Archive for the Mead Category

Yule and Mead Fail

Posted in Mead, Yule with tags , on December 27, 2012 by theredlass

*sigh* Sometimes you an do everything right and still have something turn out like crap.

So everyone was of course really excited about the mead bottling. We really busted out butts on this so we did it right off the bat once everyone had arrived. We had a whole assembly line of sanitizing, pumping, corking and labeling going and then we got to sample each batch.

Have you ever drunk a mouthfull of vinegar before?

Now all hope may not yet be lost to us. We did take our sample from the last inch of the bottle so it may just be super yeasty and sour. But on the whole there is a lot of worry floating around as to if all our time and money was wasted. Now of course when it comes to something like this I try not to think of it as a waste but rather as a learning experience, which this one was. But when you have 8 people who dropped some serious money into making 6 gallons of mead your thoughts are not on the silver lining.

It’s more that the mead was terribly alcoholic (not a bad thing) and very very SOUR! Despite adding almost 5 extra gallons of honey to the original batch (which tasted AMAZING at the half way point) all our fruit and spices seemed to do was weaken the sweet flavor in favor of a rather unpleasant sour fruit taste.

But not all hope is lost! After rereading all the stuff I used the first time I made mead, I realized 2 very important steps we had failed to go over.
Add Fruit First! When I made my first big batch of mead, I added the fruit to the first fermentation. Apparently, this gives the yeast a more well balanced diet AND allows for the flavors to be more intense and mature even if you filter the fruit/spices out during secondary ferment.

It’s Called Honey Wine for a Reason! It completely skipped my mind that when we bottled our big batch, we sweetened the HELL out of it as we went along. If I had remembered that, we should have added honey to the jugs and shaken them up really well before we bottled which would have gone a long way towards helping the flavor.

So we are going to try and sweeten our bottled med before drinking it and see if that helps at all. On the plus side, I how have 3, 1 gallon carboys, which I can use to further my experimentation. I’m thinking on a recipe with elderberry (a melomel) and something with cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and anise (a metheglin) I also want to make sure and do another jug of the “Snapdragon” mead (assuming it tastes better all sweetened) for Ren Fair. I promised my friends a taste of it and the only way I will have enough to go around is if I make a gallon or two! I’d also like to fiddle around with citrus flavors. I can do 2 gallons at a shot, 3 if I don’t mind buying another carboy (which I don’t). Also I found a really great local supplier with people who are more than happy to provide advise alongside supplies.

Also, for reference, we got about 4, 750 ml bottles out of every carboy, this with leaving an 1-1 1/2 inches of the dregs (yeast and fruit) at the bottom.

Other than that, Yule went down rather well. We kept things fairly informal and did six rounds of toasting and drinking while the food passed around. As always I leave my couch and floor open to anyone who feels too tipsy to drive home. We did a gift exchange and tarot readings and just generally had a really nice night!

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6 Gallons of Love

Posted in Experament, Fun and interesting, Mead, Ritual with tags on December 2, 2012 by theredlass

While I may occasionally express irritation at how things don’t always go as I had planned with my group, I can not deny how positively lovely this little experimentation has turned out! Right now, my kitchen counter is occupied by no less than 6 gallons of beautiful, multi-colored, honey saturated wine. It bubbles away soothingly as it is infused with scent and flavor lovingly added by a dedicated group.

Our original flavors changes a little with what we had available to work with. After the initial taste test (which may or may not have required several tastes…to be sure of quality!) we got down to the business of pumping the mead into individual containers. I have to say that this batch (only the second I have ever made) turned out much more bubbly and vigorous than my first. The sweetness was much more apparent and it did not have that yeasty overtone the way my first one did. Perhaps because we added the full 20lbs of honey as oppose to just 15lbs?

We then pulled out the ingredients and began cutting, chopping, slicing and squishing what we needed. I am so glad I went ahead and splurged on a 6th 1 gallon carboy! Otherwise we would have wasted a huge amount of mead. We decided to leave one gallon plain, just so we can taste it after secondary fermentation and see if it’s any different. While some may not find this particularly interesting, I do, so I am going to post what each member did with their carboy.

Myself- I took my time slicing the peaches into little cubes (I bought frozen peaches because they are not currently in season) and dropping them into my cloudy golden mixture. I added about 4 tablespoons of pure almond extract, shaking the carboy around a few times so that the oil didn’t pool on top. Lastly, I sliced up 4 good sized pieces of candied/ crystallized ginger (this stuff was strong!) and dropped them in. I popped the cork in and shook it vigorously, making sure my additions were being… bruised?…into the liquid. We gave it a small taste but all you could really get a sense of was the almond, nothing else had really soaked in yet. But I still have high hopes. Even a day later I can see the bubbles working their way through and the color starting to drain from the peaches.

Laura- Her process was a little more automatic than the rest of ours. A few weeks ago we bought a Lingonberry syrup from Ikea which she has taken a shine too and wanted to see how it would fair with mead! She poured herself a small glass, then began adding syrup until the tartness made a nice counter to the sweet. Once she’d added about 1/2 a cup to the carboy, it took on a cute pinkish tone and she decided that was enough.

Kasii- This member went for what I think is a traditional melomel, squishing up a huge bag of blackberries and chopping up strawberries. As a last minuet addition, she put in a small handful of the pomegranate seeds, just to see if she could get the level of tartness up a mite and improve the color. The flavor was noticeable right away and I maaaaaaay have attempted to steal the cup. It’s now a deep purple red color and has the honor of being the first batch to ‘pop’…twice…as the yeast feeds. She thinks it’s cute “Ït needed to be burped!”

Kayleigh- Another melomel, but with a different flair. I sincerely pity & respect Kayleigh for sitting there and peeking, scooping, and checking 2 1/2 pomegranates to get the seeds out! Her fingers will be black till Yule! But damned if she didn’t sit there dedicated to see it through. She even added an apple (diced up) to the mix to add some of the more mellowed out flavors. I will note that while the mead itself is turning a bright purple, it is the apples color that I notice dissolving most quickly. The taste of this one was refreshingly tart and awakening. I’m really excited to see how it comes through.

Ariel/Anthony- Technically the last jug is theirs to flavor, but there was an emergency which meant they could not attend. So we took it upon ourselves to make sure their desires were carried out. I think this is the batch we are going to warm for our Yule feast as I can not think of anything better than sitting around a table with hot apple cinnamon mead! I think we ended up putting 3 apples and 5 cinnamon sticks into the brew, which now smells almost exclusively like cinnamon but tastes more like apples. It’s gaining a deeper golden brown color as the days go by and I think it will be a lovely addition to the table.

The deal, at the end of this, is that since everyone contributed (either by buy ingredients, supplies or by helping with the process) we all walk home with bottles of mead at Yule. We agreed that 8 would be set aside for the sabbat rituals so that there is always something to use for our “cakes and ale”. And to be entirely truthful, I’m not sure how much mead is going to survive Yule! Everyone including myself is looking at it with greedy eyes and we may well drink a lot of it.

The best part of this is, now that everyone had a jug (which were purchased individually) we can all start our own mead experiments! Laura and I purchased 3 jugs on our own, which means we can have 2 brews going at once. I made sure everyone knew where to get their supplies so that they could go and buy their equipment and we talked about having a mead competition next Yule (2013) with prizes for who ever has the best bottle. I know for sure I am brewing another bottle of the Snapedragon (peach, almond, ginger) if it turns out well. But I also am debating a metheglin brew with lavender, chamomile and anise seed. Haven’t come up with a name yet.

We left about an inch of mead in the bucket because it was far too yeasty to do anything with at that point. I am going into the circle today to offer the last of it to the gods in thanks for their assistance in this batch. We also decided as a group to only do a full 6 gallon brew 4 times a year. It is a lot of work and even with only having to buy ingredients, it can get expensive. Plus this will give us the added opportunity to play with seasonal flavors! So we will do a big batch on the solstices and equinoxes and the rest of the time leave it to each member to brew on their own.

THINGS I LEARNED:1) When working with a group on a large, money spending project, be sure your finances are in check BEFORE starting out. This would have been a lot less hectic had we simply gone and bought everything we would need before hand.

2) Call ahead to your supply shops and be sure they have what you need in stock. I had to visit 2 brew supply shops to get everything which included a 30 min drive the night before we flavored in order to find carboys!

3) Be perfectly clear during communications as to who is doing what and when. No major disasters here but it might have made everyone feel more comfortable if I’d be more specific about what was happening.

Samhain Batch 2012_2Samhain Batch 2012_3Samhain Batch 2012_4Samhain Batch 2012_5

This batch was started on Samhain 2012 and will be bottled on Yule 2013.

This batch was started on Samhain 2012 and will be bottled on Yule 2013.

Samhain Batch 2012_6

 

Mead Experamentation

Posted in Circle, Experience, Mead with tags , on November 25, 2012 by theredlass

At our first Samhain as a group, everyone chipped in to help make a large 5 gallon batch of simple honey mead.

As the secondary fermentation nears, we all made the decision to split the mead into 5: 1 gallon jugs. Each member who pays for a jug will get to experiment with a gallon of mead, playing with ingredients, taste, and such. This has a double intention actually, as a 5 gallon batch is expensive to make, but a 1 gallon batch much less so. This way, when our first mead is done, not only will everyone know how to make mead, but we can all continue through out the year on our own at very little personal cost. I’m think about next Yule (2013) hosting a mead contest to see who made the best batch by vote.

As it stands, I will be making a mix I am dubbing Snapdragon Mead, with a mixture of peaches, almond extract, and ginger. I know one of the members is going to be fiddling with pomegranates, another is doing blackberry/raspberry, someone is doing apple/cinnamon and another isn’t sure yet but she’s thinking on pears. Since everyone put money/time/ingredients into the original batch and we have 9 members, the hope is that everyone will get at least 3 bottles of mead to rack and drink later. Plus we will be keeping 8 bottles aside for the Sabbats to drink as part of the “cakes & ale” portion of the ritual. Plus, with Yule coming up, the secondary fermentation should be ready to bottle at Yule!! *sequels of delight*

Aside from that, I have to express about a 50/50 level of disappointment and enjoyment with how the groups lessons are progressing thus far. For our first meeting after Samhain, only 4 members showed up, with the rest either making no notification or (in two cases) having perfectly legit reasons not to be there. However, I am happy to say that everyone seems to be keeping up with their book lessons as well as reading the material I’m providing online so not bad really.

I set up this first year as a group with only minimal expectations. I am 27 where as most of the members are in their early 20’s, so I am taking a lot of the responsibility on myself in order to create lessons, provide resources, host events and as such. I am not the high priestess (mainly because I disagree with the entire hierarchy), but as the more practiced member I am more or less providing a map to where people need to go. We decided as a group not to call ourselves a coven/grove/etc. for at least the first year because a lot of us are either entirely inexperienced or haven’t practiced in a while. So it felt unfair to try and place labels on ourselves. That being said, the curriculum I set up amounts to a first degree study program for eclectic paganism and I am expecting it to be treated as such.

Next Samhain (2013), we had discussed holding a large, overnight festival as well as “initiation” of ourselves as a formal coven/circle/whatever. However, I had made the proviso (which in hindsight was a little short sighted or me) that anyone who could not attend at least 14/18 of the years meetings would not be up for initiation into the group.

My intention was to see who was really sincere about studying along these lines. Be honest, we’ve all gone through phases and interests which petered out later on and while I would generally welcome anyone who wanted to learn or felt they wanted the experience into a group, we all agreed we were looking for something a little more formal and frankly that takes work, time and effort. But what I didn’t put into consideration was that 6 of our members are still in college, three of them hold full time jobs, and one lives about a half an hour drive from our meeting places.

In other words, I have to make allowances.

After conversing with another group member (as well as my girlfriend) the decision was made that 14/18 would be ideal and something that should be striven for, but if someone can not make all of those meetings, that is okay. I will post all the info, discussions and resources on fb and ask people to keep up with this in their field grimoire. At the next meeting (whichever they can attend) when we all take the opportunity to comment on what we’ve learned, they can show that they have been keeping up with the group even if they can’t be physically present. Anyone who is sincere in their interest is more likely to “show their work”.

 

One day…tea will save the world

Posted in Mead, Samhain with tags , , on September 29, 2012 by theredlass

So I know I haven’t been posting here as often as I’d like. A lot of that has to do with me keeping up on my fair blog. but don’t let that fool you! I’ve been pretty active on the witchy front, especially lately. Something about this time of year really brings the witch out of all of us.

I got a really bad sinus infection a few weeks back, which, as always, turns into a persistent angry chest congestion that makes me wheeze and growl for two weeks. I tried everything to kill it, antibiotics, water, Mucinex DM (which held it off but felt like shit). Until finally I walked into this little booth I swear I have never noticed before called Standing Stone Herbs. They sell, duh, herbs. Culinary, medicinal, and teas. I saw this little package called Suzy’s Cold and Flu and figured it couldn’t do me any harm.

By the end of the weekend my cough was gone and I was feeling better by a ton!Ever since then I’ve been starting every day with a piping hot cuppa tea. I went back last weekend and bough another kind called “Witch’s Brew”, a yummy apple scented tea with deep fall reds and oranges in it. I’m likely going to be dropping a good $20 there before the end of season.

As far as our little group goes, we’ve been getting together whenever we can. It’s sporadic, but we usually manage about 2-4 times a month with all 5 of us and we’re discussing what we want to do for the upcoming Samhain. We even started making cloaks for ourselves!

Now I know the concept of cloaks carries with it a certain connotation in some circles, but to be honest, this is Ohio. Shit gets COLD come winter and if we’re going to be holding meetings, we need to be toasty. We bought a pattern as are hard at working putting it together. Everyone is picking their own colors and fabrics, but most of us are going double sided. I picked a lovely natural green shade (which is going to be Scotchguarded like a couch before buffalo wings) and then a black fleece side which will keep me toasty warm.

The funny part is when you combine that with the silver clasp I look like I’m in Slytherin house. 😉 Our dear sweet goth girl went with black on black. Laugh if you must but she’s one of the perkiest people I know and a wiz with rocks and stones. Our energy worker chose two lovely shades of blue (which fits her personality to a T). The last two members were working so we will have to work on their stuff later.

I know this may seem a little trivial, but this is the kind of stuff I miss doing with a group! Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself motivated without people to work with and sitting here, helping people cut patterns and working the sewing machine creates a sense of community. We decided we will be doing robes within the next month or so. Thankfully robes are simple as hell, but we can all add our own embellishments to them.

Let’s be honest, witches love our costumes.

We also decided to make a Samhain mead mixture! *squeel* I’m super excited! I’ve been wanting to do this again for a while but a 5 gallon batch isn’t cheap. But with all of us chipping in it should be fine.

St. Patrick’s Day

Posted in Cooking, Mead with tags , , on March 14, 2012 by theredlass

A lot of wiccans talk about how many holidays the Catholic church stole from our “traditions” in order to help bring pagans to Christ. Well in all truth…I don’t care. I really don’t. They weren’t doing anything hundreds of religions have done through out time and frankly it feels as though we stole a lot back (in wiccan rituals and alters at least). Part of the reason holidays exist around certain times of year is because there has ALWAYS been some sort of celebration regarding the cycle of seasons and changing weather. Therefor I have no compunctions about celebrating secular holidays right alongside the formatted pagan ones.

That being said…

I’m gonna wear green (even though green is technically for the Catholics and orange is for Protestants) and get drunk.

The Spring Equinox is coming up and I’m planning on starting a new batch of mead! The last one went wonderfully well and thankfully I have friends who are more then willing to provide me with honey in exchange for future meads. I am actually surprising myself by being not entirely sucky at this! I will still need to sweeten it before it’s bottled in April but beyond that I am just having a blast!