Copied with permission from https://www.arishtam.com/product-page/aristam-homebrewing-guide and https://www.amazon.in/Arishtam-HomeBrew-Probiotics-Indias-homebrew-ebook/dp/B07WSXSCQY
The oldest and most culturally ubiquitous alcoholic drink throughout the world has been Fermented Honey Wine. It was considered so pure and delicate, that it was rightly considered food for God, a.k.a. ambrosia. Yet, it is so easy to make.
A large pot to boil,
A fermenter with an airlock,
Bottles to store,
Fresh unpasteurized forest Honey: 1kg,
Yeast nutrient: 1gm,
Acid blend or lime juice 5teaspoon,
(Optional) Irish moss 0.1gm,
Whole spices to taste.
Step 1: Open the jar of honey and dilute it. Honey on its own is too concentrated for any microbes to survive. However, the moment it is diluted it, it starts fermenting. I would recommend 1 part honey with three parts water (by volume). Remember honey is more dense, so if we are adding by weight, then 500gms of honey per liter (or kg) of water is ideal.
Step 2: This is the most important part. Do remember that honey does not dissolve easily in water, so needs to be constantly stirred in warm water (not boiling). Be careful about undissolved syrup sticking at the bottom and being caramelized. A mild constant stirring will help reduce any burnt flavors, heating in a water-bath will be the best.
Step 3: Take some luke warm water, add honey and keep stirring. Bring it to aboil; to sterilize and then cool it.
Step 4: (Optional) Add about 0.1gm of Irish moss per liter. It will greatly accelerate the protein settlement and reduce the time for the haze to clear up. Otherwise, one should wait for about 6 months for the finished mead to clear up naturally.
Step 5: (Optional) In the boil, we could also add some organic rose petals (they will increase the aroma and add a faint pink color) or some mild spices like lemon grass, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon etc. Be careful about adding too much of spices which can overpower the delicate flavors of the honey. So, some moderation is expected. I find <1gm per liter of whole spices to be adequate. Do avoid powdered spices, as they often contain less aromatic oils and if not filtered properly, they cause floating dust debris in the glass. When using a spice bag, also use some glass marbles to weigh down the spices to avoid them to float and gather mold infection.
Step 6: Cool down the honey water to about 25o -35oC before adding yeast (Tip: human body temperature is 37oC. So, if the honey water feels warm, it is too hot). Keep the boiling vessel in the kitchen sink and fill it with ice to make an ice bath.
Step 7: Add some yeast (about 0.6-1gm of dry yeast per liter) as boiling would have killed all the wild microbes. Also, adding some yeast nutrients (0.4gm per liter) would help yeast to multiply faster as honey on its own does not have enough nutrients. Adding some lemon juice/ citric acid will create the acidic medium that will prevent the mold and other infection to develop. Make sure to hydrate the yeast for a good 15-30 minutes before adding to honey water. This will make these yeasty workers strong enough to make our beautiful beverage and can fend off any wild microbe invasion.
Step 8: Put it under an airlock in an airtight container and wait for 2 weeks for the fermentation to complete. A cool dry place away from sunlight is best. Some recipes call for 24 hour of primary fermentation without airlock. This helps yeast to access the oxygen and creates a more vigorous fermentation. It normally takes 2 days for the bubbling to start when fermented between 15o -25oC.
Step 9: After the bubbling has stopped, please siphon/ strain the mead into a second vessel/ bottle for secondary fermentation. We also get rid of the yeast sediment in the process. Please wait for another month for the mead to clear to serve.
Serve slightly warm with a hint of (use only one of the spices) ginger, lemongrass, cardamom, black pepper or cloves. Clear mead which is slightly sweet (3-6% residual sugar) tastes the best. Please feel free to experiment, and invent your own style and share your recipe. Flowers and delicate flavors can also be infused with honey but some puritans prefer the wild forest honey mead as it is.
I find dark honey collected from spice farms or from forest to be more flavorful than the lighter versions from the agricultural farms. Please avoid cheaper commercial brands or honey that might be adulterated with jaggery, inverted sugar or rice syrup. The mead from them will lack the body and might taste like nail polish. Try to source unpasteurized honey from an apiary, if possible. The bitter truth about honey is that although its production keeps on falling year after year, its prices & demand is not. This is because of the rampant adulteration that is prevalent in most of the commercial brands to compensate for the production shortfall.
Honey wines were so centric to Indian society that Madhu is a common name for girls. Bars and Pubs were called Madhushala (house of mead). Yet meads is commercially extinct today in Indian stores. As the aim of this book is to restore our heritage drinks, our first real recipe starts with Honey Mead. I hope that you will relish its taste and share a toast with your friends.