I had a great time last night, meeting a large bunch of Urban Herbies at Brouwerij t’Ij (the windmill brewery in Oost). We talked about making Mead from herbs, honey and water and also about brewing a strange microbial tea loving symbiosis called Kombucha. We also tasted my Rosehip and Lavender Mead, which I set up last November and virtually forgot about since then. It can’t have been too bad as the bottle is now empty! Looking back at my notes, I see that it also contained Peppermint.. Umm!
Several of the group went home with strange slimey icecube shaped SCOBYs. Here is the link to my post about how to brew Kombucha and what some people feel it is good for.
Now to the Mead! Inspired by fermenting comradeship, I took to the woods this morning and harvested some Meadowsweet (Filpendula ulminaria). You will see it looking pale cream and frothy in the photo above. It’s rather overexposed (sorry Grainne!) but I hope you get the idea. Now is the optimal time to harvest the flowering tops of this plant. If you are lucky and find it (canalsides, damp areas, lake edges etc), then as ever be thoughtful, and harvest only a tiny fraction of the plant. You don’t need much anyway for this recipe – in fact you don’t need any! I chose to add Meadowsweet today because the common English name of the plant is said to be linked to the delightful flavour it gives to Mead. I suspect that those frothy cream flowers are also home to many micrscopic yeasts, to get the mead fermentation off to a great start.
I also added one flowering top of Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) a beautiful tall waterside purple flowering Lamiaceae family member. This herb is catching my eye all over town at the moment and I fancied seeing how the flavour develops in my Mead. As I reached home from this forage, I just couldn’t resist snipping off a sprig of outrageously aromatic Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis) from my geveltuin (pavement garden). It is on top form at the moment, due to the long awaited summer heat.
So the three herbs chopped up and added to the Mead pot (it’s a simply a 2 Litre Fido pickling jar from Blokker with a tea towel and elastic band over the top). I only had a quarter jar of honey in the house today so I added that and about 2 jars of water to the mix. So now I have a handfull of fresh chopped herbs steeping in honey water. That is how mead begins. As things get going I’ll add more honey and more water but I look forward to seeing how this batch turns out.
Now we talked last night about getting wild yeast fermented Mead “going” by adding a tiny sprinkling of a culinary or winemaking yeast. I have a big packet of Champagne yeast somewhere at home, purchased from BrouwMarkt.nl (a great company in Almere which sells everything for home brewers). Unfortunately I can’t find the Champagne yeast at the moment so I have decided to stick with Sandor Ellix Katz truely wild fermented Mead method of stirring vigorously every time I pass by the Mead jar. This should aerate the mixture and where there is air, there is yeast, so things should get going of their own accord. I shall continue to do this until I notice a sort of froth at the top or some other change in the contents of the jar. Then I’ll move onto the next phase.
Sandor Katz is a true Wild Fermentation Activist and is easy to find online, inspires an active Facebook group, has published several outstanding books and has a resource rich website. Thanks Suzanne for posting the link to this video on the Urban herbology Facebook group today…
For phase two I’ll place the young mead in a 2 litre green glass demijohn with a water airlock and rubber bung to keep out other bugs. My demijohn and airlock are from Brouwmarkt. They are very well priced and extremely convenient for brewing in small spaces which may not be dark. That’s as far as my last experiment went. I then simply syphoned off a bottle full of the result yesterday evening to take along to the meeting. I should apparently have paid closer attention to it all and bottled the Mead when the bubbling ceased early this year and either drank it soon after or left it in the bottles to mature. No matter, the result was drinkable and I am keen to continue my experiments.
I’m mentally planning our next Herbal Ferments Circle for the Jenever Distillery at the top of Flevopark (near the end of tram 14). If you have been exprimenting with ferments, even if only mentally, then get in touch and perhaps join us next time. I’d love to hear what you have been making or planning, if you did come along last night or not! I’m now calling it a Fermentation Circle because we seem to make more than just one brew. Yesterday there was talk of Idly, Tempeh, Sourdough, Gingerbeer plants, Kefir and far more. It’s amazing what people get up to when they get the chance! For me the focus will mainly be on Mead because that is very exciting to me – so many herbal possibilities, so simple to make, so historic, so tasty and it relies on my favourite potion ingredient – honey.