this years agenda !!!
How to Make a Gallon of Mead
March 1, 2015 by Grow Forage Cook Ferment —88 Comments
Maybe you’ve heard of mead before or maybe you haven’t, but one image that always seems to come to mind when mead is mentioned is Vikings drinking their grog. I don’t know a whole lot about Vikings, but I do know a bit about mead! Mead is a fermented honey and water mixture, some call it honey wine, and it is quite possibly the first fermented drink that humans purposefully made. Luckily for us, it’s quite easy to make! I’m going to show you how to make a gallon of mead, blueberry orange mead to be exact. Here’s what you will need to get started.
how to make mead
•2-3 pounds of honey, depending on how sweet you want to end product to be.
•Berries or fruit of any kind, fresh or frozen, about a cup
•About 10 raisins
•1 gallon jar or jug (you can reuse one that you bought for making hard cider) with it’s lid
•Airlock with rubber stopper that fits into your jar
•Big metal spoon
•A large pot (not pictured)
•Brewing sanitizer (I like One Step
I should mention right now that whenever you add fruit to a mead it’s technically called a melomel. You could also use apple cider instead of water and then you’d have what’s called a cyser. Also, this is a recipe for one gallon of mead, but I’m always of the mind that if you’re making one you might as well make two, especially if you already have two glass jugs from my hard cider recipe, as it’s really not any harder.
Alright, let’s get started! The first thing you need to do is sanitize everything! Your jug, airlock, big pot, spoon and funnel. Just follow the directions for your sanitizer and don’t throw it out until you’re totally done (just in case your dog licks the funnel or you drop your spoon).
Once that’s done put about 1/2 gallon of water (non chlorinated if possible) in your pot on medium heat. Once it’s warm, but not boiling, add the honey and stir it so it all dissolves.
how to make meadTurn the heat off. It may be a little foamy, that’s ok, just don’t boil it.
how to make meadIn the meantime, put your berries (or any fruit of your liking), orange slices (skin and all) and raisins into your jug.
how to make meadThen use your funnel and carefully pour the honey water mixture (technically called “must”) into your jar.
how to make meadTop off your jar with cold water, leaving at least 2 inches of head space on top.
homemade meadThen put the lid on your jar and gently mix everything around a bit. The next step is to add the yeast, but you need to make sure that it isn’t too hot so that you don’t kill the yeast. It should feel lukewarm, use a thermometer if you’re unsure, at least less than 90°F. Then you can add the yeast. One yeast package will make up to 5 gallons of mead, so if you’re doing 2 gallons you can just split one between the 2 jars.
how to make meadNow put the lid back on tightly and this time you’re really going to shake it up for several minutes. It’s a good workout for your arm muscles so you can skip the gym on days when you make mead!
homemade meadPut a little water in the airlock to the line, then put the rubber stopper into your jug. In a few hours, or at least by the next morning, you should see bubbles in your jar and in your airlock.
how to make meadThe whole top might get a little foamy at first, but things will settle down. I love watching all the little bubbles! Science rocks! (Can you see my hands in the reflection?)
Keep it in a cool (not cold) dark place. Mead takes longer to ferment than cider or beer, depending on the temperature it will take anywhere from 4-6 weeks. I usually give it 6 weeks to be on the safe side for bottling as you don’t want any explosions! I’ve definitely had some very champagne like mead before. You want to wait until you don’t see any bubbles and your airlock is still.
Bottling one or two gallons of mead is pretty much the same process as bottling cider. You may want to wait awhile to drink your mead as it definitely gets better with age, but I often drink it “green” (young) as I enjoy it either way. It is fun to save a couple of bottles for several months, or even a year, just to see how the taste changes with age.
If you make one gallon of mead, chances are you will soon want to make more! Lucky for you, I have also written a posts on How to Make 5 Gallons of Mead and How to Bottle 5 Gallons of Mead. I also have recipes for Wildflower Mead and Elderberry Mead that turned out delicious!
Cheers and happy mead making!
The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan encourages sanctuaries for threatened species, says Mary O’Riordan.
Allowing weeds to grow and flower in our lawns is one of the recommended ways to save bees from extinction and to help prevent starvation.
With one third of our 98 species of native bees facing wipe-out, an All-Ireland Pollinator Plan has been devised to encourage gardeners, farmers, schools and councils to create havens and resources for the island’s threatened species.
Evidence from the United States has shown that dandelions and white clover on lawns can support 37 different species of bees.
In the study, white clover was important for honeybees and bumblebees whereas solitary bees, honeybees and hoverflies predominated on dandelion.
However, if you cannot stomach having your whole lawn covered in dandelion, (which is an excellent accompaniment in salads), the Pollinator Plan encourages us to leave small areas of the lawn uncut to allow flowering weeds to blossom and provide food for bees.
We can also grow more flowers, shrubs and trees that provide nectar and pollen for pollinators.
The advice is to make sure that your garden has at least one flowering food source from spring right through to winter like willow (early spring and currently blossoming), dandelion shortly after, clovers (early summer), lavender (late summer), ivy (autumn) and mahonia (winter).
Dr Una FitzPatrick, from the National Biodiversity Data Centre in Waterford IT, said the problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production and to protect the health of our environment.
The rescue plan, which has over 25 recommendations, will be a success if bee populations enjoy a revival within the next five years.
“We spent 40 years creating the problem so we are not going to solve it overnight,” she said.
Pollination itself is the transfer of pollen grains, the male sex cells of a flower, from the anther where they are produced to the receptive surface of the female organ of a flower. either on the same flower or another one. Bees are good pollinators for many reasons.
Their hairy bodies trap pollen and they spit on their front legs and then brush the pollen into a sticky ball that they store on their back legs in pollen baskets which they carry between flowers and eventually back to the hive to help feed the young.
The bees require large quantities of nectar and pollen to rear their young, and they visit flowers regularly in large numbers to obtain these foods.
In doing so, they concentrate on one species of plant at a time and serve as good pollinators for this reason.
Their body size enables them to pollinate flowers of many different shapes and sizes.
Honey bees are most active at temperatures between 14 degrees C and 35 degrees C.
Winds reduce their activity and stop it completely at about 25 miles per hour.
When conditions for flight are not ideal, honey bees work close to their colonies or don’t work at all.
Although they may fly as far as 7km in search of food, they usually go no farther than 1.5 to 2km in good weather.
In unfavourable weather, bees may visit only those plants nearest the hive. They also tend to work closer to the hive in areas where there are large numbers of attractive plants in bloom. A honeybee will make about 12 pollen collecting flights a day in peak season.
One third of our bee species, including the honeybee, 20 bumblebees and 77 solitary bees are threatened with extinction and the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan is trying to reverse this trend.
Besides preserving threatened species, the economic value of bee pollination is also a huge incentive.
Pollinating bees help to keep homegrown food prices relatively low and could be worth more than €7 million a year to the apple crop in Northern Ireland, and €3.9m for oilseed rape in the Republic.
Méabh Boylan, An Taisce’s green-schools biodiversity officer, said: “The importance of pollinators to humans cannot be overstated as pollinators are responsible for making approximately one in every three spoonfuls of food that we eat.”
In the pollinator plan, national transport chiefs have also agreed to reduce roadside mowing on main roads and to open south-facing railway embankments for bee nests in further attempts to create bee highways along road networks and railway lines.
This bee highway scheme makes the Republic and Northern Ireland one of the first regions in Europe to adopt such a wide-ranging plan and it mimics similar ideas being tested in Norway and in parts of Britain.
Farmers are also encouraged to maintain flowering hedgerows that contain hazel, willow, blackthorn and hawthorn. Bramble is an excellent source of food in the summer so cutting of hedgerows should be every three years or cut only a third every year.
The base of hedgerows shouldn’t be sprayed. By cutting field margins and buffer strips only once or twice in a season and preferably before April and then in early September gives wildflowers a chance to set seed and retains late forage sources for the pollinators.
Dr Jane Stout, associate professor in botany at Trinity College Dublin, has said: “If we want pollinators to be available to pollinate our crops and wild plants for future generations, we need to manage the landscape in a more sustainable way and create a joined-up network of diverse and flower-rich habitats as well as reduce our use of chemical insecticides.
“And this doesn’t just mean in the countryside, but in our towns and villages as well.”
The All-Ireland Pollinator Plan can be downloaded from the Biodiversity Ireland website and a very interesting children’s version is also downloadable.
For those interested in beekeeping or the plight of Irish bees, log onto the website of the Irish Honey Bee Society to find out about meetings and membership.
Pollinators in Ireland
Bees are the most important pollinating insect because they visit flowers to collect food for their larvae, as well as feeding on floral resources as adults. In Ireland crops such as apples, clover, strawberries and oilseed rape all benefit from pollination and a recent study from the Department of the Environment valued this ‘ecosystem service’ that bees provide at €85m a year to the economy.
2013: Worldwide study shows the decline of wild bees and other pollinators may be an even more alarming threat to crop yields than the loss of honeybees, revealing the irreplaceable contribution of wild insects to global food production.
In Ireland there are 101 species of bee, including the familiar honeybee (One species) and 20 bumblebee species. The remaining species are solitary, meaning they do not form colonies.
Amongst the most well-known services performed by a healthy biodiversity is pollination. Bees are the keystone pollinator species making more flower visits than any other insect. There is a need however for urgent action as our wild bees are facing an unprecedented crisis in declining populations due to agricultural intensification, habitat degradation, disease and parasite spread, and climate change. Pollinators play a crucial role in our farms, gardens and countryside – we cannot afford to take them for granted.
Gardening for Bees
Gardens are extremely important for bees, and vice versa. Bees need flowers for sustenance, and flowers need bees for pollination. But it’s important the flowers you grow provide the food bees need. So Let’s Bee Friendly by turning part of your garden into a bumblebee haven!
- As a rule of thumb your garden should provide bee-friendly flowers, open cup shaped flowers are the bees’ favorites such as foxgloves, that are rich in pollen and nectar which bees can easily access from spring until late summer. This will ensure that there is a good supply of pollen at all of the crucial times.
- Flowers clustered into clumps of one species will attract more pollinators than individual plants scattered through the habitat patch.
- Plants like Pussy Willow and Bluebell are excellent early-year food sources. Mahonia and Hebe are good non-native options
- In early summer Honeysuckle and Thyme are ideal, and in late summer Heathers, Knapweed, Scabious, and non-native species like Sunflowers, Sweet pea and Lavender will provide plenty for bees to forage on.
- If you can, leave an area of your lawn uncut during summer to allow Clovers and Bird’s-foot Trefoil to flower. Leaving uncut verges or planting wildflower meadows will greatly benefit bees.
- Many solitary species nest in south facing banks, so leaving exposed areas of soil at the edges of lawns or creating south facing banks of sandy or clay soil will attract ground nesting species. Other species will nest in dead wood or in south facing stonewalls
In late September/October, almost all flowers have finished, but the bees can still find nectar and pollen on ivy (Hedera helix). Ivy nectar is high in quality, and high in sugars (49 per cent). The honey produced crystallises quickly in the comb but is normally not harvested, rather it is left to add to the bees’ winter stores. Having access to the nectar and pollen that ivy provides late in the season improves the chances of successful over-wintering for the colony.
Fortunately for our bees, ivy is a common plant in the UK. The flowers are easily overlooked, they are small and green with tiny petals, but the bees and other insects love them as they produce lots of nectar and pollen.
Ivy is generally considered a pest and is often removed due to the damage it is believed to cause to buildings and trees. Recent research shows that ivy rarely harms the trees it climbs and it has recently been appreciated for the extra insulation it provides to buildings. It also has the ability to reduce pollution in urban areas. Perhaps we should cultivate a more tolerant attitude to ivy?