I have two recipes for you beautiful people today, both for wines. To be more specific, I have a wine recipe and a mead recipe. The wine is a strawberry fruit wine, containing precisely zero grapes, while the other mead is made from a very specific variety of honey in an attempt at making a truly subtle and delicious beverage.
First, the strawberry wine. Those of you who know me know also that this is one of my personal favorites. I’ve made it for two years now, and I figured it was about time to put a batch together for this summer. It’ll be ready to drink in about three months, so right in time for labor day weekend!
This all started with a group of my friends and I who went strawberry picking just over the state line in Maryland last weekend. All told, I came home with about fifteen pounds of strawberries. Normally, fifteen pounds would be plenty for a batch of wine-or so I’ve thought. Every batch I’ve made until now has used about fifteen pounds or so of berries, plus a few pounds of sugar (usually about 5). Upon further review of past batches and more research on making good fruit wine, I’ve found that using more berries will likely give a better wine: More intense strawberry flavor, brighter color, and generally more delicious. It will also be somewhat stronger.
Because of that, I’ve decided this batch to use 24 pounds of berries (minus the normal tossing of a few here and there that are too moldy, smooshed, etc.) and feed it sugar slowly, over a period of a few days. I pitched the yeast (two packets of Red Star Montrachet) today and added one extra pound of sugar. On Thursday I will add another pound, and then on Saturday I’ll add one more. After that, I’m not adding any extra sugar. I think the extra berries will take care of that just fine.
After the normal month in the primary fermenter, I’m going to rack to secondary and add the stabilizer chemicals as normal. Another month in secondary should be enough to settle out all the yeast, at which point I’m going to back-sweeten the wine with some lactose (an unfermentable sugar) and bottle it. One month of bottle aging and it should be ready for consumption! I’ll post more about it as the next phases come along.
And now, on to the mead!
I’ve been meaning to make this particular mead since last summer. I went with my girlfriend to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire up in Manheim, PA last August and happened upon a store there that sells all sorts of specialty and varietal honeys. Killer bee honey, pepper honey, radish honey-you name it, they’ve got it, including meadowfoam honey.
Meadowfoam, for those who don’t know, is a plant. It’s a member of the mallow-type family, as in marsh mallow, the plant for which our modern confection is named. Strangely enough, the flower’s nectar is faintly reminiscent of marshmallows. This also means that the honey made from that nectar has a taste of marshmallow to it.
It’s frickin’ glorious.
I gladly shelled out the $80 they wanted for a 12-lb jug (an entire gallon, if you’re curious) and gleefully brought it home with me..where it proceeded to sit on a basement shelf for nearly a year. Now, though, I’ve finally started the mead. It should be ready to drink…about this time next year.
I used Ken Schramm’s method from his book “The Compleat Meadmaker.” I warmed up the honey first to melt it, then added it to about two gallons of hot water. I then heated it up to about 165 degrees Fahrenheit and added a quarter cup of golden raisins. After it had been at 165 for about twenty minutes I turned off the heat and allowed it to cool to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, then dumped it into a six-gallon carboy with 2 gallons of cold water in it. I then topped up the carboy with cold water to the six-gallon mark and brought the carboy down to the basement. I let it cool overnight, then added two packets of Red Star Montrachet yeast and a couple teaspoons of yeast nutrient.
Now, I’m going to let it bubble for a month or so and check the specific gravity over the course of a few days. If it’s stable I’ll stabilize it and rack to secondary, otherwise I’ll let it keep going until it stabilizes, then continue with the racking process, same as the strawberry wine.
I’ll keep you all updated on how everything’s going and the progress of each batch as the summer rolls on. Feel free to comment with any questions! As always, happy brewing!