I can tell that it is truly summertime. Over the last week or two, my housemates and I have gathered close to two pounds of blackberries from the brambles on our lower lot. With chevre on toast, and by the handful, we’ve managed to consume about one pound of those, and we froze the rest for later use. We plan on using those to make a syrup, or maybe add to it and make a small batch of jam.
But I had other plans for berries…plans that involve more fruit than our yard can currently provide.
So, I woke up early yesterday morning and went to work with my husband. While he mowed beautiful lines into the sweet-smelling, dew-covered grass, I went around the perimeter of the land and gathered the wild blackberries that pepper these hillsides.
After an hour and a half of work, I had earned arm-scratches, purple fingers, and a hell of an appetite to go along with the two pounds of fat, ripe blackberries that I had gathered!
We brought them home, rinsed the berries, and then I began the process of making a one gallon batch of blackberry mead! This is also known as a melomel, a mead made with fruit.
Blackberry Mead (1 Gallon)
2-3 lbs of wildflower honey
2-3 lbs of fresh picked wild blackberries
1 bit of dried orange peel
I used a large stockpot and heated just under 1 gallon of water to boil. I threw in the allspice berry, clove, and orange peel while it got going.
While the water was heating, I sanitized a bucket with a bleach and water mix, and rinsed well. I then added the berries to the bucket along with a splash of lemon juice.
Once the water is kicking at a steady boil, turn off the stove and remove the stockpot from heat. Add the honey, stirring to blend. If it is unfiltered honey, you may get a foam on the surface, which can be removed if you wish.
I poured the hot honey water (also called the must) over the berries and gave a good couple of stirs. Lacking a lid to fit this bucket, I put a towel over it and tied it down to allow the must to cool and to keep flies and ants out.
I allowed the must to cool overnight, and this morning added a sweet mead yeast to the room temperature bucket. It was beautiful, gave a little bit of a bubble, and then settled down as I stirred everything together. I re-covered the bucket and tied it down again, and will let this mixture do it’s thing for a couple of days.
Check in again soon, and I’ll let you know how it turns out, and hopefully will remember to take some pictures as I rack it over into a carboy to finish fermentation!I am not only a wino with a DIY complex, but a magician, a witch, an alchemist. #homebrewing Click To Tweet
One Week Later…
The bucket full of berries, spices, and honey water has been bubbling merrily for seven days. I made sure that the bucket was picked up and swished around every now and again to keep it oxygenated, and to keep everything from settling. Besides the swishing, the bucket got a good stir once a day.
It was a joy to stir while guests were over. People who have never before brewed really observe the fermentation process with wonder in their eyes. It serves to remind me that I am not only a wino with a DIY complex, but a high magician, a witch, an alchemist. Poof! Alcohol.
After seven days, the sweet, fizzy smell in that corner of the kitchen was delightful – not too yeasty or cloyingly sweet. I declared the mash ready to strain and moved to the secondary fermenter. I could have perhaps let the berries and must sit together longer, but I didn’t want the bitter seeds and skins of the berries to penetrate too deeply into the flavors of the final product.
My housemate Sarah helped, and together we lined a strainer with a layer of cheesecloth or two to catch the smaller floaty bits. The strainer was set into a large cook pot, and slowly and carefully, I poured the bucket out. What a feast for the senses! The color is magnificent, the smell – divine, and once we funneled the brew into the carboy and sampled what was left over, the taste? Absolutely thrilling!
So, with the carboy capped off with a fermentation lock, it took only a couple of hours for the yeast to kick back into action. The lock is bubbling about once every five full seconds. I won’t know when this mead will be ready…but I’ll guess by the bubbling going more slowly, and look for other signs, like the opacity of the mead itself clearing as the yeast dies and settles to the bottom.
After this mead stopped bubbling and cleared, it was bottled, aged for a few month, and enjoyed by all! It was delicious; rich, sweet, and full of the tangy, bittersweet berry flavor from the wild blackberries. I’ve subsequently made a batch every year since!
I’ve also made a few more one gallon batches of wines and meads, and you can see my technique and recipes there!
Here’s the dream list of brewing projects that I have not yet begun (or written up, as the case may be):
- Peach Mead (Melomel)
- Ginger Mead
- Apple Mead
- Spiced Apple Mead
- BEER! I want to brew Ninkasi’s beer.
I would also like to direct you folks to the blog of a friend of mine, Michael Ruff of Dove and Raven Mead. We made his first batch together a couple of months ago; he learned the basics of brewing, and he tried in vain to teach me hydrometer math. He just started his first cherry melomel, and it sounds amazing!