Make Mead Like a Viking!
Writings and workshops on wild-crafted mead-making
Many of you are receiving this newsletter because you signed up at a workshops. I’ve also added a few folks from my personal contact list who I thought might be interested. If you would rather not receive these emails, simply scroll down to the bottom and unsubscribe. I know how much I dislike receiving emails that I don't have the time for, so I won’t be offended. I promise my updates will be minimal and well worth your while.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m working on my book Make Mead Like a Viking with Chelsea Green Publishing that expands on the information presented in my mead-making blogs with Earthineer.com (as RedHeadedYeti), my homebrewing articles with New Pioneer magazine, and my Make Mead Like a Viking workshops. I’ll be using this mailing list to provide occasional updates and to announce when the book has a release date. I’ll also present information from my readings into ancient history and mythology pertaining to the brewing of mead, ale, and other alcoholic beverages by the Norse and other Scandinavian, Germanic, Anglo Saxon, and Celtic cultures. As time progresses, I’ll likely expand into other areas of the world, as practically every country has an ancient connection with mead. I may even send along a recipe or two.
As a matter of fact, here's one right now for a spiced "small mead". Small mead is a low-alcohol mead (3-5%), takes minimal time and effort to make, and can be drank chilled or as a warmed glogg / mulled mead.
Yeti’s Lazy Viking Mead
Equipment & ingredients: All you need for a one-gallon batch is a gallon jug (glass or food-grade plastic), an airlock (or substitute other options I've listed below), yeast (ale, bread or wild), water, honey, raisins, and whatever flavoring ingredients you desire.
Step 1: Clean your fermentation jug and airlock thoroughly in hot, soapy water and let fully dry. Another option is to make it in a jug 3/4 full of spring water, or removing all but the bottom 1/8 to 1/4 of a gallon jug of raw honey.
Step 2: Mix 1-1.5 pounds of raw honey. To be honest, any honey will do; even the standard store-bought stuff. All the yeast really want are some sugars and enzymes to devour. For optimal flavor and health benefit, go raw and local. The best way to ensure the honey dissolves thoroughly in the water is to place a cap on the jug and shake it like you mean it. You can also use a chopstick or other thin cooking implement to stir it vigorously.
Step 3: Add 1 tsp. of yeast. You can use bread yeast or any yeast designed for an ale. Seriously. This isn't a sophisticated mead designed for long-term aging. It will still be plenty flavorful. If you're already into wrangling wild yeasts and have a starter such as a ginger bug available, feel free to use that. Put the lid back on and shake it again, or stir it with a cooking spoon. Alternatively (my preferred method), initiate a wild fermentation as I've outlined in my Make Mead Like a Viking! - Wild Fermented Mead 101 blog.
Step 4: Here's where it gets fun. I recommend at least adding 10 organic raisins for wild yeast, tannin and nutrients, and a slice or two of orange for acid and a bit of a citrusy flavor. To make a spiced mead (metheglin), work your way down this list, stopping where you please:
1-2 cinnamon sticks
4-6 whole allspice
2-4 whole nutmeg
1 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp. vanilla extract)
1 oz. fresh-grated or candied ginger
Step 5: Once you've added yeast and ingredients, or have initiated a wild fermentation, place a cork and airlock in the opening of your narrow-necked fermentation vessel. Alternatively, a balloon with a small hole poked in it, plastic wrap, or a loose-fitting lid will do. Just be sure to "burp" the lid by unscrewing it a bit every day or so. Do NOT tigten it and forget about it. The best case scenario if you do this is a mead volcano when you open it; the worst case is an exploding mead grenade.
Etc. & Beyond: Feel free to experiment with as many flavorings as you want. I recommend tasting it a week or so after fermentation commences. It won't quite be ready, but you'll get an idea as to whether or not you need to add ingredients for more flavoring. Metheglins (spiced meads) were traditionally brewed for medicinal purposes, or to save a mead gone bad, and could have as many as 50 different flavoring ingredients! Nine times out of ten it will be perfectly fine; if so, leave it alone.
Bottling & Drinking: You have a couple of options at this point. You can wait at least a month after fermentation commences before drinking. Handle carefully to keep the sediment (lees) that has settled to the bottom from mixing in (although lees has plenty of nutrients to impart), and pour or siphon into a drinking vessel. It will be mildly alcoholic, a bit bubbly and plenty flavorful. Or, you can siphon/pour it into some champagne bottles (which you’ll need to cork), flip top/Grolsch bottles, bourbon bottles, or even two-liter plastic soda jugs; and put it in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Handle sparingly and carefully, as pressure will be building. You should now have a sparkling, effervescent beverage.
For more recipes and discussions on ancient and wild fermentation, please visit this board, which is a compilation of my various fermentation blogs and articles. Be sure to scroll through the comments on my blogs, as I've provided updates on technique and recipes, and answered questions from fellow Viking mead makers.
While you're there, hang out a while. If you’re not already aware, Earthineer is a homesteading network that connects people locally and nationwide (with a growing international presence) to trade, barter and chat about homesteading, farming, gardening, sustainable living, and all subjects in between. Check us out. We have fun there, and you might even learn something new.
Finally, here are some PDFs of my workshop handouts. The first, my Primitive Mead Making booklet, provides a bit of history and includes two basic recipes to get you started. The second is a shorter handout I made after the Primitive Mead Making booklet that has some updates on additional techniques and hopefully clarifies a few things.
If you are a mead-maker, brewer, or fermentation enthusiast and have any thoughts regarding the techniques I present in these documents, feel free to let me know. I may not have time to respond right away to all inquiries, but I welcome all feedback. Keep in mind that I’m not teaching people how to make mead using modern techniques, but rather my goal is to provide instruction on how to wild-craft mead using local, organic ingredients and (if you so choose) wild yeast. You can make excellent mead using modern methods and ingredients, but my main intention is to set people on the path to brewing locally, naturally, and self-sufficiently so we can come together and take our food system back.
P.S. If you would like to visit my little town of Berea, Kentucky this July, I'll be doing several workshops for the Berea Festival of Learnshops. Sign up for mine and check out some of the other offerings while you're there.