The more you have homegrown foods at your table the more interesting it gets to try to have your whole meal homegrown. As you travel this path, don’t forget about the beverages. Other than water from your well, herb teas would be the easiest to include. A little more advanced along that line would be Red Thai Roselle Hibiscus Tea. You could also drink juice from the fruits that you grow and ferment them to make wine. If you keep bees you could make mead, since all you need is honey and water.
I learned to make mead after reading Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Page 29 has a recipe for T’ej (Ethiopian-style Honey Wine). It sounded so simple I just had to try it. I mix water and honey together in a 4/1 ratio in a crock or stainless steel pot, cover it loosely with a cloth, and stir it for a few days until it is bubbly. Then I put it in a jug with an airlock. As you can see in the picture, the jug I use is a one gallon glass apple cider jug. I have found that not all one gallon glass jugs have the same size opening in the top. I prefer jugs with a 1½” opening over the ones with a 1¼” opening. Corks and airlocks are readily available from suppliers of winemaking equipment. The airlock allows the gas bubbles to escape, but doesn’t allow new air in. The ingredients don’t include yeast because you are gathering natural yeast from the air and there is yeast in the honey. That’s the “wild” part of this fermentation. If it would drive you crazy to make something without knowing exactly how it will turn out, you might as well stop reading right now. This is a fermenting adventure and there is nothing exact about it.
Chapter 10 in Wild Fermentation explains aging, siphoning, and bottling which you need to know, unless you will be drinking your mead from the gallon jugs. I usually add grapes to my mead when I start with the honey and water, straining out the grapes when the mixture goes into the gallon jugs. I’ve also made mead with herb tea, blackberries, and elderberries. Find more details about my mead making at Homeplace Earth. Katz’s book The Art of Fermentation, published in 2012, expands on mead making and addresses many more possibilities.
I generally make mead in the summer when the grapes are harvested, but it can be made at any time of the year. If you don’t have honey from bees of your own, buy some now from the beekeepers at the farmers market. Many bees did not make it through the winter, so honey will be in short supply. As you will learn from Sandor Katz, home brewing is a traditional endeavor that goes way beyond beer and wine. I hope you join in the adventure!
Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.wordpress.com.