Mead-itations and a plum drop

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Virgil Evetts

Some of you might recall me mentioning I was putting down a trial batch of mead earlier this year, in an effort to use up some of my rather daunting honey harvest. Well, after several months of something approaching patience, I popped the cork the other day for some serious sampling (if truth be known I snuck a few inconclusive snifters along the way), and found, to my deep delight that it is shaping up to be hands-down the finest thing I’ve ever brewed.  Although there was that apple brandy of a years back…

Far from just a novelty drop, the mead has mellowed into an eminently drinkable and rather sophisticated wine, comparable to a good Gewürztraminer with its multilayered complexity and almost oily texture.

Although it’s a natural assumption to think of mead as a sweet drink, many versions are in fact bone dry, and this is certainly what I sought to achieve. Basically what this means is that you allow the yeast to naturally run its course and convert all available sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is a bit of a balancing act though because if the initial honey ‘must’ (unfermented solution) is too strong, the resulting alcohol will end up killing the yeast before it’s finished working. Evidentially I got it right  as things have proceeded swimmingly. The mead has used up most of the sugar, with only a vague suggestion remaining which will vanish over coming months. But as with good aromatic wines the mead tricks you into thinking it’s sweeter than it actually is, due to its strong honeyed aroma and almost viscous texture. Tricksy stuff.

By my reckoning wine is meant to be drunk with food. Sure there are plenty out there who believe it’s best appreciated as a solo performance, but not me. Life is too short and I can’t stand drinking outside of meal times. So the real test of my mead would be how well it went with food.  Following my instincts with the gewurtz theme I tested a generous measure with a gutsy Thai curry the other night and found it to be a perfect match. Quite sublime really. 

But the trouble with anything this good is that it doesn’t last long- especially once friends and family enter the fray. And I only made four litres. So my most urgent job for this week will be to kick-start a full 25 litre batch, which ought to last me well into next year. Ought to…

Elsewhere on the brewing front I trialled  plum wine this year too, made with the mountain of ripe fruit cast off my red-fleshed Japanese plum tree during a summer storm, and a smaller quantity of damsons retrieved from the depths of the freezer.

Having never made plum wine before, I wasn’t prepared for the pectin  forming a large pink clot which quickly blocked the air lock. Fortunately I discovered this moments before it would have blown free  and splattered the entire kitchen in a ghastly mess of mucus-bound fruit pulp. It just exploded in my face instead. My smug best beloved has dubbed this event ‘the great plum-plosion,’ and brings it up far more often than is really warranted.

But vengeful pectin plugs aside, the plum wine has  matured into something akin to a Pinot Noir, if a little more gutsy. Interestingly it doesn’t taste of plums at all, and after a few more months in the bottle should be quite indistinguishable from a grape wine.  By my reckoning this is a far better use for my annual plum glut than interminable litres of jam (which never gets eaten) or sauce (that never gets used).

Wine making is much easier than most people think and on a domestic scale doesn’t really require much in the way of special equipment. Pretty much any fruit or vegetable can be turned into wine- (although I’d urge caution when it comes to onions and cabbages), so why not give it a whirl sometime soon? Even if you buy  a wine kit complete with grape juice concentrate it’ll work out more economical than the shop finished product- by a long shot.

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3 thoughts on “Mead-itations and a plum drop

  1. That should be drinking very well now Sue. I ended up adding quite a bit of citric acid during fermentation as it was tasting rather bodiless early on. Apparently some brewers add teabags to impart tannin too. Love to know how your stuff goes down.

  2. Virgil, we have 6 bottles of 3 year old mead which I now feel we should try. We didn’t make it but our friend who is a bit of an alcohol expert (and no I dont mean he has a problem!) made it for us. Was thinking it would be too sweet for food but am now inspired to sample again! Thanks.

  3. We have our second batch of red wine(kit) ready to bottle. The first lot has been bottled for a month now. All good fun on the DIY front. My DIY mushrooms (kit) I wouldn’t bother with again- too much work for very little return.