Winter is a great time to make mead.
We had a couple 2lb bags of cranberries left over from the holidays, and I didn’t want them to go to waste. So I thought I’d put them to good use by experimenting with a new mead recipe.
I’m glad I did. This might be my favorite mead recipe yet.
I’ve tried commercial cranberry meads, and have been turned off by how tart they usually are. So I wanted to see if I could balance out the tartness of the cranberries with other ingredients without sacrificing the overall flavor.
To do this, I added oranges and black chai tea. The result was phenomenal.
Get to the recipe already!
This is a pretty simple recipe. I made 2 gallons but I’ll break it down for a 1 gallon recipe. If you want to make more just double (or triple) the recipe.
To get started you’ll need to gather a few things:
- 1lbs of cranberries
- 1 large orange
- Black chai
- 4lbs honey
- 1 gallon distilled water
- 10 organic raisins
- 1/2 packet Champaign yeast
- 1 gallon glass carboy with airlock
- Large stock pot
Pour half of your water into the stock pot. Add your cranberries and bring the water to a gentle boil. All you’re doing in this step is softening the cranberries up a bit so they release their juices. You may hear some of them pop as the water heats. That’s okay.
Once the water is boiling, add your black chai tea. We buy chai in granular form, but you can use tea bags just as easily. Use as much or as little as you want. I used about two tablespoons. That’s probably close to 4-5 bags. Let the cranberries and the tea steep in boiling water for about 5 minutes then turn off the heat.
Pour 4lbs of honey into the warm water, stirring so that the honey mixes well. This is your “must”. Let it sit until it’s temperature comes down to about room temperature. Make sure to cover the pot with a towel so fruit flies don’t dive bomb your must!
Once the must gets to about room temperature, pitch your yeast and stir vigorously to aerate. Then pour everything into a clean, sterilized glass carboy.
Wash and slice up a large orange into wedges and add to your carboy. Add your raisins. Then cap the carboy and give it a good shake. It’s okay if you see bubbles starting to foam. Uncap the carboy and fill with the rest of your distilled water, leaving about two inches at the top. Then add your airlock.
Store your mead in a cool dark closet or cabinet for at least a month. Within the first couple days you’ll see lots of foam and bubbles at the neck of the carboy. This is how you know the magic is happening! Check on it daily to make sure the airlock is bubbling and still has water in it.
After about a month, you can “rack” your mead into another clean glass carboy. If you do this, strain out the fruit and throw in the compost pile. It’s a good idea to taste your mead at this point to make sure its sweet enough for you. It’ll be young and bubbly and delicious! If you think you want it a little sweeter, you can mix a little more honey into some distilled water and add to the mead.
After you remove the fruit from the primary ferment, you’ll notice that your mead doesn’t quite fill a gallon carboy. You’ll want to add distilled water or honey water so that the carboy is full and there isn’t any room for excess air (which can turn your mead into vinegar). Leave about an inch of room at the top.
After racking your mead into the secondary ferment, return it back to the closet for 3-6 months. Check on it often to see if the water in the airlock is still bubbling.
After all bubbling has ceased, you can either drink or bottle your mead. If bottling, its best to wait at least 4 months to make sure all fermenting is done. Otherwise you’ll have an explosion! Been there, done that.
Remember, there is no hard and fast rule on how to enjoy your mead. Drink it when its young and bubbly if you want! Or wait a year to drink it when it’s more refined. Either way is perfectly acceptable. It’s your mead after all.