There are many different types and styles of mead – so many that it can be very confusing to the beginning mazer, as can all the different equipment needed. For a complete novice, it can be intimidating to know where to start – especially as on the whole, mead-making isn’t a hobby that yields fast results. It needs patience and planning; most meads aren’t drinkable much before 6 months, and the longer you age them the better they get.
The answer? Short mead – a type of mead that is brewed quickly for fast consumption. The mazer Jo Matteoli came up with one particular recipe that has become exceptionally popular on the internet due to all the ingredients being readily available in most supermarkets and yielding a good tasty mead in only 3 weeks with no specialist equipment needed.
Orange Spiced Short Mead
This recipe will make a total of 2 litres of mead, drinkable in 3 weeks.
You will need the following:
- A clean plastic 2-litre bottle suitable for food use – an empty 4-pint milk bottle is just perfect.
- 2 x 340g bottle/jars of clear honey
- Half an orange
- A dessert-spoonful of raisins (about 12-15), washed
- Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice
- A balloon
- Warm water
- Yeast – I’m using Young’s all-purpose dried active yeast for wine and beer-making.
The first thing to do is to make sure everything is clean; any dirt or organisms on the equipment or in the fermentation bottle will thrive in your mead and contaminate it. This is one of the most important things to remember when brewing; the only thing you want to grow in your mead is the yeast! So you have to keep everything clean – and keep unwanted contminants out whilst it’s brewing. Normally this is done using an airlock, but for brewing such a small batch of mead we’re going to use a balloon.
First, pour a couple of pints of warm water into your fermentation container, then add your honey. Put the lid on tightly, then give it a good shake to dissolve the honey into the water; this is the first stage in making the “must” which is what we’re going to ferment to turn into mead.
Now, take half an orange and cut it into small segments; add them to the must, along with your spices – a cinnamon stick or small pinch of powdered cinnemon, a small pinch each of allspice and nutmeg. You could add one or two whole cloves, but no more as a little goes a long way.
Honey isn’t very nutritious where yeast is concerned, so you also need to add the dessert-spoon of raisins – this gives the yeast a little extra to feed on. Wash them thoroughly before adding them to the must. Top up to the 2-litre mark with warm water, then add half a teaspoon of dried active yeast. I’m using Young’s all-purpose brewing yeast, but you should get good results with pretty much any wine or beer yeast – even baking yeast will do if that’s all you have. This is a pretty unfussy recipe that’s pretty much foolproof.
Cap the bottle then give it a thorough shake to aerate the must and give the yeast plenty of oxygen to work with. Now take the balloon and carefully prick 2-3 holes in the top. Uncap the bottle and stretch the neck of the balloon over the mouth of the bottle; this is going to be your airlock. The holes in the rubber allow carbon dioxide generated by the yeast to escape without letting in airborne contaminants.
Set it in a warm place and within an hour or two the balloon should inflate and a foam develop on the top of the must as the yeast gets to work and gives off carbon dioxide. If the balloon seems to be inflating too much, carefully add a couple more holes with a pin, being careful not to burst it. The foam will steadily subside over the next couple of days; set in a dark warm place and leave it to ferment quietly by itself. Check the balloon every so often; sometimes the rubber can perish and will need replacing. Over the next couple of weeks the mead will start to clear naturally; at the end of 3 weeks you should be able to siphon off a dark golden clear mead that’s ready for drinking straight away – or you can rack it into a clean bottle or demijohn and let it carry on maturing for another couple of months.