racking mead

As with most of my projects (writing a book, having babies, my YouTube channel, etc), it’s good I didn’t know what I was getting into when I first started. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have dared start because, it turns out, making mead is quite the production: a whole lotta of Doing Nothing mixed with Frantic Research, Last-Minute Sourcing of Various Tools, and then bouts of All-Kitchen-Consuming Mess. 

For example, after getting the fruit a-fermenting in my cheese pot, we poured the five gallons of fruity sweet syrup into a carboy and then set it aside for a couple months. Once the violent bubbling ceased, we realized we had to rack it, which meant getting it from that carboy to the second carboy (that I’d borrowed from a friend) without letting in any oxygen.

Which meant we needed a siphon.
And sanitizer.
And brushes.
And we needed to learn HOW to do everything so I better find a quality YouTuber to follow.
Oh, and we should probably order the corks and a corker thingy and find some bottles.

I sent out a request for empty wine bottles on Facebook and then spend a week soaking the bottles in the buckets in the downstairs tub and then, bit by bit, scraping off the labels. (And then my husband stepped in with his utility knife and a razor scraper and Goo Gone and sped things up considerably.)

I figured I’d have to backsweeten the mead (which is the process of adding a little more honey water or sugar prior to bottling along with some sort of chemical thing that keeps it from fermenting and blowing up once it’s in the bottle) because when I’d tasted the mead a few weeks ago — a process which had required yet another purchase: a pump to withdrawal some of the mead without disturbing the fruit — I thought the mead was dry, dry, dry, which surprised me because: fifteen freaking POUNDS of honey.

tasting the mead at two months

But then I tasted the mead when we were racking it and it tasted much sweeter — perhaps because I was tasting the middle-bottom part and not the very top? In any case, I decided there was no need to backsweeten. So we just went ahead and racked it into the second carboy for now.

sanitizing with star san

And what does the mead taste like, you ask? Bear in mind that I’m no connoisseur, but here’s my best shot: it’s light and mildly fruity, with a hint of almond. It doesn’t taste like sour cherries (though every now and then I do get a whiff of cherry), and it’s more strongly alcoholic than I expected — it sorta has a vodka-esque vibe. It kinda blew my socks off, honestly. I mean, I JUST MADE FIVE GALLONS OF ALCOHOL, isn’t that wild? 

Since everyone around me turns up their nose at it (because none of them like wine), I’m eager to have other people try it. Is it horrible? Delicious? I need more opinions. Tasting party, anyone?

do not fear the foam, they said

Technically, I could rack the mead straight into the bottles — and we did fill two bottles because there was some extra mead (my second carboy was smaller) — but now it’s in the second carboy, we’re just going to let it age a little longer. Sometime in the next few weeks I’ll rack it into the bottles. 

The alcohol content is as high as it’s going to get, but the aging process should mellow out the flavors. I can drink the mead at any point, and I have been, but technically it’s not ready for six months to a year.

Just for the record, here’s my ingredient list:

Sour Cherry Mead
Adapted from Kate’s method from Venison For Dinner.

4-5 pounds sour cherries (I used 4 pounds 13.5 ounces), all of them pitted but for a handful
2 lemons (the rind, seed, and white pith removed)
60 (20 grams) organic raisins
15 pounds raw honey
5 gallons water

This same time, years previous: mint chip ice cream that’s almost exactly like Turkey Hill’s!, made it, five-dollar curtido, southern sweet tea, blueberry muffins, the quotidian (9.5.16), in my kitchen: 5:25pm, the cousins came, a laundry list.


  • Katherine

    How does one acquire 15 lbs of raw honey?!? (Or did you cover that in an earlier post & I forgot?)

    This sounds like an expensive, but fun, hobby.

    • Jennifer Jo

      The honey for the sour cherry mead was from Costco — about 45 dollars. The honey for the red raspberry mead (that I made yesterday) was from friends who have bees — part of it, I bartered for cheese and the other part we paid in cash, and the total cost was about the same.

      It definitely makes the most sense to make mead if you have your own honey and fruit. But if you think about it, 45 dollars for honey for 25 bottles of mead isn’t too shabby…ignoring all the other material costs, of course. (Starting up is the most expensive part.)

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