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June 16, 2014

Home Brewing: Irish Mead Recipe

Barbarian Home, Krieg It Yourself

I said there was going to be more brewing talk on the blog, and so I present to you – more brewing talk on the blog! (Following on from my post the other week on Plum Wine). I was given a secret Irish mead recipe from a friend of my husband’s family. It is quite blissful – gives a really smooth flavor to the finished mead. A basic mead recipe, like the one we make here, is gonna be lovely, but this recipe gives a whole new level of flavor.

This is not the exact secret Irish recipe (because, duh, secret) but this is an adaptation based on what I had in the cupboard when I went to make mead this weekend. I was given 2.5kg of honey from a fellow homesteader a couple of months ago, and I’ve been itching to turn it into something alcoholic and yummy. This is for about 5L of mead. So, here we go:

Ingredients for Irish Mead

Ingredients for Irish Mead

Ingredients

  • Honey, raw, unprocessed – 2.5kg
  • Water – about 4L (Spring or rain water).
  • Sultanas – 900g.
  • Champagne yeast – I use Vinter’s Harvest SN9.
  • Yeast nutrient.
  • Lemon juice.
  • 3 small oranges.
  • 3-4 tea bags.
  • Campden tablets.

Equipment.

  • Brewing bucket.
  • airlock and bung.
  • Spoon (wooden or plastic).
  • plastic or ceramic glass / mug.
  • hydrometer.
  • 1 gallon / 5L carboy / demijohn (and a bung that fits it)

Method

First, sterilize all your equipment.

OK, so being in an Irish mood, you’re going to toss the whole “boiling the honey to remove the sludge” process out the window. There is a bit of debate among mead-brewers as to whether this boiling is necessary. I was taught to boil, but in this recipe, I was told not to, and it turns out beeeeea-utiful, so I’m not boiling.

What I do is fill the kettle up with my water (I just use purified water from the tap, since we’re on rainwater, but if you’re on town water, you’ll need to buy some spring water) and boil it. I then use this hot water to help me loosen the honey in the container, so I can spoon it all into the brewing bucket. I then boil the kettle again, use the rest of the boiling water to fill up the mug and then scrape down the sides of my honey container. I then add the tea bags to the mug and add enough water to fill the bucket up to about 7L.

I squeeze the juice of a lemon or two in, and then I get my oranges and squeeze that juice in. And then I toss the rinds in (I take the seeds out, though).

 

OK, this looks gross, but I swear at some point it turns into alcoholic goodness.

OK, this looks gross, but I swear at some point it turns into alcoholic goodness.

Then, I add the sultanas. Then I add the tea (taking the teabags out, first). The tea is adding tanin to the must, which helps the yeast.

I stick the lid on so nothing foreign can get in, and keep this mixture (the must) to one side to cool down. Yeasts like warm – but not hot – temperatures, so I leave my must until it cools down to room temperature. Overnight is a safe bet, but you might be OK after 4-8 hours.

When the must has cooled down enough, add the yeast and yeast nutrient, following the directions on the packet. At this point, I take a reading – I’m looking for around 14-19% alcohol (my current batch is 14%). I’ve had a 19% batch before and weehee, does that kick your arse.

Put the lid on TIGHT, add the airlock, and leave in a warm place for a couple of weeks. The yeast will bubble like crazy and then calm down slowly. When you’re hearing one bubble every minute or two (after about 14 days), you can rack off the must into your carboy. Discard the bottom 1inch of so of sediment – that is your lees and it’s filled with little bee legs and wings and you don’t want them. Bung that air lock on your carboy and leave for between 3-12 months, racking every month or two if you want lovely clear mead.

Meet Socrates. He's new here at Steffmetal HQ, and he's helping with the mead prep.

Meet Socrates. He’s new here at Steffmetal HQ, and he’s helping with the mead prep.

Hint: to get your sultanas and rinds out of the must easier, you could put them inside a muslin bag and then just lift and squeeze. Remember that the bag needs to be washed and sterilized, too.

When you think it’s ready, bottle. And some time later, drink. Ahoy!

This batch of Irish mead, if it turns out OK, is going to be shared at my 30th birthday party in Feb next year. I’m hoping to make another batch of mead next month too, for the occasion :)

Have any of you ever made mead? What were your results? What are your favourite recipes / additions?

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