crayon wordsMy Profile

    August 2, 2016 at 3:41 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      Thanks Katrin, I’ll be sure to update you all on how it tastes when it’s ready – really hoping it’ll be nice :)

      August 5, 2016 at 6:21 pm
  • Reply Michelle

    Love this. My hubby is a second generation Scot living in Africa and always talks about Mead. I think we need to try make it together using some of our South African fruits. Please let me know how it turns out.

    August 1, 2016 at 3:12 pm
    • Reply Sarah - Craft Invaders

      I will do Michelle, I’m thinking of trying a fruit one next – will probably go for elderflower or pear depending how quickly I get around to it. Everyone will be getting Mead for Christmas at this rate!

      August 1, 2016 at 5:10 pm

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