Meads are old Slavonic intoxicating drinks, which have an age-old history of production technology. With appearance of vodka and grape wines the recipe of mead production was completely forgotten, and it is only nowadays that interest to this beneficial drink is being revived. If you have some unused honey, you can try to make this genuinely divine nectar.
Meads fall into two groups: boiled and fermented.
Fermented meads are more ancient, they were made long before wine yeast appeared. Every mead is made of honey-in-water solution, which is fermented either by selected strains of yeast or by pollen conserved by bees ferments, which contain a large quantity of natural yeasts. Any beekeeping product can come in handy. The main thing is a sufficient amount of the product for getting a good-quality, full-bodied drink. Drink made of 43-45 kg of honey and 100 litres of water contains 17 percent alcohol, that of 32 kg of honey- only 13 percent alcohol.
Meads are made at the end of summer when honey is extracted everywhere. Honey ferments for seven –eight days in a warm place, then it is put on ice and the fermentation either ceases or considerably slows down. In three months when worked-out yeasts settle on the bottom, the drink is clarified. The wine is poured off carefully through a siphon in the form of a rubber or plastic tube into another container, filling it up, adding if necessary fermented mead from elsewhere.
After clarifying the drink should be poured into bottles (better from champagne). They are firmly corked and pitched by the mixture of 3 parts of paraffin and a part of wax, the so-called tarring, dipping bottles' necks into a melted mixture. Then the bottles are put on one side in the icebox, so that the corks could be wetted by wine. The air doesn't penetrate into the bottles through damp corks. Barrels are necessarily filled up, as the air can spoil wine. It is advisable to fill barrels with fermented honey-and-water or vodka solution of weak concentration (1:3) and to leave in the icebox till better times.
Boiled meads possess more stable properties and a wide range of aromatic and gustatory qualities, preserve better for many years and have a high alcohol percentage. That's why the detailed treatment of its production follows.
The required amount of water is boiled in enamelware is heated till it begins boiling, then gradually adding honey in small portions. The solution should be stirred with a wooden spoon, so that honey doesn't stick to the sides of the pan, and the next potion isn't added until the previous dissolves. Honey stick to the pan can burn and this will spoil gustatory qualities of the drink. The mixture is boiled for an hour until it stops scumming, the scum should be removed from the surface with a wooden spoon. Cold water-honey solution should be added so that the mixture didn't boil over.
At the end of boiling flavourings and food additives, that will give some taste and flavour to the drink, are added into the honey solution. Cinnamon (10 gr. ), 1/3 of ground nutmeg, a tea spoonful of coriander, lemon rind and orange peel from three fruits ( they can be dried), a leaf or vanilla, or vanilla sugar, a handful of juniper berries, a few handfuls of hop cones, etc. What to add is the matter of choice, taste and imagination. All the additives are tied into small gauze bags with clean stones, so that they didn't emerge and put into the enamelware.
Honey is cooled until it has the temperature of the fresh milk and is poured into a fermenting vessel (capacious glass bottles, oak barrels, or aluminium milk churns) not up to the top as while fermenting the mead can flow out. Then the following components, dissolved in a small amount of the solution, are added while the mead is still warm (for 50 litres): 20 gr. of ammonium chloride, 50 gr. of phosphorous ammonium, 10 gr. of potassium phosphate, and 50 gr. of tartaric acid. The latter can be substituted for lemon acid in the same quantity.
Five – ten gr. of selected yeast strains or common baker's yeast is used on 50 kg of honey. The speed of fermentation depends on the yeast quality and the temperature of the solutions. But the temperature shouldn't exceed 20-25C, and the amount of yeasts shouldn't be increased.
In three days after adding yeasts carbonic acid begins to evolve -scum appears on the surface. Water bolts and fermenting rabbets are attached to bolts and barrels: a rubber tube is firmly adjusted through the cork, the place of its outlet is plastered with pastry or crumb, the loose end is plugged into the bottle of water. These bolts letting out carbonic acid don't let the oxygen in that that can turn the mead into vinegar.
In the month of fermentation in a warm and dark place the solution is again poured off without the sediment into enamelware full to the brim, and leave it under the water bolt for three months at a temperature of 10-14. As the amount of the liquid decreases, you can add either similar liquid or vodka solution (in the proportion 1:3)
Three months later almost perfectly clear liquid is poured off again through siphon into barrels, firmly corked, the corks are tarred, the barrels are left for six months in the same dark place to mature and brew. After six month's seasoning mead is poured out into bottles, they are corked up either by rind or plastic corks. The bottles are tarred and kept as is described above.
And after mead is ready the only thing you have to do is to find time and occasion and invite friends, who will taste your mead and appreciate the quality and especially the quantity of your drink. Good luck!
English translation © Irina Yelsukova