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Marital Blessings Mead

A friend of mine received this mead and the recipe as a wedding gift. His 10th anniversary is approaching and he asked me to reproduce it. At first I thought this was a very romantic notion, and the lady at the grocery agreed, saying it was "a labor of love". Then we both realized that I was doing all the labor and my friend would be getting the credit. It didn't seem all that romantic after that. I also remembered that he had waited until I had several beers drank before asking. Oh well... he's my friend and I know he would do the same for me in a heartbeat, especially if I ply him with beer beforehand. So, bring on the recipe.

Marital Blessings Mead
3 lbs Kallas Orange Blossom Honey
1 scant quart filtered water
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1 pinch Irish Moss
1 scant tsp Acid Blend

boil together 15 minutes
2 quarts After the Fall Oregon Berry Juice

in a sterilized one-gallon jar
Seal, cool overnight, then pitch with 1/5 package Champaigne Yeast
Add fermentation lock, allow to ferment at least one month
Transfer liquid to fresh one-gallon sterile jar, let sit until clear
Bottle.

Best when allowed to age at least 6-12 months after brewing

What I find interesting about this recipe is that it was obviously thrown together at the last moment by grabbing whatever ingredients were present at the grocery store. I happen to know the people who originally made this mead, and that describes them perfectly. Even so, it's clear that they knew exactly what they were doing. While the ingredients may have been impromptu, the making of the mead was not trivial, as I've discovered.

The first challenge I faced was finding the ingredients. Not just any honey or juice would do. It needed to be the same ingredients for the reproduction to be accurate. Fortunately, I had an idea of where the original creators tended to do their grocery shopping. I found the exact items at the third place I checked.

Major Ingredients: Honey, Berry Juice
Yeast Used: Lalvin EC-1118
Ingredient Cost: $43
Expected Quantity: 2 gallons (8-10 bottles)
Actual Quantity: ?

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Beginning (20-Feb-2006):
Mixed first set of ingredients and boiled. This was my next challenge, because the pot kept trying to boil over. While I managed to get it done, I've resolved to research this step on the internet before trying again. I then added the berry juice and poured the mixture into a sanitized one-gallon jar.

I decided to make two batches of the mead, one for my friend and the other for me. So I did all this a second time. I then covered both batches and let them cool overnight.

Day Two (21-Feb-2006):  
Took measurements (see SpecificGravity), added 1 packet of Lalvin EC-1118 yeast to each batch, and covered with airlocks. I added an entire packet of yeast to each batch rather than the 1/5 packet in the recipe, because I don't want to wait a month for it to finish fermenting.

MeasurementsSpecific Gravity
Batch A1.134
Batch B1.140

Day Three (22-Feb-2006):  
Vigorous fermentation has begun. When I say "vigorous", I mean the most active fermentation I've ever seen. I had to take the airlocks off because they kept getting clogged with foam. I can't even use the "piece of plastic and rubber band" poor man's airlock, the fermentation gases blow it right off. I also had to put the bottles in buckets to capture the excess foam that is being forced out. I'll put airlocks back on once fermentation has slowed. Next time I do this, I'll use a primary fermentation pail so there won't be a bottle-neck for the high pressurized foam to explode out of (or maybe I'll use a smaller amount of a slower yeast).

Day Four (23-Feb-2006):  
Vigorous fermentation continues. The liquids are churning so much that, if I didn't know that they were at room temperature, I'd swear they were boiling. There is a good amount of particulate matter churning around. Presumably this is the IrishMoss and globules of protein it extracted from the honey along with dead yeast cells.

Day Six (25-Feb-2006):  
Fermentation has slowed enough for me to put the airlocks back on.

Month 6, Day 19 (8-Sep-2006):
Took measurements & tasted. Batch A is very cloudy, I'll need to add a clarifying agent, can't bottle yet. Batch B is clear. Both batches look, smell, and taste just like cheap whiskey. My friend tells me that is not the intended taste. He described his earlier experience with this recipe as a strong cider. I'm going to bottle the second batch and just hope his wife understands that it's the thought that counts. Maybe it'll age better in the bottle and be reasonable in a year. The calculated alcohol content is 17-18% which is high for a mead (10-12%) and really high for a cider (5-7%). That could explain some of the similarity to whiskey. Once I clarify Batch A, I'll try mixing it with something fruity of lower alcohol levels and add some sweetener, maybe that'll turn it around.

MeasurementsSpecific GravityCalc. Alcohol % by Volume
Batch A1.00217.3%
Batch B1.00118.2%

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