the technical term for a mead with fruit flavor is a melomel, but thought the word infused would be so much more inviting in a title.
during the summer ma and i threw various fruits into the freezer as they came along. we went out to a u pick place to get about 6 pounds of black currants in late june. it was just us and a bunch of eastern europeans – the poles in particular seem to have a great fondness for black currants. they are certainly a strong flavored fruit with what is sometimes described as a foxy or musky flavor. i like em, and think they would lend themselves especially well in a mead. the raspberries were harvest from catherine ferguson academy and the apricots from a vacant lot in north corktown. having kept them in the freezer means i can wait to make mead until i’m ready, not when the fruit is ready. freezing them also help to break the cell walls open leading to better juice extraction.
there are a couple of ways to deal with fruits in a mead.
1. is to add the fruit to the primary fermenter. i’ve had good results with this, i think the nutrients in the fruit tend to make for stronger fermentation. it does have the draw back of losing lots of flavor. during the primary fermentation a huge amount of carbon dioxide is created, and many of the delicate flavors are lost.
2. adding whole fruit to the secondary fermenter. especially for soft fruits this can work pretty well, but those with hard skins don’t always seem to break down much. it does give you some flexibility of how much fruit flavor you want to add, as you can leave the fruit on mead for as little or as long as you like. if you are using a narrow necked fermenter like a glass carboy getting the fruit out can be a pain.
3. adding juice to the secondary fermenter. i think this is among the best, but it does require special tools and is a bit of work. this is what i used for our batches.
step one – sanitize and thaw fruit
i just use a bleach solution after washing the jugs out, and leave the berries out on the sunny counter top for about 12 hours.
step 2 – juice the fruit
our friend the champion juicer comes out of retirement again just for one more fight. notice the wide mouth funnel up top, this is the same kind that is used for canning tomatoes etc. with a little bit of determination it just fits into the top of the juicer making it easier to load the berries in, and acting a bit like a hopper.
step 3 – add the juice to the secondary fermenters
as you can see there is still plenty of room for the straight mead to go it with the juice. the juice that the champion makes while free of seeds and skins still has a lot of pulpy stuff in it. in the past i’ve filtered this out, but i’d forgotten to sanitize my filter so i decided to just go ahead and throw everything into the jugs. i think this was a mistake, which i’ll explain later. for each gallon i add 3 pounds of fruit. that’s definitely on the high end, and especially with some of the stronger flavored fruits such as the currants and raspberries you could easily use less, but i’m looking for something really nice and rich.
step 4 add the mead to the fermenters
so just what is going on here? well not show in the picture is the 5 gallon pail of straight mead made about 3 months ago just waiting for this day. it’s siting up on the counter, and i’m using a tube to siphon the mead into each of the jars.
step 5 – wait
yes mead making is a waiting game – taking a year just to get it bottled and then often longer for best flavor. in this case part of what i’m waiting for is all that fruit sediment to settle to the bottom in a nice tight layer so i can siphon it off, and leave that behind. that wouldn’t have taken as long if i had filtered the juice. another problem – and you might be able to sort of see this in the photo is that the juice is really foamy and kind of gooey, as the mead ferments this makes it make big bubbles and those all go rushing out the air locks. I’ve had to use a sanitized turkey baster to suck the goo of the top to keep it from clogging up the airlock. twice now, and it’s only been a day, i’ve missed it and had to clean up the mess.
hopefully soon major fermentation will subside foamy stuff will calm down, and i can top each of the bottle of with left over straight mead.