Right after strawberry picking season, I usually start a gallon or ten of strawberry wine and mead. Since I still have 5 gallons of wine aging in a dark corner of The Cave and since I’ve realized that I absolutely love mead and since I only have a couple of bottles of strawberry mead left from the last batch, I’ve decided to start 5 gallons of mead instead of wine this year.
For those who don’t know, the only real difference between mead and wine is the sweetener. Homemade wine usually uses sugar for fermentation and mead uses honey. Fruit-flavored meads like this one are called "melomels," but "melomel" doesn’t really roll of the tongue like the word "mead" does.
The recipe below assumes that you already know how to make wine. I know that’s not really fair to those who don’t already know, but be patient. I’ll eventually get around to a beginner post…honest…eventually…someday….maybe most definitely!
2 lb. honey or until SG = 1.090
2 lb. strawberries
1 Campden tablet
½ teaspoon pectic enzyme
1 ½ teaspoon yeast nutrient
2 teaspoons acid blend
Suggested Starting Gravity: 1.090
Dissolve the honey in about ½ gallon of hot (NOT boiling) water in the primary fermentor.
Place fruit into a fermentation bag and mash. Place the bag into the primary.
Add crushed Campden tablet, pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient, and acid blend. Add enough sterilized water to make one gallon. Cover and let sit overnight. Pitch the yeast. Cover the primary and attach a fermentation lock.
Ferment for about a week or until SG = 1.040. Rack into a gallon jug or carboy, adding sterilized water if necessary to keep the level of the mead at the shoulder of the jug. Attach fermentation lock. Rack again in three weeks. Rack every month until the mead clears and no sediment is visible on the bottom of the jug, about 6 months.
Bottle as usual.
Clean, hull, slice and freeze the strawberries before using. A week in the freezer will help make the strawberries sweeter and juicer. Make sure the fermentation bag is either over the primary or over a bowl when pouring the thawed strawberries. You’ll probably have a good amount of juice.
Mead is a little on the sweet side, so use Sorbistat K or other stabilizer to make sure fermentation stops when SG = 1.040. I tend to ferment my wines completely and them back-sweeten with a sugar syrup. However, mead is made with honey; therefore, it should be back-sweetened with a honey syrup. Honey has a very distinct and sometimes strong flavor that can easily overpower the taste of the mead. Avoid the strong honey flavor and bottle bombs (bottles that break because fermentation continues after bottling) by using a stabilizer.
Substitute the juice and zest of one lemon or one orange for the acid blend, if desired.
Finally, I’ve found that mead creates a lot more sediment than wine and needs a lot more racking than wine. Even after letting the mead age for 18 months, racking it monthly, I still had sediment in the bottle.
By the way, I age my wines and meads for a long time. I have the space, and I have plenty of finished wines to share and enjoy. I can wait. For those who just can’t wait, age your mead about 6 months.
Last but not least (no really), you can substitute other soft fruits for the strawberries like raspberries or blackberries. I just bottled a peach mead that is amazing!