Elderberries are delicious! So is Elderberry Mead.
Even more than just being tasty, elderberries are useful and quite a potent medicine. I make jars full of elderberry tincture and cordial all throughout the year to stock up for fall and winter coughs, colds and flu.
I’m currently on the hunt in my neck of the woods for a fresh elder patch so that I can forage fresh berries, but until then, I’ve been using dried berries from Mountain Rose Herbs. (2017 update – I have two baby elder bushes growing stronger every day. I’ll make my own patch!)
Here’s few posts from fellow bloggers who have covered the goodness of elderberries:
- Quick and Simple Elderberry Cold Syrup (Herbal Academy of New England)
- Making Medicinal Elderberry Syrup (Homespun Seasonal Living)
- Learn About Elderberry Health Benefits with Norm’s Farm (Common Sense Home)
I love it when tasty and healthy go together so well…especially in something like home-made booze!
Now, I don’t encourage you to over-drink if you are feeling ill, but alcohol has its own beneficial purposes when used sparingly. Elderberry mead is a great drink of choice for when you feel yourself coming down with a cold and need to get some rest – try it mulled (warmed with spices like cinnamon, clove, etc.) for a bedtime drink.
One Gallon of Elderberry Mead
This particular batch was started on January 20, 2014, bottled on April 20, 2014, and the first bottle was opened on August 9, 2014! It didn’t last long.
1 gallon of water (filtered is best)
2-3 lbs of honey
Large handful dried elderberries
Thumb sized bit of fresh ginger, diced
1 small handful of raisins or other dried fruit (organic is best)
1 slice dried lime
1/2 packet of yeast (champagne yeast for dry, sweet wine or mead yeast for a sweeter result)
Grab a large stockpot and add about 2/3 of a gallon of water to the pot. Add the diced ginger and allow it to come to a boil.
While the water heats, sanitize your gallon carboy, airlocks, bungs, and funnel with a store-bought sanitizer, or try a bleach and water mix. Make sure you rinse it well afterwards if you use bleach!
When the water is at a steady, rolling boil, throw in the dried lime, raisins, and the handful of dried elderberries. Cover the pot, turn off the stove and remove the stockpot from heat.
Let it wait for about 15 minutes, and then add the honey and stir well to dissolve. Let it cool down for a bit, and then set the funnel in the neck of the carboy and pour in everything – the hot honey water (also known as must), ginger, and berries. Pour in the rest of the gallon of water until the must is up to the neck of the carboy. Add in the bung and the airlock to keep everything clean.
Allow the must to cool down to body temperature before you pitch your yeast – this can take a few hours so I sometimes just leave it overnight. In the morning you can pitch your yeast into the jug. Since it is a gallon batch, you can add only a half of a packet of yeast and re-cap with the airlock.
Racking, Back-sweetening, Bottling
By late March, the jug had cleared and the mead looked to be mostly ready. I took the airlock out and used a sanitized straw to taste a bit of the mead. It needed more sweetening, so I made a sugar syrup and added it to a clean, sanitized carboy, leaving behind the ginger chunks and elderberries for the compost bin. I racked the mead onto the sugar syrup and let it sit again for a few weeks to ensure that fermentation was completed. On April 20, I bottled the mead (in beer bottles with beer caps!) and let it rest until August.
Ok! So the results are in. This is a nice, light mead that turned out a bit dry. The berry flavor is light but definitely present, and stronger if I add additional sugar syrup to my glass. Even though I waited to bottle it until the fermentation seemed to be complete, there are some bubbles in this batch. That tells me that there is residual yeast that continued to grow after bottling.
This is a mead that I will make again, although I plan to double the elderberries and maybe add some cinnamon instead of a lime…*planning & plotting*
Header Image Credit: Stanze on Flickr