Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Drink of The Gods!

Mead. Zeus drank it. Hoards of rampaging Vikings drank it. Now you, too, can revel in the glory of mead. Mead is honey wine, the first known fermented beverage. Ever. It has historically been a very common way to booze it up - and by common, I mean pretty much every culture has made and enjoyed some type of mead. Sadly, with the industrialization of alcohol production, it's pretty hard to find commercially made mead. Lucky for you, you can make your own at home. I recommend you try making cider or wine with fruit before you make mead, because it can be a tricky one.

This recipe is for cyser, or apple mead. I like apples in my booze. You could use a different kind of juice to suit your taste. 

What You Need:
All the equipment listed in my basic cider post.
An additional fermentation vessel. I use the glass jugs that the juice comes in with
An additional air lock and stopper. 
Honey, 10 cups
Apple juice (with no preservatives), 2.5 gallons
Water, 5 quarts
Black tea, 5 cups
1 package of champagne yeast
5 teaspoons acid blend (available at your FLHBS)
5 teaspoons yeast nutrient (also available at your FLHBS)

Heat the water and stir in the honey,  along with the acid blend, yeast nutrient, and tea. I forgot the tea until the last minute and added it afterward, and it turned out ok - so there is room for error here. Stir the honey until it's dissolved, and simmer for five minutes. Turn the heat off and let it cool down to body temperature, then add the honey mixture to the juice and yeast in the primary fermentation vessel. Snap on the lid and airlock and let the yeast do the work.

After two or three weeks, transfer the mead to the secondary carboy. After that, it's a matter of months, really. I left my mead in secondary for about three months.

Clearing ... clearing ... clearing ...

Wait until there are no bubbles coming out of the airlock for at least five minutes at a time before bottling. Wait to drink until six months - at least! - after bottling. Mead really improves with age, so have patience. I want to know what my first mead will taste like in ten years! Of course I had a taste during bottling (that's just standard operating procedure), and I will admit it tasted plenty drinkable to me already. I'm trying not to think about it.

Nothing says "home" like a cupboard full of mead.

For a much more thorough explanation of the mead making process, the history of mead, and the effects of different types of honey on mead, visit Mead Made Complicated. Wiki also has a fairly decent page on mead.

If you are lucky enough to live near Boulder, Colorado, please do pay Redstone Meadery a visit. They are an amazing local meadery and I love them so much I want to marry them. Don't tell my spouse.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Variations on a Blueb

Summer is here, and that means canning season is in full swing. This time last summer I acquired my water bath canner and moved to Seattle. I was inspired to preserve food by my six month long journey around the country, staying at intentional communities and helping them grow their gardens and preserve what they produced. I learned how to can by making blackberry jam from foraging the blackberries that grow wild all over the city. The first jam session took me all day, but it was delicious, and it was mostly free, and I was hooked.

Sadly, there are no blackberries free for the foraging in Colorado, but blueberries are currently abundant and since they were on sale at my local market, I decided some blueberry preservation was in order. In the middle of the long Colorado winter, when snow covers the garden and my windows are frosted over, I will crack open a jar of homemade blueberry syrup and stave off the oppressive cold with a stack of blueberry pancakes and a hot cup of tea. It sounds so good, I almost can't wait until winter. Hah! Just kidding.

Blueb Syrup 
7 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar, I used organic evaporated cane juice.
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups blueberry juice (Yeah, it's ridiculously expensive, so I used a cheaper 100% juice blueberry-cranberry blend.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash and sort the blueberries, making sure to remove any stems or gross squashy berries. Reserve a cup of berries, and puree the rest in a food processor, or mash with a potato masher. Strain puree in a cheesecloth over a colander over the pot you will use to cook the syrup. I like to use my hands to help smoosh the juice out of the cheesecloth.

If you have a juicer, you can skip the pureeing and squishing, and just juice the bluebs, but you will miss out on half the fun and having bits of blueberry in your syrup. I'm not too picky about making sure it's clear, cause I like the bits of fruit - they're tasty. After you have most of the juice out, heat it to boiling with the lemon juice and blueberry juice. Add the sugar and vanilla, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then add the reserved whole blueberries. Bring it back to a boil, and ladle into sterilized pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth, cap with sterilized, heated lids, and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes, or 20 minutes if you live at a high altitude like me.

Whole Blueberries (Recipe adapted from pickyourown.com)
7 cups blueberries, washed and sorted
2 cups sugar
4 cups water
2 cups blueberry-cranberry juice
Lemon juice

To make a syrup, bring the water and juice to a boil. Add the sugar, stir to dissolve, and bring back to a boil. Ladle your blueberries into sterilized pint jars and add one tablespoon of lemon juice to every pint. Ladle hot syrup over the berries, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth, cap with sterilized, heated lids, and process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes, or 20 minutes if you live at a high altitude like me.

Beautiful bluebs.