It may seem premature to be thinking about Christmas when we’re barely into August, but when when making mead one of the most important ingredients is patience – mead-making involves thinking in terms of months, and right now is the perfect time for starting a special mead for Christmas.
I made this mead last year as something of an experiment, and the resulting mead was described as “like drinking liquid Christmas pudding!” it was quite the hit, so this year I’m brewing six gallons of it.
Recipe: Yule Mead
For each gallon you will need:
- 4 x 340g jars honey (99p a jar from tesco)
- 1 x jar mincemeat (the fruit kind, not actual meat! I used Tescos Finest, 411g for £1.96)
- 2 tablespoons marmalade (any marmalade will do; I used Tesco Value marmalade, 27p a jar)
- 15 teabags of any black tea (I used Tesco value teabags at 27p for 80 but you can use any black tea; last year I used Twinings Earl Grey)
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons mixed spice
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon winemaking yeast (I use Vin Classe Super Wine yeast compound by Ballihoo).
All the ingredients set out ready for brewing, with 4 demijohns already done.
Brew a litre of strong tea using the 15 teabags in a large bowl; allow to steep for 5 minutes then remove the teabags.
Stir in the honey, mincemeat, marmalade & spices until all the honey and marmalade has completely dissolved.
Using a funnel, pour the mixture into a clean 5-litre (1 gallon) demijohn.
Top up with cold water, add the yeast, then cap the demijohn and shake thoroughly to ensure all ingredients are completely blended and the mixure well aerated.
Taking a sample to check initial specific gravity: dip a plastic tube/wine thief into the mead mix. Cap the end of the tube with your thumb and lift clear of the mead. Insert free end of the tube into measuring cylinder then lift your thumb off the end of the tube to release the sample.
Measure the starting specific gravity with a hydrometer (see this post) and make a note; it should be around 1.110, depending on the sugar content of your mincemeat (this batch measures 1.116).
Fit the bung and airlock, and there you go!
And this is where the patience part comes in. Depending on the yeast used, it should be ready for filtering and racking in about 6-8 weeks, then bottling a month after that; take a final specific gravity reading at this point to determine final ABV. Then lay it down until it’s time to drink. This will make a pretty strong (depending on yeast used) but tasty brew; the batch I made last year reached a final ABV of 16.3%. I have one bottle of last year’s batch that I’ve saved for this year to compare to the new batch.
One 5-litre demijohn will yield 5 bottles; the total cost for all six demijohns of mead works out as just a little over £40, or about £1.35 a bottle in raw ingredients. An equivalent mead purchased from a specialist supplier would likely set you back about £12-£15 a bottle.